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The Power of Honesty: less (short-term) power, for more LONG-term power

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A great case study on the importance of honesty.

We say here that power awareness is an important life competence.

And we also say the same for Machiavellianism, which is the more self-interested, pragmatic approach to power-awareness, allowing you to "take advantage" of the endless opportunities that any social interaction and exchanges entail (narcissism and sociopathy also may have their advantages and empowerment opportunities, future articles on that).

However, as for most thing: balance.
As we also often repeat, Machiavellianism should be contextual, especially to the person you're dealing with.
And too much of it, applied at any time, is most certainly counterproductive.

An Honest Eagle: Example

Take for example a look at this exchange:

I slacked a bit on the new PU sales page.

And I openly owned it with my developer: I sent him the new instructions, and then apologized for the delay (no biggies, but the longer the project stays open, the later he gets paid, and the more it overlaps with the other work he has. So the way I see: I'm in debt there).

Now, from a Machiavellian point of view, he didn't take advantage of that opportunities.

What Machiavelli Would Have Done

A simple "it's OK" would have "officialized" my debt.

If he wanted to truly power scalp, he may have even thread-expanded on the delay, or listed how it caused him troubles.

And he could use that later on to ask for more money, for example saying that "we were late on this and it caused some slack and delay with other work"-.

The Short-Term Loss of Honesty

Instead, he discloses information that I didn't know: that he also was not working.

Purely from a power and leverage point of view, it's an opportunity loss for him.

Instead of "taking advantage" of my apology, he re-empowers me by "sharing the blame" so that there is no guilt to be assigned: we both kind of took off these last days.

The Long-Term Gains of Honesty

However, at the end of the day, he gained.

Respect, trust, even liking... All of which he already had plenty of, went further up.

And I want to be working with him more and more in the future.

Not only is this guy good at developing, he is also great as a person.
You couldn't pay me to switch to any other developer, not even if that meant saving money.

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Ali ScarlettCheangTransitionedKavalierBelEmily
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Speaking of which, I'm pondering this:

New "High-Level" Strategies: Honesty & Directness?

I'm pondering to add two new high-level life strategies in PU/TPM:

  1. Be as honest as possible, as often as possible
  2. Be as direct as possible, as often as possible

Of course, as any high-level strategy that are plenty of exceptions (including plenty of people who don't deserve your honesty and directness).
But the exceptions do not invalidate the high-level goal.


Thoughts?

If you have any feedback or opinion on this, happy to read.

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Ali ScarlettJohn FreemanKavalier
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Thank you for sharing this Lucio.

I have a slightly different view on what went on here: I see it as a matter of power-balance and respect more than honesty.

To be clear, I think what you wrote fully stands and that the "honesty" factor is present and important here.

Premise is that you are the client, and he is the provider. You are free to ask what you want when you want it, and you have no obligation to let the provider "close" the job within a specific deadline. There is a certain imbalance inherent in the relationship.

So if I were the provider, in reading your "sorry for the delay on this one", I would have interpreted it as slighly "off": I would have read it as an unneeded reinforcement of the power imbalance inherent in the relationship. And I would have probably tried to answer in a way that rebalanced the power.

If an interaction like this went on with a client of mine in my profession, I would have probably gone a sligthly different route than he did: I would have waited a bit to answer, and in my answer I would have implied that I needed some time to do it, and probably arranged my schedule so as to show in actions that I was also busy.

His answer instead went through a different route: he was quick both in answering and in setting the deadline for the work, and at the same time he verbalized he was busy in the last days and could not have done the work if you had asked him before.

I think this is very interesting, and I wonder if the difference in how he went in rebalancing power in the relationship (compared to how I would have done it) is indicative of a difference in profession or of a difference in character or in past experience, and in any case which is more effective.

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Lucio BuffalmanoJohn FreemanKavalier

Interesting point of view, Bel.

It might have different dynamics.
Developers on average are a dime in a dozen and you have all the power as the purchaser... On average.
But great developers, the power imbalances invert and they often have too much (repeat) work -not too unlikely the dating dynamics between men and women, with the "great developers" being like the 1% and "the great developers with great character" being the relationship-minded top 1%-.

Also, chasing and reminders to finish on time are probably the norm from what I've experienced, and games to gain an edge for negotiation power are also common -and I rarely went back to those-.

But yes, respect is definitely intertwined to honesty and not using an opportunity for a bigger (win-lose) return.

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John FreemanKavalierBel
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

I really like those two principles as they maximize assertiveness.

  1. Be as honest as possible, as often as possible
  2. Be as direct as possible, as often as possible

They also take into account the exceptions. So I think they are quite solid principles.

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Lucio BuffalmanoBel
Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on July 13, 2022, 9:58 am

Speaking of which, I'm pondering this:

New "High-Level" Strategies: Honesty & Directness?

I'm pondering to add two new high-level life strategies in PU/TPM:

  1. Be as honest as possible, as often as possible
  2. Be as direct as possible, as often as possible

Of course, as any high-level strategy that are plenty of exceptions (including plenty of people who don't deserve your honesty and directness).
But the exceptions do not invalidate the high-level goal.


Thoughts?

If you have any feedback or opinion on this, happy to read.

I think this is great, Lucio. If one's baseline behaviour is to be honest and direct, he'll also gain more leeway in the rare occasion when he chooses to be "machiavellian". It'll be the exception that confirms the rule.

Lucio Buffalmano, John Freeman and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoJohn FreemanBelEmily

Thank you John and Kavalier, super helpful and much appreciated!

I'll wait in case there's a few more feedback on this, and then potentially proceed with the addition.

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Kavalier
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This developer immediately gained my respect also by giving this response. He saw that you were stepping back, and he stepped back too.

I think these two principles are great, as they are efficient and saves your personal energy (you don't want to be "gaming" all the time), and easy to grasp just as the "always seek win-win" and "make friends, not enemies" principles.

I have probably subconsciously tested out the people I pay for services. It's a process of assessment of character. Sometimes things don't work out as perfectly, and I will communicate the difficulty/situation on my part and see how they respond. After a few rounds of this I got to know if they are easy to talk to, are empathetic, realistic and willing to focus on moving things forward for both parties.

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Lucio BuffalmanoKavalierBel

After having read the posts by Lucio, John, Kavalier and Emily, and having thought about this much, I now understand that the developer's remark concerning not having been able to work, was not a way (as I thought when I read it) to rebalance power in the relationship.

It was, instead, a way to empathize and "share the blame", so to speak. The reference was as if he had said "you have nothing to blame yourself for, I am also sorry for not having been able to work on this sooner".

Very powerful. It communicated closeness to Lucio and, indirectly, that the relationship was perfectly good.

I now understand why Lucio put this under "honesty". It's a very powerful behavior, and one that I will from now on incorporate in my professional dealings.

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Lucio BuffalmanoKavalierEmily

Thank you for the feedback, Emily!

And about the developer's behavior, absolutely, as much as there are "red flags", there are also "green flags" of personality.

These two we've seen here are big ones:

  • Not social scalping when the chance is available
  • Power protecting / sharing the blame, especially when "going the extra mile" to do so as in this case

Come to think of it, should start taking notes for a lesson on "green flags" as part of a bigger "assessing people" lesson.

 

Ali Scarlett, John Freeman and 3 other users have reacted to this post.
Ali ScarlettJohn FreemanKavalierBelEmily
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
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