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The "show me the hand strategy": use it to handle covert aggression (example)

All one-upping and value-taking covert power moves, from covert aggressions to covert criticisms, derive their power from the fact of being covert.

If you attack the attacker directly, you can easily come across as overly aggressive or thin-skinned.
And because covert aggression is somewhat "fuzzy", and up to interpretations, the covered aggressor always has the chance of retreating and denying any intent of harming, attacking, or criticizing.

So, to properly address covert aggression, sometimes you want to surface that aggression.

Surfacing the aggression does a few good things for you:

  1. They won't be able to retreat and play innocent anymore
  2. You can address the aggression or criticism without looking like you were over-reacting or thin-skinned
  3. If they were playing smart-alec, they will have to abandon their one-up position to treat you like an equal (example below)

And, finally:

  • You can have a grown-up conversation between high-value folks, rather than playing one-upping games (especially important in friendships and relationships)

That's the key.
High-value folks don't want to entertain smart alecs, covert aggressors, and passive-aggressiveness. The mindset is: speak to me clearly, respectfully, and without games, and we'll have a good conversation. Otherwise, don't speak to me at all.

So, how do you surface covert-aggressions and covert-criticism?

Enter the:

Show me the hand strategy

The "show me the hand strategy" can be applied with several techniques, including:

  1. Pretend you don't understand: if you don't understand and they did want to make their point across, they will be forced to be more direct in their aggression / offense
  2. Ask them what exactly do they mean: you can use the broken record technique here, where you keep repeating "what do you mean by that", "OK, but it does sound like you were trying to criticize my work. It's OK if you do", "then, if you didn't want to criticize, what did you mean"
  3. Go meta: explain them what they were doing, and tell them that you prefer direct talk because "you can take it" (invite criticism into the open), because you "expect better from them" (big judge power move), or because "it's so much better for both" (leader-like win-win approach)
  4. Reframe their aggression as support: nice power move and you will possibly get under their skin when they wanted to get under yours. They wanted to hurt you, or to harm your status, so when you reframe their attack as support, they will feel compelled to come out in the open and be more direct

See here an example for the latter:

His initial comment was a covert-criticism delivered with a smart alec frame -a "smug covert aggression"-.

I can't properly address that without first surfacing his point of view. Plus, I need to dismantle his smart-alec frame, or I'll be dealing with him from a low-power position.

My reframing technique effectively surfaced the criticism and "showed his hand".

  1. I can understand what he truly meant -and it can always be a valuable feedback!-
  2. He abandoned his covert position
  3. He abandoned his smart alec position
  4. And, if I wanted, we could have a proper conversation without the nasty smart-alec one-upping



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