Agreement or Aggression? Which gets you what you want more easily?


Agreement or Aggression, image of a happy man

If you want something, the obvious answer to all pacifists, bleeding heart liberals, do gooders, and most intellectuals is to get agreement (ie. not use aggression). Every self-help book on the planet tells you this is so. Almost every psychological study proves it to be the case.

Even the idea of the pen being mightier than the sword says so (unless you use it to poke your adversary’s eyes out). An interesting history of that quote can be found here on the BBC.

Business is all about relationships – as is life of course – there’s no difference when you get down to it. It’s why I don’t have a work/life balance, I only have life. If you ever bump into me, ask me how my life is, not my work. I don’t do work, it’s a waste of my life, and I’ve done plenty of that already.

I was having a discussion with someone close to me and they mentioned that their elderly father had only just discovered he could get something called an ‘attendance allowance’ worth £55 a week, and furthermore, he could have been claiming it for years.

She said that the allowance wasn’t means tested, it was tax free, and the recipient didn’t even have to use it for its intended purpose. In short, they could just claim the money and do whatever they liked with it. Money for old rope so to speak.

That got me angry. I wanted to go out and throttle our stupid government. Why are they wasting money like this? What happened to their stupid austerity program? What else is going on?

I went into a rant. And the result was immediate. My aggression spread directly and immediately to the person I was talking to (note the ‘to’ not with). She went straight into defence mode for her father (she did better than me though at not showing this so overtly – but boy did I feel it).

So I went into defence mode too. I said something like “of course, I don’t mean this personally about your father, I just mean he doesn’t need the money right now, so what with all the government cuts, why are they not means testing it?”.

I had this desperate need to be proved right. I wanted to be proved right far more than be happy. After all, god damn it, my logic is perfect, right? I mean, it doesn’t matter which way you skin this beast, the government is wrong, she is wrong, and I’m right.

What a whole lot of mess. The relationship meltdown mode starts right there. I start to defend more, and so does she. “Well, he could use the money, it would take his monthly income up to £1,000 a month”. “Yes I get that, but he doesn’t need it because he’s got enough savings in the bank already”. And so on.

All of it utterly pointless. And all of it full of aggression, followed by remorse, followed by resentment, followed by self-righteousness, followed by… silence. As usual.

I think they call dealing with this stuff ’emotional intelligence’. I could surely have used some today. I’ve even got internal triggers set up to check for resistance and defence from both myself and those I communicate with to stop this kind of thing happening. I need to work on that some more.

What would have happened if I’d just said “oh that’s amazing, I hope he gets it, how nice for him”. Nothing. And the world would have moved on.

People prefer to be right than happy. If you’re negotiating a deal and you find yourself or the person you’re talking with getting defensive, I hope it triggers your alarm system. That way, you may just manage to save the day unlike me.

About the author 

Quentin Pain

Quentin Pain started his first business, a courier company aged 23. He sold it 4 years later and used the profits to start a recording studio. A couple of albums later, he started two software companies, the last one being Accountz, which he grew from zero to 36,000 customers and retired from in January 2013. He is a director of ProofMEDIA, a specialist digital consulting business. He's also a published author (including a Dummies title), and has won many awards including the IAB Small Business Mentor of the Year. Copywriting is his speciality and he runs 3 groups on Facebook under the Science of Copywriting brand, which combined has well over 100,000 members. Quentin is also Founder of the International Copywriters Association and SEO Lead for the UK's largest private hospital group.

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