Bubba Business Primer

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Disclaimer

well, what do I need to disclaim? This article is not a statement of specific events or facts but an observation of patterns over the course of time. As such, it is a statement of opinion (mine) and should not be taken as an accusation of wrongdoing. (Bad judgement or confusion, perhaps... and I'm not even going to say whose bad judgement or confusion that would be.)

The Situation

The rules below are derived from notes I made on the evening of 6/24, shortly after Bubba's 2-hour-plus phone call. They are based on what seemed to be happening in that phone call and in the conversation I had in person with Lynne and Bubba on 6/22. The 6/24 phone call was the final straw which convinced me that I had to pull the plug on Bubba's involvement in vbz.net (see 2003-06-27 SvsG Emails).

The patterns described below existed long before those two conversations, but it took this heavy exposure to L&B's conversational techniques to get me to seriously start noticing them (and taking notes).

Usage

These rules are probably best used on an opponent who is under the illusion that honest discussion is taking place. Many of them work especially well if your opponent has a weak short-term memory.

Notes

  • 2006-01-26 Partly inspired by Kagehi's second response to this blog entry, I remembered some more patterns.
  • 2007-01-07 Added missing "anger is your friend" section, and expanded some related material

The Rules

  1. Nuke the High Ground. Accuse your opponent of doing what is obviously the right thing, but make it sound unethical and disloyal. If enough pressure is applied, you can fluster your opponent into denying the right thing they've been doing -- and then you've got them forked: either they are doing something that isn't quite the best thing, or else they are lying. Their situation becomes ethically ambiguous, leaving you as the only untainted moral authority.
  2. Inflame and Enrage. Hurl very biting accusations at your opponent, in as calm a tone as possible. Don't give them time to respond rationally; keep changing the focus. Get them very worked up and angry/upset. When they raise their voice, ask them calmly why they are yelling at you, what all their "energy" is about. Remember: their anger and "energy" comes from within them, not you; you're perfectly calm. (See also Anger is your friend.)
  3. The Rollercoaster Ride. When your opponent's energy level reaches an apparent peak from Technique #2, suddenly start talking business as if everything was fine, or could be fine if your opponent would just see things your way. Talk about the good things that can, or could, happen by working together. Hint at promising developments you haven't had time to talk about. Remember, your opponent is being divisive, not you. You are not the enemy; you just want to get along. (If your opponent sticks to their guns and won't let you change the subject, repeat #2 and #3 as needed; inflame and ride the rollercoaster until they are burnt out and seasick, which can also lead very nicely to Closing the Argument Loop.)
  4. Guilt Poker. Make sure your opponent holds all the cards (owns all the accounts, has all the passwords, et cetera). That way, you are always the injured party in any dispute (as well as being protected from liability). After all, you let them keep all that power and control -- you trusted them to use it fairly. This leaves your opponent wide-open to be charged with blatant abuse of that trust. Besides, the situation is plainly unfair from the start: they have everything, and you have nothing.
  5. Classic Mirroring. Always accuse your opponent of your own bad habits and malfeasances; this makes it nearly impossible for them to accuse you of those same things. Should it happen, however, that your partner manages to get in a legitimate accusation before you've had a chance to use it, simply wait a few days and make the accusation anyway. It will seem fresh by then, and "But I already said that to you!" is a very lame comeback, and will only cost them points. (Be sure to include Classic Mirroring in your list of accusations at some point.)
  6. The "Divine Intervention" Business Model (mainly applicable for charities and artists, but might be adaptable to other pursuits). Remember: real progress only ever happens as a result of amazingly generous entities (distinguished older gentlemen who "love what we're doing" are especially easy to cast in this role), whom only you ever meet, possessing enormous amounts of cash which they're trying to unload (for tax reasons) in the "right place". For reasons that never quite become clear, that place could be [insert name of mutual project with opponent] – once "we" accomplish certain things and impress the socks off them. The expected results of impressing these entities are always huge and vaguely defined. The exact things to be accomplished so as to impress them are also similarly vague, which gives you another good handle for determining the focus of your opponent/partner's work on a day-to-day basis.
  7. Theory of Fiscal Abstraction. Remember: Money isn't real. This is a very important basic concept to grasp when running any business, especially a new business with start-up expenses and where dependable cashflow has not yet been established. (This theory easily explains why financial contribution from your opponent/partner should never give her/him more control, why it is not significant that you haven't contributed any, and why they shouldn't get their knickers in a twist about letting you have some.)
  8. Closing the Argument Loop. Wherever possible, find ways to divert the discussion back to a point which has already been covered. With any luck, your opponent will either reiterate the same arguments as before, which you can counter with the same points as before and thus put the argument into an endless loop (progress is your enemy), or your opponent will come back with arguments which are inferior to the ones advanced previously. This makes it unnecessary for you to think up new responses for each point made by your opponent, while your opponent (who is still under the illusion that a rational discussion is taking place) is wearing her/himself out re-thinking each answer and getting frustrated at covering the same ground.
  9. Progress is your enemy: The more you go around in circles, the more tired your opponent becomes. Circular arguments also give you the opportunity to point out the lack of progress ("We're just going around in circles now" or "well, I can see we aren't getting anywhere"), which makes you look like the calm, rational party, and covertly implies that your opponent is being thick-headed and obstinate. Two possible side-benefits from this tactic: (1) it may anger your opponent (see Anger is your friend), and (2) it gives you the opportunity to helpfully offer your original position as a "compromise".
  10. Anger is your friend:
    • It makes your opponent less likely to think clearly, and thus less likely to give good responses to your points
    • It makes your opponent seem irrational, even if they actually are still giving good responses
    • It makes your points seem more sincere and heartfelt
    • If used properly, it can make you look more like the injured party (a tool which your opponent is hopefully too intellectually honest to use)

Tips

  • Business Tip: Always (albeit not overtly) discourage a business partner from making money on outside projects, even if your joint project is losing money and desperately needs an infusion of cash. (If, however, you are owed money for all the hard work you've put into that joint project, remember that it's always your partner's fault that you haven't been paid. This gives you a very powerful wedge to use when making sure your partner makes the Right Decisions later on.) Remember that money is measurable; you don't want your partner to have made any measurable contributions which might make an objective evaluation possible. If by some mischance your opponent/partner does manage to bring some financial substance to the table, remember: Money isn't real. (This explains why such contribution is not significant, why it is not significant that you haven't contributed any, and why they shouldn't get their knickers in a twist about letting you have some.)
  • Never miss an opportunity to change the subject, especially in a tangential way which your opponent might not notice at first. One good way to do this is to get your opponent upset and then change the topic to discussion of her/his tone of voice, feelings, etc. Make it clear that you understand and respect your opponent's feelings in the matter; this can be further transmuted into a discussion of mutual respect, listening techniques, etc.
  • Never allow facts to influence the discussion. Facts are merely noise used by your opposition as arbitrary support for their feelings; anyone can use facts to prove anything. (This last is an important point which you can raise whenever cornered.)