Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Judgment and mis-perceived intents

I have on repeated occasions had discussions where I have argued that we should X because of strong arguments A and B, and, as an afterthought, weak argument C—just to have my counter-part pounce on and dispense with C. With C out of the way, never minding A and B, he then considers the issue closed. I had long considered this to be intellectual dishonesty and rhetorical trickery. However, I came across a passage in Shadowmarchw of almost creepy familiarity, that opened another possibility—mis-perception of intents:

The young prince and co-regent Barrick argues (not necessarily convincingly) that he should accompany an army sent to defend an attacked province—to clearly demonstrate the involvement of and support by the central royalty. He waves concerns for his own safety by telling of precedence, how other royals had been present on battle fields, kept out of the van, and even been remembered for great victories. He is immediately attacked for trying to make himself a name—possibly risking the entire enterprise in the process. The main argument is not met.

What happened here, is that an honest argumentation was misconstrued as an excuse for a hidden agenda. In this particular case, the misconstruction was understandable; however, I suspect that less clear-cut cases are common in real life: “Aha! That is what he is really after.” Naturally, after someones detecting a hidden agenda (be it real or imagined), he focuses his argumentation on that agenda. Notably, an agenda can still be perceived, and influence argumentation, even if not openly attacked. In hindsight, I suspect that this has contributed to why things did not go my way at E4.

It is, for instance, quite conceivable that [vpProdMan] thought that I was playing a political game, and misconstrued my intentions and actions correspondingly. Again, irony—I was one of the few who were not motivated by politics and hidden agendas.

My advice: Avoid any statements that could look like signs of a hidden agenda in eyes of opponents and decision makers. (Admittedly, easier said than done.) In particular, be careful with direct suggestions of you taking charge, filling a new position, and similar—but make sure that you do not appear to be unwilling to do so. (Exceptions to the above include the open arguing for promotions or raises during a yearly evaluation talk.)

An interesting implication of the above is that I, in turn, may well be too naive with hidden agendas in others: I have repeatedly been burned by trusting others; and the “paranoia” present among other people may, in fact, be the more appropriate level of suspicion. Generally, people who, themselves, have hidden agendas, will tend to suspect them in others; people who do not, will not.