Wednesday June 2nd, 2021

Be Revolutionary: Be a Friend!

Been left out again? Once again not getting what you wanted? How do you get your teammates, your superiors, your peers to treat you well? How do you get where you want to go? Ever tried being radically friendly? 

One of the most important beliefs of our society is

… that all people have the same rights: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity! In everyday life, however, one often wonders where these values have gone: Constraints, hierarchies and enforced interests wherever you look.

“But I can’t…”

This widespread perception often becomes evident in training sessions when participants say things like, ” I can’ t ignore a call from my boss on weekends, can I?” Or, ” After all, I can’t tell my colleague that his tone is rude.” Or, ” I can’t tell my boss that I can’t take on more project work, can I?”

Why do we think this way?

Why can’t we just express our concerns? After all, our basic belief is that we have the right to do so. So what’s to stop us from ignoring business phone calls on the weekend or saying legitimate things to our superiors and colleagues?

The reason for this lies in an often unconscious (!) submissive attitude, which derives from a misinterpretation of hierarchical structures and a weakness in our social skills.

Be revolutionary: Be a friend!

From a psychological and sociological perspective, this is easy to understand. Isn’t one of the prevailing social patterns in this country that credit goes to those who do what they are told?

This pattern finds expression in the demand to be “polite.” At court, the birthright ruler (superior) ruled by giving orders to his vassals ( subordinates). The relationship was simply: “polite”.

The enlightened modern society

… of course opens up a different path for us, which is expressed in “friendly” interaction: friends respectfully meet each other “at eye level.” Friends trust each other, ask for and give each other help, but do not take this unduly. They take each other as they are and sometimes give each other a talking to if they have to.

In short, they treat each other as equals. But how can friendly interaction in this sense function in hierarchical organizations?

Communication is unaware of hierarchies

The purpose of hierarchies is to define decision-making powers and thus to speed up processes: Who is to be informed in certain cases, who bears responsibility for what, and above all: Who decides what? On the question of “how we do it”, the hierarchical definition has no influence whatsoever. At least not from a systemic point of view.

In this respect, hierarchies are like support hotlines: Here it is clear which line you call in certain cases and what the contact person there can and is permitted to do for you – you may have to go to the supervisor in case of escalation.

The telephone line itself, i.e. the type of communication, only connects you as a neutral medium. And you and your conversation partners can use this equally.

Whether that is in a calm or aggressive tone

… whether respectful or unfriendly, each person in the conversation decides for him or herself. Regardless of the matter, decision-making authority, or status, both are linguistically (and socially) equal.

Of course, we still often experience that one tries to place himself above the other. In order to achieve their goals, people are prepared to breach rules in an inventive way: Sometimes they flatter, sometimes they intimidate.


It is not a question of whether a concern is considered, but merely whether you are generally allowed to express it. The answer is: Yeah, sure!

The best way to do it is with a friendly attitude. Because that will increase your chances of succeeding with your request.

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It’s not what you say, but how you say it? Sometimes.

Unfortunately, however, it is not a guarantee. Rather, the decisive factor for your success is the fundamental constellation in which you find yourself with your conversation partners, whether you choose the appropriate course of action, and whether your counterparts want to play along in your favor.

There are the following THREE BASIC SITUATIONS, in which two QUESTIONS arise – always related concretely to a specific concern:

What kind of relationship with my dialogue partner prevails at this moment? And: What options are available to me now in general?

1 I may, you must (if I want).

I have a right to fulfillment of my specific request.
Possible: Enforce demands (or even waive them).
Friendly, of course.
Example: Complaint in the warranty period

2 I and you may (if we want).

Both parties have the same level of liberties and rights in the specific matter.
Possible: Diplomacy and argumentation.
Example: Weekend arrangements: You want to hike, the kids want to swim.

3. You may (if you want).

The other person has the choice to do what I ask, or not.
Possible: Solicit sympathy, emphasize preferences, appeal to values and meaning.
Example: You ask your boss to approve you for a sabbatical.

No matter which of these three situations

you find yourself in:Be kind to yourself and others! That is:

Always make sure that basic rights are respected! Remember: Every linguistic-social tresspass shifts the boundaries to your disadvantage, possibly permanently. Therefore, immediately sanction assaults in an appropriate tone!  Just as importantly however: Make sure not to get offensive yourself and treat your (conversation) partner fairly!


This way, you not only generally develop a respectful approach. Quite incidentally – and this is not exaggerated at all – you also defend our common liberal values on a daily basis.

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