Fight Dynamics: Cause and Effect

This is a followup to my recent post on strength.  Some people I know believe that you never threaten to hit. If you threaten, you must hit…  perhaps even in reverse order. And I always had a problem with that philosophy. It seems to me now that the goal exercising strength should be to actually avoid a confrontation later on.

The best outcome for a confrontation is to not have one. I remember how, back in Russia, we had legends of martial artists so good that they would just look at each other, understand who is stronger, and walk away – no fight necessary, the winner evident. Recently, I finally understood the trivial idea of strength and its purpose. It is to set up cause-and-effect in an effort to avoid a full confrontation. A fight is not just the process of knocking someone out and coming out victorious – in most cases victories of this sort have an extremely high cost: opportunity cost of time and effort, burnt bridges, bad reputation, etc. Moreover, when you corner someone, they become unpredictable, belligerent. You may think you understand their goal, but, under righteous indignation, they may prefer total destruction to embarrassment of defeat. So the goal is to allow all parties to accurately calculate as far ahead as possible to avoid a confrontation later on, resolving matters quickly instead.

Every conflict has two components: goals and methods.

Goals: It is not always possible to accurately understand your opponent’s goal. Does your opponent understand your goal? Do you yourself understand what your goal is? Ego-driven goals are rarely a good idea. Extremely hard to detach from your ego.  If you don’t actually understand what your opponent’s goal is, you are in trouble – this then generally leads to compensation through strength, which leads to escalation, which leads to a lot of wasted energy/resources. Try to understand your opponent’s goal. Try to understand your goal. Remove ego as much as possible.

Methods: This is where strength comes in. If push comes to shove, the strongest may technically win. However, the stronger the parties, the more devastation they cause in the process of fighting, which potentially makes the whole fight a lossy proposition to both parties as the fight itself has higher cost than the win to either party.  Then the goal becomes quick resolution, which, when parties differ on goals, requires an understanding of how the game will play out. This places both parties into a solid negotiating position where negotiation is both about accurately understanding the strength of the opponent and calibrating attainable goals accordingly.

So the purpose of strength if not to beat your opponent into submission. Its goal is to ensure accurate calculation for all parties of consequences of various scenarios allowing for quicker resolution of disagreements.

To take that a step further, then the process of a longer resolution is generally an indication of a miscalculation earlier on.

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3 Comments

Filed under Business, Musings

3 responses to “Fight Dynamics: Cause and Effect

  1. Anton

    Hey – you might be interested in the book “The Diplomacy of Violence” by Thomas Schelling. I had a few lectures on it in my International Political Science class Sophomore year. Schelling discusses the Theory of Deterrence, which you can read a short snippet on here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deterrence_theory. His theory is pretty much in line with what you’re talking about regarding strength preventing conflict.

  2. Anton

    By the way, I think there are 4 possible actions in Schelling’s theory — deterrence (preventing war by threatening war), coercion (getting what you want by threatening war), offense (going to war), defense (defending against war).

  3. Thanks. You sure about the name of the book? Can’t find it for some reason :/

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