PSYCHOLOGICAL TRAINING & NEEDS OF BUREAUCRATS

Monthly Column by James Robertson, November 1994

"React Without Thinking" - To lower-level bureaucrats in physically dangerous jobs, you represent a particular threat if you don't immediately (meaning within approximately one and a half seconds or less) do what they order you to do. Partly this is due to their specific professional training, and partly this is due to the psychological characteristics of lower-level bureaucrats in general.

The specific professional training these types of bureaucrats undergo emphasizes to them that they must react instinctively - without thinking about it - to most situations in their job. Never mind that such behavior often promotes injury and death to some individuals whose actions aren't actually any threat to these bureaucrats. "Shoot first and ask questions later" seems to be the modus operandi (M.O.) of some of these types of bureaucrats. A lesser version of this mentality is "detain first, ask questions later." You have almost no time to form any meaningful response before their professional training kicks in and makes them act like automatons (i.e., no thinking; lack of conscious thought).

The typical psychological characteristics of this type of bureaucrat are similar to those characteristics discussed in my earlier columns. They typically have low self-esteem. Their job often involves genuine physical danger. Thus, already existing psychological cravings to "feel in control of every situation" are magnified so that they often feel they must physically dominate every situation. Like mobsters, they'll "make you an offer you can't refuse" by making you their "client" whether you want to or not. (This happens to be a very obvious type of physical coercion or force used against you in an immoral and unjustified way.)

Beware also of a particular mean streak in some of these types of bureaucrats when they "detain first and ask questions later." Many of them must derive some sort of psychological satisfaction from showing how big and bad they are by inflicting physical pain. In this regard, not much has changed over the centuries concerning some of the more primitive and savage manifestations of human behavior.

What can you do to protect yourself, when dealing with bureaucrats trained to act like goons? Regarding the answering of questions, you should formulate a strategy in advance. Even if you are not going to do anything more than politely refuse to answer the substantive (content) portions of any questions, you still need to give some answer within the requisite one-and-a-half seconds or you may fall victim to the "shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later" mentality or the "detain-first-and-ask-questions-later" mentality. It's highly advisable to very carefully plan for this in your life (requires strategic thinking).

If in a particular type of situation you plan to answer the content portion of most or all of the questions, you need to do so within the requisite one-and-a-half seconds. You may, in some situations, desire to "cooperate fully" with the bureaucrat in question (when it is to your advantage to do so). However, if you are not fast enough to do this (within one-and-a-half seconds), you may fall victim to the goon mentality before you even have a chance to act!

"Being (and Feeling) in Control of the Situation" - To lower-level bureaucrats in physically dangerous jobs, you represent a particular threat if as a result of dealing with you they feel "not in control of the situation." Partly this is due to their specific professional training, and partly this is due to the psychological characteristics of lower-level bureaucrats in general.

The specific professional training these types of bureaucrats undergo emphasizes to them that they must "be in control of every situation." This means that they are told that to do their jobs well they must do almost anything necessary to "be in control of the situation." Most people, I think, like to do their jobs well if possible. So they must "feel they are in control of you" to give meaning to their jobs and lives.

The typical psychological characteristics of this type of bureaucrat are similar to those characteristics discussed in my earlier columns. They typically have low self-esteem. Their job often involves genuine physical danger. Thus, already existing psychological cravings to "feel in control of every situation" are magnified so that they often feel they must physically dominate every situation.

This type of bureaucrat feels particularly threatened by the "breakdown of social order" now happening in many Western countries. Many of these lower-level bureaucrats probably don't think about it at this level of abstraction. But they certainly can tell there is increasingly less respect for their type of "authority" and order-giving during the interactions they have on their jobs with their involuntary "clients!"

They're "on edge" about this. Not being "in control of those we have authority to give orders to" strikes at the very core of their jobs and their reason for living. They resent it. They believe their purpose in life is to smash an iron fist in the face of anyone who they perceive is "infringing on their right to control you."

What can you do to protect yourself, when dealing with bureaucrats trained to act like goons? Regarding dealing with those who (erroneously) believe they have jurisdiction to control you, you do need to exercise prudent strategic planning.

The most important practical consideration also happens to be the best "general" or "overall" strategy: Most of the time, MAKE SURE THEY "FEEL" LIKE THEY ARE IN CONTROL OF THE SITUATION. Whether they are actually in control of the situation is of secondary importance to you. Their PERCEPTION of who is in control is your most important consideration.

As an example of an "operating strategy" within this "overall strategy" you may wish to: Consider always being polite to this type of bureaucrat. You may not want to, but you can vent whatever psychological frustrations you have to your friends at a later time. Right now, you are dealing with your enemy. Do what works! Let that bureaucrat feel "in control" of a polite (and respectful-acting) "client." Even if your strategy is to "not cave-in completely," you should still be polite about it. This type of bureaucrat (in particular) often interprets politeness as a sign of respect for their "authority." If they PERCEIVE you have respect for their "authority," they feel in control of the situation and you maximize your effectiveness in dealing with the situation.

Keep in mind also that you can "lose" (kowtow to the bureaucrat) in some particular single incidents, but still be winning against bureaucrats overall in your life as you strive to increase your freedom.

"Justifying (Not Apologizing for) Actions" - To lower-level bureaucrats in physically dangerous jobs, you represent a particular threat if as a result of dealing with you they feel you think their actions and words are unjustified. This is partly due to their specific professional training, and partly to the psychological characteristics of lower-level bureaucrats in general.

The specific professional training this type of bureaucrat undergoes emphasizes to them that they are "on a mission." "People not in our profession don't understand what we're up against." "We have to take back the streets!" "It's a war out there!" With the military model drilled into them in most of their professional training, it's not surprising they feel a moral imperative to approach their job with zeal and fervor and determination - gritting their teeth!

The typical psychological characteristics of this type of bureaucrat are similar to those characteristics discussed in my earlier columns. Their job often involves genuine physical danger. Most people, I think, like to feel that what they do in their jobs/professional lives serves a moral and useful purpose. Thus, it's predictable that this type of bureaucrat will respond with psychological fervor to the "we're on a mission! imperative" and feel absolutely justified in their actions and words. They feel indignation and anger against you if they PERCEIVE you are in any way calling these motives into question.

What can you do to protect yourself, when dealing with bureaucrats trained to self-righteously enforce their "mission" against you? Regarding dealing with these lower-level bureaucrats who believe they are on a "sacred mission," you should formulate a strategy. Probably the best "general" or "overall" strategy is to never let them think you question the morality or effectiveness of their "mission," unless it is to your advantage to do so.

As an example of an "operating strategy" within this "overall strategy" you may wish to: Consider being a very good listener. Let this bureaucrat do most of the talking. Appear considerate and (perhaps) sympathetic to the rigors of his job. "You guys must have rough going sometimes!" Appear earnest. You can save your true viewpoints for when your encounter with the enemy is done and you are among friends.

You may have to tolerate something of a lecture sometimes, but that's okay. As a conscious, thinking individual you realize some times are suitable for expressing your viewpoint, and other times are not. In a sense, this is an "extension of the Power-Message Principle". In a sense, your "lack of expressing a message" is in itself a message. It is a message of appearing considerate of your enemy. By doing this, you can avoid difficulties when the time isn't right. You can be effective in your viewpoints when the time is right.