Fragments from the book The Ideal Argument by Vadim Petrovsky and Alexey Khodorych

Imagine that you were in a boxing ring. You look around: the stadium is packed. The crowd is worked up and is loudly chanting your opponent's name. This is a huge muscleman who can barely wait to grind you to pulp. You nervously swallow. You hear a gong sound, and the opponent is slowly advancing towards you, flexing his biceps. His movements are light and totally automatic. While you are trying to size up the situation, he in a matter of seconds selects the right blow from his vast violent repertoire and performs it. Before you blink, you appear to be on the floor.

But now let us in our minds move to a more familiar environment, for example, the office. And what is there? It is exactly the same! We often have to participate in such fights during negotiations, in meetings or defending our projects. And there is your boss or a colleague in the opposite corner of the 'ring', although in this case we are knocked out not with knuckles but with words instead.

Have you noticed the smooth and witty way successful people are able to keep a conversation going? While you are thinking about how to formulate a thought more precisely, they give out a couple of polished little phrases – and already you have been defeated! And you are annoyed to notice that the conversation is proceeding along the lines that benefit your opponents.

But do not think that they are smarter than you are! They just know how to manipulate people using a few memorized phrases and expressions. While you think over your tactics, they think in strategic categories – this is what their advantage is!

A professional manipulator has not too many such 'series' and 'combinations' (memorized phrases). Someone has twenty of those, someone else – ten, and some make do with two or three. And they rely on this basic repertoire to try and knock us out, although it is quite easy to oppose such manipulations and overcome the manipulator themselves; all it involves is mastering the elements of counter-manipulation.

Certain phrases can be used to:

• attack your opponent and defend yourself;

• block the other's attack and seize the initiative;

• flirt and fend somebody off;

• do business and slip away;

• make everyone laugh and leave heads spinning;

that is, to hold a complex conversation with an efficiency that is considered maximum in this event.

Such phrases have always been used in communication, but they did not have a name. We call them encodes, from the English 'to encode', to code. Indeed, quite a few meanings are encoded in an ideal encode, or rather, your interlocutor thinks so... He or she tries to understand what is really meant (and at the same time everyone can see different meanings in the same encode); he or she loses the beat and the plan they were following talking to you. So, you get an advantage and the opportunity to be the first to know their true intentions and draw the right conclusions.

But how is the use of encodes different from manipulation?

In boxing there are special protection techniques: you can do shoulder rolls, duck, side step and block. Encodes are just such defensive techniques that allow you to gain time and even neutralize the opponent. After all, the attack is initially prompted by aggression: the manipulator intends to exert their will to get the person to do something against their own will. The defense is without aggression, but is aimed at neutralizing the attack.

The simplest example. How to give the brush-off to an obsessive shop-assistant or check the quality of an offer? After the interlocutor is done with their convincing tirade, just ask them a question: "Did you know that the hunter and their victim sometimes swap places?", or: "Have we met before?"

The questions may seem to be completely irrelevant to the context, but the reaction to them will allow you to achieve your goal, if only because you break the game of the aggressor or check the goals of a possible partner.

Even using encodes just for fun, without a specific purpose, is very exciting to play and a great excuse to practice their use. After all, a person who plays will always be a hundred points ahead and have the advantage over those who take it all too seriously. Courage is important. Another example from boxing: the great Roy Jones who would always make a show out of a bout, had fun and won.

This book is the world's unique tutorial on the effective use of encodes. Here you will find both theory and practice. Alexey Khodorych has been gathering his collection of defenses for fifteen long years until it now contains more than 3,000 encodes.

The book contains twelve Chapters and Annexes, including an explicit Table of encodes.

In the first chapter "Introduction to Encodology" you will learn what an encode is, how and why this term appeared, and who started using these expressions, when and why. We guarantee that you will be surprised as they have been long established in literature, cinema and theater. You just need to learn to see them in a context.

In Chapter 2 we will explain where and when encodes can be used. You will learn how encodes differ from proverbs, aphorisms or Internet memes (although you may come across the former among those). You will know of the world's first encode-bot and understand exactly how encodes work.

Chapter 3 describes cases of using encodes as defenses against the standard verbal traps that we are faced with in everyday life and business communication. And in Chapter 4 we will outline the scope of application for encodes and clarify their working principle.

In Chapter 5 "Encodes as assistants in the freedom of manifesting your Self" we will look into the question of free will and the specific use of verbal protections.

In Chapter 6 "Encodes of personal action" we describe the ways people adapt to difficult situations in communication, so that you could more effectively use encodes.

In Chapter 7 we will illustrate the use of encodes in the classical situation of the Victim, the Persecutor and the Rescuer.

In Chapter 8 you will learn of encodes in their natural 'habitat', i.e. in dialogues. We will tell how to use the "magic words" in order to turn any sharp situation into a comic one.

In Chapter 9 "Strategy and tactics of effective conflict" we will introduce you to transactional analysis and play 'games'. People have been doing this since they learned to speak, and perhaps the first encodes appeared just then. In any case, it will be incredibly useful to learn of various types of conflicts, a couple of dozen psychological games that you had to and will have to play with your superiors and subordinates, wives or husbands (oh, no, we are not talking of games like 'the hotel maid and the pizza delivery boy' but...), and your friends and colleagues.

Chapter 10 deals with the mechanisms of encodes. You will learn what reframing is, and will be able to compare the work of encodes with other methods of communication (for example, with NLP).

Chapter 11 "Exercise of invulnerability in communication" tells about behavioral patterns that are fixed in our minds and how the encodes help to break them. By destroying them, a person gets rid of the feeling of inhibition and is capable of communicating freely and harmoniously.

In the final Chapter 12 "Contact, conflict and constructive communication" we provide the general classification of encodes and also give a key to the use of the table in the Annexes. In the Annexes you will also find a test on predisposition to conflict and an index that you may need to clarify and navigate the content.

Introduction to Encodology
Have you ever seen flares dropped from an airplane? The sight is decidedly fascinating. It looks like a giant Bengal candle in the air. Do you know why it is done? In flashpoint areas military and even civilian aircraft are attacked by heat seeking missiles. The flare works like a bait: the rocket recognizes it as a hotter object compared to the exhaust of an engine and automatically redirects towards it. As a result, the 'bloodhound' takes a false mark, and the plane passes the danger zone.

Likewise with encodes. Sometimes they resemble flares that redirect your antagonist to a wrong area. The easiest way to see the advantages of encodes is with examples from real communication.
Office aikido techniques
For example, your colleague raises a claim against you, but you, in order to lower the degree of conversation, jokingly answer: "Well, I'm not an angel!". Or, you may be asked a question at an alumni meeting that you don't want to answer, so you may carelessly use the throw away comment: "If you don't want to get terrible answers, don't ask me terrible questions." Or you may boldly fend off: "But who are you to get me confused?" or "I can see you must be a psychologist."

Is someone disrespectful, attacking you or acting unrestrainedly? Then you say to them: "Don't you really care about your reputation?" If you feel like praising or cheering someone up, you may use the encodes "You are hero!" or "I thought I was the only one so uninhibited..." However, these same two encodes are also suitable for ironic evaluation or mild criticism.

If you need to gain time or take your interlocutor aback, there are several options to be used: "Who is prompting you to say these words?" or "Still dreaming of becoming famous?". However, these phrases are also good in response to any aggression. In general, the same encodes can be used for completely different purposes (that is why they are encodes). We just need to remember (and we will talk about this later in the book) that these 'magic little words' are not a panacea; sometimes their use is not only ineffective, but also dangerous.

An encode is a deliberately ambiguous statement based on the use of speech clichés disguised as a spontaneous replica in a dialogue. It has a hidden content that is opposite in meaning to a partner's expectations and is therefore capable of making the person feel confused, discouraged and puzzled.

To put it even simpler, encodes are speech phrases/clichés that discourage your interlocutor.

Communication in this case acquires a relative (deliberately paradoxical, provocative or playful) character as it explicitly indicates the presence of a hidden agenda in the exchange of replicas.
There is too much lead in this air, amigo!
For the first time I singled out a communication style in cowboy films, which I later labeled as "communication using encodes". Starting from simple statements like: "There is too much lead in this air, amigo!" or "Danger is my second name", to encodes 'the prefixes': "In those places where I grew up..." and 'suffixes': "Well, you understand what I mean...".

In addition, there is this key gesture encode – a wink and fingers clicked, a pistol to the heart! This typical cowboy gesture efficiently reinforces any other encodes. Most likely, the 'cowboy style' and encodes are so well suited because both are a kind of game. The game of deliberate recklessness based on an understanding of risk. All these phrases, winks, and clicks are just a pass in the direction of the interlocutor, a significant hint with a view to a reaction in which they must open up and make themselves a target.

It is understandable why they became famous just as an element of cowboy mythology, – only because the whole world watches Hollywood movies, and Hollywood, of course, promotes cowboys as part of the country's history. But this style of communication based on throwing about vague messages into the communication field, (with the sole intention of looking at how the interlocutor will try to understand and respond to what has been said), is not only used by cinema cowboys, pirates or bandits (although it is in the cinema, primarily in the American cinema, that the style is most vividly demonstrated).

Let us remember an episode of Ocean's Twelve when the characters of George Clooney (Danny Ocean), Brad Pitt (the amusing Rusty Ryan) and Matt Damon (the crazy Linus Caldwell) have a mysterious conversation with the famous mafia thug Matsui (the episode in Amsterdam in the 23rd minute).

The amusing Rusty Ryan: "A doctor, who specializes in skin diseases, will dream he has fallen asleep in front of the television. Later, he will wake up in front of the television, but not remember his dream."

Matsui: "Would you agree?"

Danny Ocean: "If all the animals along the equator were capable of flattery, then Thanksgiving and Hallowe'en... would fall... on the same day."

Matsui: "When I was four years old, I watched my mother kill a spider... with a teacosy. Years later, I realized it was not a spider – it was my Uncle Harold."

All this time the crazy Linus Caldwell remains seated without understanding what is happening but when his turn comes, he also tries to say something profound and strange.

The crazy Linus Caldwell:
"Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face, stars fill my dreams."

And almost wrecks the negotiations, despite the fact that he is the only one who says a more or less meaningful phrase when quoting the fragment of Led Zeppelin's Kashmir.

You will agree that the episode is funny, encodes are evidently there, and the filmmakers parodied the communication style using meaningful phrases, the 'pseudo Zen' adopted by the most diverse criminal communities.

So are encodes the language of bandits? Not really. As they are, criminals have nothing to do with it. In general, such a style of communication is typical of any environment where there is a risk factor: guys from the Ministry of Emergency and Special Forces at times talk just like that with people not of their own circle. And they are not the only ones to do so. Take business negotiations: they also have a risk factor. The purpose here is twofold, not to reveal yourself and your true intentions ahead of time and to understand (or get the hang of) the true intentions of the other person1.

How encodes are born
Encodes appear only in communication. At the same time a paradox arises: this book is not a dialogue in which an encode is found, it is a narration dedicated to dialogue. Thinking of how to resolve the paradox we planned to publish a collection of encodes with some explanations. If the action of encodes can be clearly seen only in practice, we should just publish them! Why give the theory and everything else?

The collection has certainly been published but in this very book. You will find it in the Annex. But here are, for example, a few encodes from Christopher Buckley's Thank You for Smoking:

• It'll make you believe in God

• It's not the thought that counts. It's the money

• How many girls want to fuck a dead guy with polio.

• We had a hard time with it.

• We all know who I am.

• You're in no shape to make the right decision. You're all wrapped around the axle.

• Walk toward it very slowly.

• You're expecting good news?

• I've gone blank. Ginseng depletion.

• We can use that against them when the time comes.

• You've done something to me that I try very hard to resist. You've gotten me emotionally involved.

• I don't know how to put this, but what could be more important than this?

• It's a piece of cake.

1The first thing you notice after looking at the list is that the phrases are not particularly witty or original. But an encode does not have to be witty but it must switch the interlocutor and let them complete in their mind what you have said.

Of course, it is not at all necessary to memorize encodes. The main thing is to grasp the principles of their creation and use, then you can simply invent encodes. For example, quite recently, in a company of friends we composed three phrases that at first glance may seem trivial: "Today it is a Yes", "We all have this ..." and "Not without it!". But in fact these phrases can be used to communicate perfectly. "Today it is a Yes" (better with a wink and fingers clicking) can work as the answer to almost any question. "We all have this ..." is a commentary utterance that should be spoken with understanding and sadness. Well, and "Not without it!" ("Not without that...") is just another good, meaningless (and at the same time as all meaning) phrase. You may not take my word for it but just try applying them in a group of people, and success is guaranteed. You can simply learn a couple of funny encodes and try using them in a given situation. Great fun!

Actually, the more good encodes there are in a book, film or series, the more versatile it is, as encodes make up one of its important assets.

Or, for example, the encodes from the movie 2046 by Wong Kar-Wai:

• Retail is fine. Wholesale is out of the question

• Why not try writing something else?

• Why can't it be Like it was before?

• Events can creep up on you without you even noticing

• It's too early in the day for that!

• Love is all a matter of timing

• A father-to-be shouldn't have that on his mind!

• I want to see if you really don't mind

• It could bring me bad luck

• I thought I was pretty wild

• I just do it for fun

Why exactly are these phrases encodes? And what is so special, for example, in the phrase: "It could bring me bad luck"? Yes, there is nothing special in it and in similar phrases, as all of them are just successful examples of psycholinguistic mechanisms. At the same time, vivid, juicy, witty, original, and amusing phrases give the film a special flavor. Sometimes people watch films again and again many times just because of the moments when similar phrases are used; they make the whole point of it.

We can dig even deeper.
The encode makes an objective situation less certain and allows the viewer to figure out a bit more than usual, but it is the possibilities for fantasy that sometimes distinguish good films from bad ones, it is the second guessing that makes a film more profound and alive. We shall compare films and books. All things being equal, a book is usually re-read more often than a film is re-seen as a book leaves more work for our imagination; it is every time different, while a film makes everything as specific as possible. But encodes, while retaining all the advantages of cinema (a full illusion of real life), allow some kind of blurriness, which sometimes makes this illusion indistinguishable from objective reality, but fascinatingly interesting at the same time.

Well, and what about proverbs? At first glance the psycholinguistic mechanism seems the same that implies inserting a ready-made semi-finished product to impart significance or to give a disarming reference to a supposedly recognized meaning. However, in most cases, their action is completely different. Where a proverb pinpoints, ties to a post and identifies, an encode, as a rule, on the contrary, detaches, unties from the post and de-identifies.

That is, proverbs (in their direct reading) close the free flight of a conversational speech program, while encodes translate this flight into a game format.

I am saying something that can have a different meaning depending on what I mean and what the one who is thinking about what I mean thinks about it. Like the game of marbles in Edgar Alan Poe's novels. But, as a rule, proverbs do not possess this property. We should repeat that although proverbs can be encodes, encodes can be proverbs, and it is hard to imagine how many encodes there are among aphorisms. The whole point is the way you perceive the phrase.

For example, I really like a statement by Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the most prominent thinkers and writers of the United States: "When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."

I have known this statement for many years and have always taken it at face value, but only recently decided to look at it with irony. And what a great encode it turns out to be! An encode based 'on a countercurrent' that may help to give to your opponent a very subtle hint that he or she somewhat limits themselves with their rigid position.
Encodes of personal action
All people are different. The critic who lives in me reacts instantly to this 'scientific thesis' without hiding his perplexity. "Now, there is a discovery! People behave differently, everyone in their specific way, and no one would ever think that they are all the same."

I myself will answer this: "'No one', perhaps, would, but someone, perhaps, couldn't get it out of their head! Especially if you are a psychologist and you meet people with problems many times a day, and the weeks, months, and years pass like that..."

Let us have an instant experiment (and we will have an arrangement that you immediately do it). Imagine an ordinary butterfly. What color is it? I have often experimented by asking this simple question. For me personally, this butterfly is... (and I name the color to myself), but what color is it for you? How many people will have the same color as yours? Take the effort and conduct your own investigation.

We frequently attribute to other people our own vision of things, our tastes and motivations, our ideas about life, and sometimes even our beliefs and values.

Of course, we notice that people behave differently from us, they speak differently, and they live differently. Sometimes we are surprised that they are not like us. But at the same time, subconsciously (as in the 'test' with butterflies), we believe that the inner world of other people is constructed in the same way as ours. However, it remains not quite clear why they behave differently than we do. Maybe there is something 'wrong' with them...? What weirdos!
Different adaptations
Meanwhile, the experience of observation and communication accumulates and refutes the naive concept of similarity. In terms of adaptations (to be discussed later), the phrase "Me doesn't understand yous" that I remember from Soviet times, sounds almost like scientifically: "Your adaptation doesn't comprehend my adaptations." But we still have to figure out this matter.

So, dear reader, we will update the lexicon and talk about the secrets of human communication, of 'personal adaptations'. We shall see what our significant difference is from our partners (and theirs from ours), and we will use encodes far more precisely than before.

I must say that in scientific and pseudo-scientific psychology there are many typologies of personality; almost every theory introduces us to differences that exist between people. Some theories are based on the results of empirical studies conducted on hundreds and thousands of people, some – on clinical studies and the experience of psychological counseling.

There is a Big Five of Personality Traits (very popular among research psychologists) that includes such features as extraversion, benevolence (friendliness, the ability to come to an agreement), conscientiousness (consciousness), neuroticism (with emotional stability as the opposing pole), and openness to experience.

A 16-factor model of personality traits was presented in earlier developments (and so on). Though the developments being rather thorough, it is difficult to locate in research and related theories an answer to the question "what to do?". How to use the knowledge of personal differences to build communication with people more effectively? On the contrary, clinical development (that is inferior to the scope of the sample coverage), 'supplies' theories that are directly related to practice and work with people (education, counseling, psychotherapy, coaching).

In this book we shall consider one of the productive theories that are directly related to the practice of communication. In fact, we have already mentioned it above, the theory of personal adaptations. It is developed in line with Eric Bern's transactional analysis (you have previously encountered elements of this theory in our book).

The theory of personal adaptations was born through the efforts of three people: the psychiatrist Paul Ware, the clinical psychologist Taibi Kahler [1] and the transactional analyst Vann Joines [2]. The theory suggests what communication skills are needed in order to communicate effectively. So we will use the achievements of this theory applying it to encodes. Before you learn the theory of personal adaptations, we suggest that you get to know yourself a little better. You are welcome to answer the simple questions below [3].
Brilliant Skeptics receive a message in childhood that they are okay as long as they are "perfect" and "strong". So they put their efforts (and they do it perfectly) into being both perfect and strong and behave in such a way that no one can reproach them for anything. Years will pass and they will demand perfection from others. There are three adaptations for survival in terms of Vann Joines: 1) the Brilliant Skeptic, 2) the Creative Daydreamer, and 3) the Charming Manipulator. There are also three adaptations of approval: 1) the Responsible Workaholic, 2) the Playful Resister, and 3) the Enthusiastic Over-reactor. We shall say a few words about the origin of the six adaptations.

Survival adaptations.

Brilliant Skeptics receive a message in childhood that they are okay as long as they are "perfect" and "strong". So they put their efforts (and they do it perfectly) into being both perfect and strong and behave in such a way that no one can reproach them for anything. Years will pass and they will demand perfection from others.

Along with the Brilliant Skeptic I would suggest another name for such people, the Enforcer (and I would add the Super Over-vigilant Bosses).

Creative Daydreamers, like Brilliant Skeptics/Enforcers, receive in their childhood a message that they are okay as long as they "remain strong" ("perfection" does not exist in this message). "To be strong" in this case means "not to feel what you are feeling," and "don't ask for help." So they do everything possible not to connect with their feelings. This does not mean that feelings are missing. Just the access is denied. Another name that I would suggest for Creative Daydreamers is "Other-worldly" (perhaps you will agree with me when you have read a more complete description of this personal adaptation).

Charming Manipulators receive a message in their childhood that they are okay if they outsmart everyone. Therefore, according to Vann Joines, they are constantly trying to be one step ahead of the others. I will propose another name for people with such an adaptation, "Irresistible".

Approval adaptations

Responsible Workaholics understood in childhood: "I'm okay if I am perfect." Therefore, they do their best to be perfect and right. I propose another name for that (it suggests itself), Perfectionists.

Playful Resisters discover in childhood: "I'm okay while I do my best. It does not mean "I reach." After all, if I have already reached a goal, how will I do my best? And it is my efforts that are expected of me! The important thing is the process and not the result. While others reach and win in something, the child demonstrates the diligence to their parents and is praised for that. Sooner or later, the child gets annoyed with victories of others that testify to his or her own 'failures' and setbacks. Competitiveness wakes up, and the person starts to try strengths and other virtues against others (in particular, intelligence, wit and many others); they begin to provoke to a struggle, create impediments, clarify the zero sum game and win back. In addition to the Playful Resister we shall call this adaptation Zero Sum Gamers.

Enthusiastic Over-reactors in childhood grasped the following: "I am okay, while I am pleasing others." From now on they will do anything to guess what others need so that they can be useful to them. As the name for the adaptation sounds a bit difficult, I propose to replace it in the future with the word Affable as well as Passionate ("a person of passions").

Is it possible to express in one word the essence of personal adaptations and the differences between them? It is impossible. But cognate words can be helpful. Here is a comical example of a solution. You might know this Soviet story that is still popular:

A man comes hoping to get work.

"What can you do?"

"I can do digging."

"And what else can you do?"

"I can do no digging."

I propose to develop the topic bearing in mind six adaptations:

  • Perfectionists (Responsible Workaholics) dig in;
  • Zero Sum Gamers (Playful Resistors) dig the soil from beneath others;
  • Affable ones (passionate, Enthusiastic Over-reactors) dig out;
  • Enforcers (Brilliant Skeptics) dig down;
  • Irresistible ones (Charming Manipulators) dig in;
  • Other-worldly people (Creative Daydreamers) dig in.
Of course, we all have the six adaptations in one way or another: we both dig in (when we are immersed in a task), we dig in (when deprive someone of benefits), we dig out (when saving friends), we dig the soil from beneath others (when competing with others), we dig down (when there is no trust), and dig in (when we withdraw into ourselves). Still, certain things are more typical to us and require less effort.

These are our dominating adaptations. As a rule, a person has one leading adaptation for survival and one leading adaptation for approval (but there are cases of a larger number of leading adaptations).

Now, dear readers (those who have answered the questionnaire at the beginning of Chapter 6) are offered to see the survey results by looking at the key. Afterwards you will read in more detail how personal adaptations are manifested in adults, and you will also have a chance to compare your answers with psychological portraits of adaptations.
Encodes for adaptations
The Brilliant Skeptic, the Over-vigilant Boss, the Enforcer are people who are always right and expect respect from you. Do not relax! The person may be jealous, angry, and sometimes suspicious. Things that seem a 'trifle' for you are a reason to knock you down (maybe not right now, but after a delay). No matter how hard you try, you are not good enough for them. This is a person who controls your actions, and, by the way, you should be grateful. He or she is strict but fair. A sample of strength, intelligence, dignity, and the best human qualities; you should look on them as a leading light although it is absolutely useless: the person's perfection is beyond reach. In critical circumstances, 'in battle', such a person takes everything on themselves and decides the destiny of everyone, and you can feel protected near them! Why do we need encodes here? Perhaps they may only do harm! But in a peaceful environment it is not easy at all to be near such a mentor. Their affection is a real challenge ("the colonel would always say that the most important thing in a person is his good heart").

Be interested in their ideas and views! Inquire! Do not try to guide them! Do not joke with your mentors as they will not understand. In time, your patience may be exhausted. But we will cross that bridge when we come to it! In the meantime, be cautious when selecting encodes:

  • What an idea!
  • I see it is a matter of principle for you to...
  • What are you really trying to find out?
  • At such moments superstition is all we have left...
  • In this world, you need to trust at least someone.
  • Here's the catch
  • Doctors are suitable only for the diseases that cure themselves...
  • Everything that happens here, happens with the privity of intelligence services.
  • It looks like preaching
  • If you put pressure on me, I will do everything to be useful!

Here is a page from the table as an example
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