Impersonal players are, in many ways, the most difficult of all the people who drive you up the wall. They present unique counter play problems. They do not respond to differences in people or conditions. They attempt to handle everything and everyone in impersonal ways. Any relationship skills they may have are not especially useful in a traditional sense. Their impatience and lack of clarity about their roles compound the problems. They seldom take time to understand anyone or anything and do not intuitively or automatically see where they fit in or how their behavior affects others. They are confused but also confusing. This is additionally problematic because the player does not put people or their problems on his list of important concerns. Why? This is easy. The player is a know-it-all and does not have to come down to the people level.
Seeing this helps you understand the motivations of the Impersonal player. He is either incapable of or unwilling to think about things in human terms. He also believes that doing so is a less good or inferior way of interacting. With all this in mind the key to counter play is to deal with the player in impersonal and objective ways.
The first step is always to be calm and as rational as possible. Give the impression of not caring about things in any feeling or emotional way. Instead, convey a dispassionate but committed approach to things. Be a machine responding to another machine.
Whenever possible, put concerns in writing – or even better – present them directly but have a written report to pass along. This trick is important. The written presentation should not be more than one page long. For important or complex issues, longer reports are acceptable so long as they are not more than two pages. If it cannot be handled in two pages, think it through some more. The Impersonal player will only attend to the bare facts. Keep it short and to the point.
Finally, only include the specific problems, what is causing them, and exactly what is needed to fix them. Philosophy, how people are affected, or what people think about it are irrelevant. Focusing on them makes matters worse when dealing with the Impersonal player. Keep things short, factual, and free from people kinds of concerns.
It is helpful to think about the similarity between the Impersonal player and the I-player. The I-player does not participate in reciprocal accommodation. His lack of participation does not prevent others from trying to accommodate, though. For the Impersonal player, the process of reciprocal accommodation is irrelevant. Not only does the player not adjust or accommodate to others, they are unable to adjust to or accommodate to him in interpersonal terms.
The key to a relationship with an Impersonal player is to understand that there is not and cannot be any personal relationship.
Perhaps an analogy to a computer may help. When interacting with the machine, it is necessary to consider the output as literal. From the Impersonal Player, everything seen and heard must be taken literally and never in human or interpersonal terms.
Here is the most important part for you. Everything said to the player also must be literal. Only the empirical and objective are received and processed. The interaction is based on data and well-defined actions.
Finally and perhaps most importantly, the only way to reason with or influence the Impersonal Player is through input that has a direct impact on the player. Telling him how his actions or directives affect people or someone’s operation is of no value. The computer has no interest in how its output impacts on people or situations.
Similarly, it has no ability to accept input that does not exactly match its program or expectations. Here is the key. The input has to be in a form that can be accepted. It must either be consistent with the computer’s programming or such that it causes an error message in the computer. All input must either help the computer to run or threaten its operation.
Now counter play is clear. Take time to watch how the Impersonal player outputs information, instructions, and his expectations. Use the same medium and the same level of detail and exactness he uses. For example, in the illustration, those who want to deal with Dr. Vincent Arnold would do well to communicate in writing. The key is not to raise concerns and issues of others. Instead, it is better to say, “The staff morale problems are jeopardizing the ability of the Board to conform to regulations. Please advise.”
Another example is, “Data processing irregularities are evident and attributable to the current equipment. The result is that external investigations may be anticipated. Please advise.”
Just remember that the input must match the output. Keeping it impersonal is the road to success with the Impersonal player.