Reading is fundamental, but comprehension is important too

reading comprehension

The art of debate has devolved.  No longer is it used as a tool of discovery, understanding, reconciliation, and progress.  Today, it is a tool used to beat one another into submission – with the wholesale surrender of the beliefs and values held by one party over the other being the goal.

What’s worse, the intolerance of an opposing view leads to “confirmation bias” – which is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that affirms one’s existing beliefs or hypotheses – and discarding, even energetically rejecting, opposing views.  This leads to people disassociating themselves with those who do not share their positions.  And this serves to only widen the chasm and amplify the intolerance and extremism.

It reminds me of a book I read some decades ago, “The games people play”, by Dr. Eric Berne.  The book itself delves into people and their individual and personal uses of game-theory in everyday life.  It details the variety of games, their thesis, antithesis, and game dynamics.  You can find a summary of the book and the various games at Dr. Berne’s website.

Games People Play

One game people play in particular is “Now I Got You, You Son of a Bitch” (NIGYYSOB).  The thesis of this game is an aggressor is looking for a way, real or perceived, where they can attempt to leverage a perceived superiority into scenario for some personal benefit over their opponent.  The argument the aggressor is attacking may not even exist; only imagined or otherwise extrapolated from what is stated, or what is not explicitly stated, but which is inferred by the aggressor.

The best antithesis (defense) is correct behavior.  This will negate the aggressor’s positions by laying bare the incompleteness or inadequacy of their arguments, the inappropriateness of their presentation, and overtly challenge their overall credibility.

Consider the following dialog that took place on LinkedIn;

Original Post:
For all Lean and Six Sigma Experts on LinkedIn…  Interviewers ask a very common question – What is the difference between Lean and Six Sigma?  Few interviewers will comment – Why you have considered this project as Lean and not as Six Sigma? or vice versa.  Also, you will find standard answers on the internet such as Lean is for making the process fast and eliminate waste.  Six Sigma is for reducing variation and shifting the mean to the center etc.

Let me ask a simple question from all of you:

Origin of Lean is from Toyota. Toyota talks about Muda, Muri, and Mura, where Muda is waste, Muri is overburden, and Mura is unevenness or variation. Therefore, ideally, Lean implementation covers variation reduction also into it.

How can you differentiate Lean and Six Sigma when both aim to reduce variation?  How can you categorize a project into purely Lean or Six Sigma?

Me:  Generally speaking; Lean is about velocity (no friction in the process) and Six Sigma is about the quality of the process.

But to debate whether one is “better” than another is folly.  You would only be able to tell whether a project was entirely “Lean” or entirely “Six-Sigma” after it is complete and you can examine what tools and techniques were used (and what tool box those tools actually came from).  Personally, I think that is a waste of effort.

… And both need a culture of leadership and respect for success.

Also, the “origin” of Lean goes back further than Toyota (who borrowed concepts like CANDO from Ford).  And Ford borrowed from others. And so on… In fact, Toyota never called it Lean, Jim Womack did.

Respondant-1:  So, Lean does not address quality?

Me:  I did not write that Lean does not address quality.

Respondant-1:  You also ignored saying that it does.

Respondant-2:  Lean isn’t also about quality????  You implied lean doesn’t address quality.

Me (to Respondent1 and Respondent2): An omission or a lack of specificity is not an implication and your arguing so is a logical fallacy.  There is peril in using imagination to extrapolate something that simply is not there.  Remember what people say about “assume”.

… Reading is fundamental, but comprehension is important too.

Respondant-3:  Did you seriously just say “Lean is about speed” and “Six Sigma is about quality”?  BTW- the term “Lean” first appeared in an MIT paper in 1988 by John Krafcik. I don’t know who John Womack is… Jim’s cousin?

Me:  I “wrote”, I did not “say”…. Please note that I led-off the comment with “Generally speaking” and not as an absolute.  That is important.

And I wrote, “Lean is about velocity”, not “speed”.  Velocity is speed with a direction, while speed does not have a direction.  It makes a difference.

And I also wrote that “Six Sigma is about the quality of the process” and not simply quality.

Lastly, thanks for the catch on the name (autofill on mobile – and I updated my original comment) and the bit of trivia regarding Krafcik.  Too bad he didn’t monetize it like Womack did…

If we deconstruct this dialog, a classic game of NIGYYSOB emerges;

My initial comment specifically and succinctly provides my answers to the poster’s questions and I start by stating my response is a generalization – a prima facie argument and not intended to be exhaustive (or even containing great detail).  The details of the argument itself are simple, clear and concise as it should be.  After all, it’s a comment to a post and not a dissertation.

Respondent-1 and Respondent-2 try to initiate a game of NIGYYSOB by aggressively presenting a rebuttal to my comment.  I say “aggressive” because their challenge is a statement presented in the form of a question as opposed to a genuine question.  In addition, they are attempting to rebut something they have interpreted and conjured from the information provided, but which does not actually exist; jumping on a perceived omission as proof-positive that my arguments are invalid.

Countermeasure:  I start the engagement with the recommended antithesis of “good behavior”; being direct, but not impolite and making sure not to counter their logical fallacy with one of my own.  I attempt this by specifically and simply noting that I did not write what they claim I did – with the expectation that my response will end the game.

Instead, they misinterpret my attempt to diffuse the engagement with that of weakness.  Feeling they have the stronger position, they continue with the game-play and press harder, trying to coerce and bully me into an outright win for them by forcing me to capitulate and tell them they are right and I should thank them for showing me the err of my ways.   As such, they double-down and claim that my “ignoring” their point was somehow pre-meditated or that my omission somehow “implied” the converse was true.  Obviously false, taking such a position requires considerable imagination, but useful for them to; perpetuate the game, attempt to regain control, and protect their ego (save face).

But instead of playing the victim and acknowledging there was some deficiency in the opinion I shared (as would be expected if I were to play the NIGYYSOB role of victim they expected me to play), I turn the tables and initiate my own game of NIGYYSOB.

My response; “An omission or a lack of specificity is not an implication and your arguing so is a logical fallacy.  There is peril in using imagination to extrapolate something that simply is not there.  Remember what people say about “assume”.  Reading is fundamental, but comprehension is important too” is a classic use of correct behavior as a counter-measure.  I do not get personal, flippant, or disrespectful (although, ego being what it is, I am sure they read into it as such).  It is merely to illuminate to them that their line of reasoning is flawed.  And I end with letting them know I am on to their ruse and will not be drawn-in.

This ends the game.

Respondent-3 then initiates his game of NIGYYSOB.  As with the previous respondents, he starts with the accusation of my stating something I did not by substituting his words for mine.  But Respondent-3 also adds a bit of trivia and sharing, in a flippant manner, that I had a typographical error – the latter two arguments being weak attempts to somehow discredit the real arguments I put forth.  They are a ruse; a case of distracting by trying to make it about form over substance.

Countermeasure;  Again, I respond using the antithesis of good behavior.  Since Respondent-3 made it a point of using form over substance, I start by stating that I “wrote” my response and did not “say” it.  This puts the Respondent-3 en-garde that I will not be distracted by ruses by injecting my own.

As with the previous respondents, I do not play the expected role of victim.  Instead, I initiate my own game of NIGYYSOB by deconstructing the actual verbiage I used which contrasts greatly with his interpretation.  I end by thanking him for sharing his attempted ruses.  And this ends the game.


This happened on LinkedIn.  And we all know it occurs with more frequency and gusto on other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.  But it matters more to the average person when it happens on LinkedIn because we are assumed to be connecting at a more professional level.  As such, we want to be sure to be viewed as our professional selves (still ourselves, but our professional side).

Engagement, debate, and the exchange of ideas and experiences are critical to our personal growth and, without it, we will soon find ourselves obsolete and irrelevant.  But how can we effectively engage in debate?  That is, to press for wisdom and clarity, but not to be aggressive.

In my article, “Conflict and Consensus”, I make the point that Rule #1 in debate is, “Whoever loses their temper or makes it personal first, loses.”  Don’t ever break Rule #1.

Some other suggestions for your consideration;

The person offering the argument needs to keep it clear and concise.  This will minimize the opportunity for confusion, but not eliminate it.  Do not mix arguments, offer more than one argument at a time, or offer details that will just muddle and distract.  Don’t offer “click-bait”.

The person rebutting the argument needs to understand that words matter and needs to ensure they are reading the words being presented.  They also need to guard against interpreting them how they would like to have had them presented, reading into them what simply is not there, or otherwise jump to conclusions.  So in addition to Rule #1, another rule to keep in mind would be; “If it’s not written, it does not exist.”

If there is some gap in understanding or completeness, it is best to respond with a proper or, alternatively, a Socratic question.  For instance and assuming they had read and comprehended what was originally written, what if Respondent-1 and Respondent-2 had written their challenge as a real question such as; “Do you believe that Lean addresses quality?” instead of a statement phrased as a question; “So, Lean does not address quality?“

The latter being, in legal parlance, the same technique they use to treat a witness as hostile in a court of law and which is a very aggressive approach.

And for God’s sake, I don’t care how smart you are, or how smart you think you are; you will never win anyone over by being belligerent, disrespectful, or demonstrating arrogance.  I don’t know how a person can consider themselves a “servant leader” while demonstrating such a lack of empathy or possessing such a level of superiority and aggressiveness.  Treat everyone as a peer.  Better yet, treat everyone as if you were inferior to them – that they were the more intelligent and more experienced.

In other words; assume nothing except the best, be empathetic, inquisitive, and respectful – and just try harder to not create, and to live in, your own echo-chamber.  Remember, what each of us doesn’t know is far more than what we do know.

Now I’ve Got You, You Son of a Bitch (NIGYYSOB)

Game Dynamics and Rules. From


This can be seen in classic form in poker games.  White gets an unbeatable hand, such as four aces.  At this point, if he is a NIGYYSOB player, he is more interested in the fact that Black is completely at his mercy than he is in good poker or making money.

White needed some plumbing fixtures installed, and he reviewed the costs very carefully with the plumber before giving him a go-ahead.  The price was set, and it was agreed that there would be no extras.  When the plumber submitted his bill, he included a few dollars extra for an unexpected valve that had to be installed—about four dollars on a four-hundred-dollar job.  White became infuriated, called the plumber on the phone and demanded an explanation.  The plumber would not back down.  White wrote him a long letter criticizing his integrity and ethics and refused to pay the bill until the extra charge was withdrawn.  The plumber finally gave in.

It soon became obvious that both White and the plumber were playing games.  In the course of their negotiations, they had recognized each other’s potentials.  The plumber made his provocative move when he submitted his bill.  Since White had the plumber’s word, the plumber was clearly in the wrong.  White now felt justified in venting almost unlimited rage against him.  Instead of merely negotiating in a dignified way that befitted the Adult standards he set for himself, perhaps with a little innocent annoyance, White took the opportunity to make extensive criticisms of the plumber’s whole way of living.

On the surface their argument was Adult to Adult, a legitimate business dispute over a stated sum of money.  At the psychological level it was Parent to Adult: White was exploiting his trivial but socially defensible objection (position) to vent the pent-up furies of many years on his cozening opponent, just as his mother might have done in a similar situation.  

He quickly recognized his underlying attitude (NIGYYSOB) and realized how secretly delighted he had been at the plumber’s provocation.  He then recalled that ever since early childhood he had looked for similar injustices, received them with delight and exploited them with the same vigor.  In many of the cases he recounted, he had forgotten the actual provocation, but remembered in great detail the course of the ensuing battle.  The plumber, apparently, was playing some variation of ‘Kick Me’ with ‘Why Does This Always Happen to Me?’ (WAHM).

NIGYSOB is a two-handed game which must be distinguished from ‘Ain’t It Awful’ (AIA).  In AIA the agent seeks injustices in order to complain about them to a third party, making a three-handed game: Aggressor, Victim, Confidant.  AIA is played under the slogan ‘Misery Loves Company’.  The confidant is usually someone who also plays AIA.  WAHM is three-handed, too, but here the agent is trying to establish his pre-eminence in misfortune and resents competition from other unfortunates.  NIGYYSOB is commercialized in a three-handed professional form as the ‘badger game’.  It may also be played as a two-handed marital game in more or less subtle forms.


The best antithesis is correct behavior.  The contractual structure of a relationship with a NIGYYSOB player should be explicitly stated in detail at the first opportunity, and the rules strictly adhered to.  In clinical practice, for example, the question of payment for missed appointments or cancellations must be settled clearly at once, and extra precautions must be taken to avoid mistakes in bookkeeping.

If an unforeseen contretemps arises, the antithesis is to yield gracefully without dispute, until such time as the therapist is prepared to deal with the game.  In everyday life, business dealings with NIGYYSOB players are always calculated risks.  The wife of such a person should be treated with polite correctness, and even the mildest flirtations, gallantries or slights should be avoided, especially if the husband himself seems to encourage them.


  • Thesis: Now I’ve got you, you son of a bitch.
  • Aim: Justification.
  • Roles: Victim, Aggressor.
  • Dynamics: Jealous rage.
  • Examples: (1) I caught you this time. (2) Jealous husband.
  • Social Paradigm: Adult-Adult.

Adult: ‘See, you have done wrong.’

Adult: ‘Now that you draw it to my attention, I guess I have.’

  • Psychological Paradigm:

Parent-Child. Parent: ‘I’ve been watching you, hoping you’d make a slip.’

Child: ‘You caught me this time.’

Parent: ‘Yes, and I’m going to let you feel the full force of my fury.’

  • Moves: (1) Provocation—Accusation. (2) Defence—Accusation. (3) Defence—Punishment.
  • Advantages: (1) Internal Psychological—justification for rage. (2) External Psychological—avoids confrontation of own deficiencies. (3) Internal Social—NIGYSOB. (4) External Social—they’re always out to get you. (5) Biological—belligerent exchanges, usually ipsisexual. (6) Existential—people can’t be trusted.

About the author

Paris is the Founder and Chairman of the XONITEK Group of Companies; an international management consultancy firm specializing in all disciplines related to Operational Excellence, the continuous and deliberate improvement of company performance AND the circumstances of those who work there – to pursue “Operational Excellence by Design” and not by coincidence.

He is also the Founder of the Operational Excellence Society, with hundreds of members and several Chapters located around the world, as well as the Owner of the Operational Excellence Group on Linked-In, with over 60,000 members. Connect with him on LinkedIn or find out more about him.

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