bulldogMy rough personality has gotten me into a hundred times more trouble with people than the average person has so much as witnessed. As a result I’ve had the chance to test many, many ways of escape.

I learned the absolute-bestest-most-sure-fire-perfect method from Bill Gothard. This fabulous tactic

  • does not require any kind of social skills.
  • can be used by anyone — with anyone — in any situation.
  • guarantees a perfect end result every time — if (“if”) you follow the instructions to the letter.

But before I hand you your ticket to freedom, let’s take a look at the alternatives.

The Situation

messy_drawerJoe leaves his keys laying around. Henry, the roommate, cleans up the apartment. In the process, Henry tosses Joe’s keys into a drawer and forgets about them.

Independent Analysis:

  1. Joe is wrong for leaving his keys laying around.
  2. Henry is wrong for being careless with Joe’s keys.

Joe comes home. After a two-hour search he finally finds his keys. Joe has a fit and tries to pick a fight with Henry, saying,

Henry, I can’t believe you hid my keys in the drawer.


Henry’s Five Alternatives:

1. Argue
2. Wave White Flag
3. Negotiate / Compromise
4. Prostrate
5. Ask Forgiveness


seuss argument1. Alternative Response #1: Argument. The usual.

(I am one of the world’s foremost experts on arguing. Listen closely.)

Henry: “I hid your keys? No, I put them away. I did you a favor. You’re always leaving your junk laying around. I cleaned this whole apartment and this is the thanks I get? You never do anything around here but complain.”

Joe (lies): “I do my share. Do you know how much time I spent looking for those keys because of you?”

Thus it starts and thus it goes — on and on and on.

Both parties to any argument share the following underlying assumption:

“When I am successful in convincing the other that he is wrong, the argument will end and I will get what I want.”

In spite the fact that in the entire long history of mankind this has never happened once, billions of people believe this

Instead, the argument progresses with each side repeating the same statements over and over, usually at a higher and higher volume, until  — assuming it stops short of bloodshed — one of them gets too tired to continue. The other is then said to have won.

The result?
Let’s say Joe won. Joe, who “won,” not only has protected, justified and perpetuated his bad habit of leaving his junk laying around, he has set himself up for future retribution when he least expects it. (Believe me, I know. By nature I am mostly the “Joe” in this story.)
anime depressionHenry, who “lost,” has taken refuge in self-righteousness. He has set himself up as an idol that he must defend against all comers,  possibly even resorting to depression  ——->             as the ultimate defense

You are destined to lose every single argument you ever get into, one way or the other.

Henry can even say, “Joe, I heard you perfectly the first time. You have repeated it five times so far. This is what you said, ‘(Henry delivers exact quote).’ Now what I’m trying to get across to you is (Henry says what he wants Joe to hear)”
In other words, Henry can quote Joe’s side of the argument with perfect accuracy and it still will never open Joe’s ears to how right Henry is. (Don’t believe me? Try it.)

white flagPossible Response #2: Wave White Flag

Henry: “Gosh, Joe, I’m really sorry. I’ll try not to do that any more.”

Short Term Result: The argument is avoided.

The problem is, Joe is enabled to avoid taking responsibility for his sloppiness and Henry has lied: Henry is not sorry about the keys — he’s sorry that “sloppy Joe” has inconvenienced him again. He’s also sorry that he has to be the victim of Joe’s pathetic lack of self control again.

However, Henry’s bad feeling of being victimized is balanced by his good feeling of superiority toward “sloppy Joe with the bad temper.” (This of course irritates Joe, making matters worse. Which Henry “can’t understand.”)

End result: Some version of the same problem will definitely come up again (and again and again) in both their lives.

Possible Response #3: Negotiation Leading to Compromise

negotiating tableThis requires wasting a lot of time tiptoeing around each other. It also adds the risk of the negotiation degenerating into argument. At best it ends in either detente or compromise.

“Ok, if you don’t leave your stuff laying around, I won’t hide it.”

Compromise (rhymes with “lies”):
Joe: “I’ll try to not leave my stuff laying around.”
Henry: “I’ll try to be more careful with your keys next time.”

Best End Result: The relationship is not broken, but no one is truly satisfied.

Sorry. This is as close as any westerners except priests in church got to full prostration on Google images.

Sorry. This is as close as any westerners except priests in church got to full prostration on Google images.

Possible Response #4: Prostration

(It’s quite possible that not one person reading this blog will for even one moment consider taking this option. I include it only because my experiences with it have been extremely instructive. And because it works — but not as well as #5.)

Henry: “Forgive me (and lays face-down in front of  Joe).”

This works every time to get you out.
The dynamic of prostration instantly shifts all the weight of responsibility to the other person, leaving you free. It also tosses your pride under the bus. It’s the ultimate crash course in humility. As Janis Joplin said, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.'” Unfortunately it does nothing for the other person.

Interesting stuff I learned: In using this technique I’ve more than once been in the bizarre position of lying in full prostration before someone who is raging at me about not being sincere in prostrating to them. (You wonder who the ____ they think they are.) I’ve even had to worry about whether they were going to kick me in the head, but they never did.

The good news is, not only did it end the argument cold every time: By ripping up the social contract and throwing it at their feet I taught ’em not to mess with me in a way they will never forget.

At Last, Your Ticket To Freedom 

ticket5. Possible Response #5: Ask Forgiveness 

Henry: “I was wrong to dump your keys in the bottom of the drawer. Will you forgive me please?”

Pay close attention; this is dynamite. 


  1. No argument is possible.
  2. There is no need to wave the white flag.
  3. There is nothing to negotiate.
  4. There is no need to prostrate.
  5. There is no violation of the social contract.

Henry is simply asking a question that requires a “yes” or “no” answer.

Forget about saying, “I’m sorry.” 
There was a great line in the Zombies’ 1960’s hit, “She’s Not There:”  
“It’s too late to say you’re sorry.
How would I know?
Why should I care?”

Your objective is to get free, not to get Joe to like you.

Freedom Comes In Two Swift Strokes

sword1. “I was wrong to …”

Henry identifies a specific area where he is wrong and takes full responsibility for it. By clearly identifying where he is at fault, Henry instantly ends all arguments and establishes agreement (So what if the agreement is around the fact that he’s at fault? You wanna be free or not?)

I’ve had situations where the person coming against me was really off the wall, situations where I was 99% right and knew it (I can be sure because I’m almost always the aggressor.) There have been times when it took a lot of time and creativity to find a place where I was a little bit wrong. But I invariably found it and used it with perfect results.

By taking responsibility Henry quickly defuses the situation and sets up for the second and final stroke:

2. “Will you forgive me, please?”

Joe’s was picking a fight with his statement, “Henry, I can’t believe you hid my keys in a drawer.” The statement has at least three implied insults:

  1. Henry is stupid (“I can’t believe”).
  2. Henry has malicious motives (“hid”).
  3. Henry’s cleaning up the mess has no value.

Joe is undoubtedly expecting Henry to either

  1. fight back,
  2. kowtow, or
  3. negotiate.

But Henry, in seven seconds, launches the whole situation into outer space. In seven seconds, he has accomplished three things:

  1. By humbling himself and making a request, Henry gives Joe he really wants: a feeling of superiority. Henry has paid half the price of freedom: humility. (Not “eternal vigilance” as is commonly believed). (The other half of the price will be disclosed shortly.)
  2. Henry has deftly disarmed Joe by turning Joe’s attention from fighting toward examining his heart for unforgiveness (something he may have never done before).
  3. Henry has put Joe in a power position where it is completely up to Joe whether he forgives Henry or not.

black and whiteEither Answer Is Acceptable: Yes or No.

This is where you have to be willing to pay the other half of the price of freedom:

Being willing to let people do whatever they want without having to answer to you.

Let me repeat: The other half of the price of freedom (the first half being humility) is:

Being willing to let people do whatever they want without having to answer to you.

(This does not mean that if you are a policeman you don’t put people in jail anymore. It means you do your job, period.)

What happens:

If Joe says, “Yes, I forgive you,” he closes the situation. Joe opened the fight; now he gets to close it — with self-esteem intact. Plus,  Joe has unwittingly handed Henry the ultimate trump card: If Joe forgives and brings it up again later, all Henry has to do is look him square in the eye and say, “I thought you forgave me for that.” 

On the other hand, if Joe says, “No. I won’t forgive you,” Joe has unilaterally broken the relationship and Henry goes free; the entire burden of re-establishing the relationship is shifted to Joe.
Is this unkind? No. Joe had all the responsibility anyway. Every one of us is fully responsible for his or her own actions.

If your idea of relationship is master/slave or slave/master, either be ready to change it or don’t bother with this tactic. This will make you the master of yourself. You don’t answer to anyone and no one answers to you. You answer to God (in us and around us) and they answer to God or not as they choose. “Each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop judging one another.” St. Paul

Caveats, Quid Pro Quos and Provisos:

black and white1. Your entire focus must be on obtaining a yes or no answer.

People can be incredibly clever in evading the “yes or no” answer.

“Yes, but” and “Yes, if” are not yes or no answers.

Henry must stay focused and pin Joe down. He has to be determined to walk out of there with his “yes” or “no” answer.
The most clever response I ever got was “I always forgive.” I responded by saying, “Yes, I know you always forgive, but will you forgive me this time?” The person had to sheepishly mumble, “Yes.”

2. Never apologize.

Never say, “I’m sorry I hid your keys, but I was in a hurry.” By saying this kind of thing you are probably lying (“I’m sorry”) and justifying yourself (“I was in a hurry”) both of which fuel the fight.

3. Never make the other wrong in even the slightest way. You will regret it.

Don’t say, “I was wrong to dump your keys in the bottom of the drawer, but you shouldn’t have left them laying around either. Let’s forgive each other.” This does nothing but open up another negotiation.

telephone-064. Ask forgiveness by phone — or in a situation where other people can’t hear what you are doing.

In other words, Henry must not put Joe in a position where he might lose face in front of his friends.

5. Avoid asking forgiveness in writing or by email.

Don’t leave a written record of the offense. Phone is best, but only if you call the other to ask forgiveness (the phone advantage is lost if you leave a message and have them to call you back).

6. As soon as you get your yes or no answer, say goodbye and leave (or hang up) before you get into another pickle!



Isn’t this manipulative behavior?

Yes. Through actively displaying genuine humility, let’s manipulate the whole world into forgiveness, love and freedom.

Eat crow! It’s the staple of a free person’s diet.

It’s not bad at all once you get used to it. 

Try it. You’ll like it!