Strategic Interaction in Relationships

by Deborah Monroe
Date Published January 31, 2019 - Last Updated December 17, 2019

I am not a gamer! There’s no pride or shame in that statement. I simply have a different lifestyle.

But, every time I take my nephew out to dinner (he’s now 19 years old), he tells me about his games, the stories, the graphics, and the history of the world according to the games he is playing. So, I live vicariously as a wanna-be gamer through his stories.

This particular evening while chomping on some sesame chicken, Evan told me about this Japanese company Square Enix. Those of you who are gamers, probably know all about this conglomerate. Specifically, he was talking about their game Final Fantasy.

As we munched down our Chinese food, Evan told me the story of this company changing their model of Final Fantasy XV from turn-based to real-time.

It seems that from Final Fantasy I–XIV, all those games were turn-based. The company had some marketing issues here in the US and decided that our market is only interested in "real-time" play and that turn-based games are not what people are buying or playing in the US.

You know by now, I am the “people” person when it comes to people, process, and technology. I am extremely socially curious and really strive to find out what makes us tick and how to improve our lives both in and outside of work.

The idea that this Japanese company that has been around since the 1970s had to change its tactics for the US…I found it so curious. Why? Because it speaks to our new culture. A culture of reaction, not response. Let’s define!

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What does "turn-based” actually mean? At its heart, it means players take turns taking their actions. Turn based doesn't depend upon the player's reaction speed. The game waits for the player to declare their move(s), as in a game of chess, checkers, or backgammon.

We have become a culture of reaction, as Square Enix has proven. We react to almost everything in our line of fire; it could be a customer, it could be a conflict with a peer or a manager, or simply enough, it could be with anyone at home. And it is NOT healthy.

No matter how difficult, we have seemingly lost our ability to strategize a conversation, think about our responses, and take turns in point and counterpoint. We just seem to be yelling at one another and nobody is listening to what the other is saying. Nothing gets accomplished. Nothing gets changed.

In order to change the dynamic from real-time to turn-based, we must pause, take a breath, think about how we want to respond, and identify if the response is going to create a rift or a bond. You may have the truth, but for someone who is simply reactive, they don't seem to care about the truth. It’s only their ideas/opinions (whether provable or not) that are important.

I call this mindset the “Right/Wrong Trap,” in which, someone has to be right and the other entity has to be wrong. Yet, when we are stuck in that trap, nothing seems to be talked about or considered in order to gain the outcome we are seeking. We should want to grow our characters to the point where a turn-based approach is taken within our conversations around how to achieve the solution and outcome.

Many, many years ago I was working with a woman who was in charge of her company’s training programs. We were teaching software at that time if that helps you identify the decade! Let’s call this woman, Susan.

Susan was a “difficult” client. Nothing was ever good enough for her, although we gave her everything she asked for in a professional and specific manner.

One Friday at 5:30, after a long and difficult week, she called me ranting about something. I responded (not reactionary) to her convulsions in a calm but bold approach, to which she became offended and told me, “This conversation is making me very uncomfortable!” She still wanted to point intense blame at my organization and me. I knew I was right and she was wrong…she was just being an “insert nasty word here” type of person.

I realized we were falling into the Right/Wrong Trap. Even then, I knew it was not going to end well if I continued to butt up against her.

That's when I went from real-time war games to a turn-based game. I needed to take time and think about what I wanted to say, the outcome that we were both looking for, and how I should form my words and tone for the best outcome. This is what I did:

  1. I shut up!
  2. I listened deeply to the need that was not being filled for her.
  3. I acknowledged that she was frustrated and that there was a lack of trust (she was afraid that I would make her look bad, whether true or not, in her head).
  4. I asked questions to gain information from her: how would she like to handle this? What needs to happen for her to feel comfortable in this situation?
  5. I listened again.
  6. I assured her that I would do everything in my power to ensure that she looked good to her bosses.
  7. I hung up and drank a beer.


Even if I had taken no further action, I got the result that I was looking for because I gave her space for her “turn.” Sometimes that is all that people need. And yes, they remained our client for a long time because of that little conversation.

So my encouragement to you is to start fresh this year! When you feel the need to go to war about something and you want to play real-time, DON’T!

Institute a turn-based game wherein you get to think about how you want to strategically approach a situation or conversation. Give yourself the space you need to think about the options in front of you and the outcome everyone desires. In doing so, you are pushing back the reactive culture we live in for a more mature, character filled perspective. People will see your wisdom and will want to learn from you, not run away as fast as they can.

Finally, let me give you one of my favorite and applicable quotes: 

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”—Viktor Frankl.

Use that space. Respond. Don’t react. Play a turn-based game! Change the culture one battle at a time.

Change the culture one battle at a time.
Tweet: Change the culture one battle at a time. #leadership #custserv #techsupport @ThinkHDI

Deborah Monroe is one of eighteen Master EQ practitioners in the world, through the Global EQ Community of 6 Seconds. She's also an associate with the Institute for Organizational Performance and an HDI business associate. Working with all levels of executive leadership, management, and individual contributors, Deborah concentrates on integrating humans and process to create a balanced working environment. Her aim is to build understanding and empathy, creating a positive bottom line through employee and customer retention.

Tag(s): supportworld, workforce enablement, workforce enablement, leadership, customer experience, customer satisfaction, people


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