View Single Post
Old 01-13-2010, 11:09 AM   #41
OwlMatt's Avatar
Dojo: Milwaukee Aikikai
Location: Wisconsin
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 401
Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

Mark Murray wrote: View Post
That is probably one of the worst examples I've read. And it conveys the notion of what, I think, is going wrong in this country.

1. First, the neighbor used property that wasn't hers but believed that she had a right to use it.

2. She justified #1 by it happening only rarely. It's okay that she can use other people's property without their consent or notice as long as it's only rarely.

3. She blamed her wrong actions on the neighbors, who were the victims.

4. Emotionalism is okay and we have to "empathize" with people, even when what they've done is completely wrong. We have to be "understanding".

5. As long as her intentions were good, her neighbors should have bent over backwards to let her do what she wanted.

6. It's okay to not tell the other person what you're doing with their property. They should be okay with whatever you want to do.

Now, as to the actions by the married couple. How about these instead.

1. Irimi. The husband should have walked in with the phone and told her if she didn't quiet down and behave respectfully, he was dialing 9-1-1. That she can talk about what happened, but in an adult manner.

As an aside, it is *amazing* how people (normal, not criminals or domestic disputes) calm down when they realize that law enforcement is going to get involved. I've had quite a few "road rage" drivers in front of me driving insanely, veering, braking, etc, etc. I make sure they see me in their rear view mirror, I pick up the cell phone, pretend to hit three numbers, and start talking while looking at their license plate. I mime their license and voila -- they suddenly start driving sanely again.

2. Tenkan. Ask why she didn't leave a note. Explain that had the note been left, the whole situation would have turned out completely differently. People can be "understanding" when they're informed of a situation. It was late and with no information as to what was going on, they were left with no options.

3. Blending. Tell her that she is a good neighbor and if they would have known of the very special circumstances, other arrangements could have been made, even that late at night. They wouldn't have had the car towed had they known it was her son's.

Final note. Think about this. Because the married couple capitulated and apologized, some neighbors might have sued them to pay for the towing fees.

The only thing this article did was to teach people how to roll over, be submissive, and play good little doggie when someone takes their bone. A perfectly horrible example of "aikido" outside the mat.
I think you're very wrong here, Mark.

Sometimes it is not enough to be right. The writer and his wife could have, of course, simply stated that what they had done was neither illegal, nor unwarranted, nor mean-spirited and left it at that, and then could have threatened to call the police if that were not enough to placate their neighbor. Objectively, we cannot say they would not have been right to do so. But being right and optimally resolving a conflict are two very different things.

This is where aikido principles come in. A common device in aikido tradition is the four levels of combat ethics. The first level is to attack and kill or hurt an opponent without provocation; the second is to provoke an attack and then respond by killing or hurting the opponent; the third level is to respond to an unprovoked attack by killing or hurting the opponent; but the highest level, the one to which O Sensei would have us aspire, is the level at which we can defend ourselves against an unprovoked attack without seriously harming our opponent.

Had the writer and his wife done things your way, that is, simply assert the rightfulness of their position and then threaten the neighbor into submission if she did not back down, they would have been the victors, and rightfully so, but they would have only achieved the third level. They would have left their neighbor hurt and resentful at being treated like a criminal. Besides that, they would have lost a valuable friend.

What the writer chose to do was take a higher road and achieve an even greater result. He got his neighbor to understand the rightfulness of his point of view and to halt her attack without hurting her feelings and without making an enemy of her in the future. And the only sacrifice he made in achieving this victory was the few minutes it took to listen to what his neighbor had to say.

It is a very tempting to offer our love, our understanding, and our respect only to those whom we think deserve it. But we rob ourselves of ultimate victory in doing so. Perhaps just being right is enough for you. It is not enough for me, and I do not believe it was enough for O Sensei.
  Reply With Quote