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Old 11-05-2009, 07:32 AM   #26
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
I disagree Mark...I think you've missed a big part of deeper issue.

Having been in the situation in which I am the only authority...there is no one left to call or appeal to for outside help. "Nuking them", only seems to cause problems later on.

Failing to understand their point of view regardless of how stupid and irrational it may be can cause you problems later on.

It requires a great deal of personal restraint and supression of your own emotions to do this.

In all cases where I have followed this type of problem solving...I have walked away with a deeper understanding of the real underlying issues and have been in a better situation to have a permanent solution.

As the last result...if in the end, I still believe the person is a complete bonehead and it does not go the right way....I sleep alot better at night knowing that my decision to "write them off" was the right one.

That said, there is a time and place for everything and sometimes it is not warranted to continue to expose yourself to "violence" and a call for swift decisive action is needed.

I think in this example though, a neighbor and seeking to understand...goes a long way at allowing for everyone to go home and still be friends.

I wish more folks acted this way than less.
Hi Kevin,

Let me explain a bit more. I didn't say to nuke them or not to understand their situation or to let your emotions go out of control. Just the opposite. You don't go screaming in there with a phone, threatening to call the police. That's stupid. You'll only get screaming back. I figured most people would key in on my words "behave respectfully" and "adult manner" and understand that calm, cool, and collected were assumed. Give them the options of either conversing as adults to resolve the problem (which includes listening) or if they want to keep screaming like children (don't use those words), then law enforcement will be called.

It isn't a threat. It's a manner of determining how the situation will play out, of assessing the stability of the neighbor, of controlling the situation, of protecting yourself. There are a myriad of reasons why the neighbor is there, mad and yelling. Just how far gone emotionally is she? If law enforcement must be called, then there's no way any amount of calm on your end that would have made a difference. Law enforcement also creates records of the incident, which if things get worse can help your situation in court. Etc, etc.

Does my example work in every situation? No. But it's a much better thing to do than what the author did. Think Pavlov's dog. Kind of generic, but it works as an example. Just what did the author do to the neighbor? The author reinforced the neighbor's ideas that other people's property can be used without permission. I don't care how "understanding" the author believed himself to be, what he did was entirely and completely wrong. There are ways of being "understanding" that do not imprint or reinforce bad ideologies.

The author apologized for their actions, which reinforced the neighbor's ideas that she was right to use someone else's driveway without permission or notice. Apologizing also signifies that the author believes what he did was wrong and what the neighbor did was right. Would you want to fight a court battle over paying the towing fees where the fact that you apologized is evidence? You stated by apology that you believed that what you did was wrong. Good luck in court with that. Best lawyer wins, but you lose no matter what.

Another thing that was reinforced was that screaming and throwing a fit works. She got her apology from the author. Through yelling and throwing a fit, the author "understood" her position and apologized for his actions. Nowhere in this whole incident did the neighbor ever learn the lesson that you don't use other people's property without permission. The author didn't learn the lesson that you don't reinforce bad ideologies, but try to teach people where they went wrong and how not to repeat that mistake.

When you do something wrong, you're supposed to learn from your mistake. And people should be there helping you to learn if you can't do that yourself. None of that happened in this scenario. No one learned anything.

Both parties acted irresponsibly and reinforced ideologies that do not build proper character. Whether contrived or real, what was presented in that article was horrible. There are significantly better ways to achieve the same results. People acting in this manner are creating more problems in the long run than solving them.

This shows the current ideological trend that as long as you "try", whatever you do isn't bad, or wrong. That article should be a textbook case of what *not* to do in situations like this (again, I'm not talking about interacting with criminals, insane people, domestic disputes, etc).

Remain calm, yeah. Listen, yeah. Understand, yeah. All good ideas. But there are ways of doing that which help to build proper character. Nothing in this article follows that. The sad part is that the author is CEO and out there teaching this stuff. I can only guess that it's like two peas in the same pod. They only know their own way of conversing and reaching each other. I just wonder where we started planting such stunted peas?
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Old 11-05-2009, 09:26 AM   #27
Rob Watson
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

Quote:
Ignatius Teo wrote: View Post
Ah, a judicious play of the Golden Rule trump card.
Just another tool in the chest

Quote:
Ignatius Teo wrote: View Post
So, the people on the average customer service helpdesk must be 10th dan black belts to deal with the constant abuse from irate customers?
Saints more like it. Maybe zombies
irate customer 'you sold me garbage, I want my money back'
Zombie says 'ahhhh'
'Oh, thanks for listening' says irate
'uunhhh' says zombie
'I'm sorry, actually my cousin dropped it and it broke' says irate
zombie says 'argh'
irate goes away
'thanks for shopping at zombiemart' says zombie

Quote:
Ignatius Teo wrote: View Post
And a "difficult" conversation is one where you try to weasel your way out of "donating" to some "good cause" from the unexpected door knock appeal?
That's what the peep is for ... slinks back to cave.

"In my opinion, the time of spreading aikido to the world is finished; now we have to focus on quality." Yamada Yoshimitsu

Ultracrepidarianism ... don't.
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Old 11-05-2009, 08:35 PM   #28
Michael Hackett
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

I'm a little confused here. When and how did it become a bad thing to defuse an angry incident with a neighbor? Having pleasant relationships with your neighbors seems like a positive to me - having lived with some neighbors from Hell once before. Sure, he could have kicked the woman off his front porch and called the cops for a neighborhood disturbance and that would have been the end of that incident, but probably not the end of the war to come.

And when did it become my obligation to provide for the character development of neighbors? I find developing my own character to be a full-time job. Did the neighbor learn anything from the episode? Did her son? At least they learned that they couldn't park in that parking space without permission and the lesson cost them a towing and storage fee.

I spent a lot of time rolling out on neighbor disputes that had far less cause than the one described and frequently someone went to jail or the hospital. I would have preferred to have some of my clients at least try to communicate like rational human beings without calling me - fresh donuts cool very rapidly.

Michael
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Old 11-05-2009, 11:52 PM   #29
Josh Reyer
 
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

Michael speaks much wisdom.

Let us assume for a moment that the author and Leslie are not simply neighbors, but good neighbors, friends even. Perhaps they enjoy cook-outs together, or have baby-sat for each other's kids. I for one would be hesitant to threaten any of my friends with the police, unless they were threatening physical harm, which certainly does not appear to be the case here. The author thus wanted to resolve the situation peacably, treating their friend as a friend.

From a strict legal standpoint, of course the author and his wife were not in the wrong. It was their property, and someone had parked there illegally. But from a social standpoint, having the car towed was a bit drastic. Let us look at it from Leslie's point of view. Her son comes home, but has no where to park. She sees that her neighbors aren't home, so he wouldn't be blocking anyone from getting out. I'll have him park there, she thinks, and then we'll move the car when they get back.

Presumptous? Perhaps. But if you can't impose on your friends a little bit, who can you impose on? So imagine her shock when her friends and neighbors simply have the car towed. One might imagine that they at least would check with the next door neighbor before something as drastic as towing. So she gets upset and angry.

One's legal standing ultimately has little to do with relationships with friends, so while it was in the author's rights to have the car towed, it's understandable, from a friend's point of view, to be upset that the author had the car towed without even checking with the neighbors to see if the car was theirs. I mean, it takes some time for a tow truck to arrive, hook up the car, and take off, so you'd think they could have taken five minutes just to knock on the neighbor's door. Was the author in the wrong? No. Was it worth an apology to a friend? Sure. If this was a stranger, likely to sue, yeah, apologizing is probably not the best course of action. But it'd be a sad life indeed to approach all relationships from the perspective of legal liability.

In the end, this article is not how to deal with an irate neighbor over possible ligititous issues, but how to approach an upset and angry friend.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
- Chaucer
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Old 11-06-2009, 06:10 AM   #30
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

Kevin Leavitt posted the article because he thought it was a "good read". Since I have great respect for Kevin and his views on aikido and training, I took the trouble to read this article and many others penned by this author. I must confess that as a result I was somewhat disappointed.

The author seems to me to run together several separate issues. Of course, there is the issue highlighted by Josh Reyer, of dealing with neighbors who might also be good friends (though the author does not pay much attention to this). This issue would be very important for me, here in Japan. I live in a part of Hiroshima that is still very 'traditional', in the sense that life is lived according to traditional Japanese values. So there is a very subtle sense of how these values translate to neighborly obligations. Translating the problem sketched by the author into my own terms here is well nigh impossible.

The second issue is the legal issue. Again, this would be very unlikely to arise here unless something else happened.

The third issue is the way the author uses the incident to teach what he thinks are important virtues concerning conversation and to buttress his own reputation as a communication 'guru'. In this respect, the article reminded me of manuals on 'negotiation', which is a subject I have taught for many years. (This is mainly why I was disappointed. In aikido, Terry Dobson also wrote a disappointing book on this aspect of aikido, called Aikido in Daily Life: Giving in to Get Your Way). The textbooks always paint a rosy picture, where communication in general, and the more restricted form, of negotiation, is always successful. Failed communication is never really an option and negotiations are always 'win-win' encounters.

The important paragraphs in the article are the following:

"When people learn a martial art, they practice the same move endlessly until it becomes automatic and available when they are ambushed. I realized that day that I needed the conversational equivalent. So I resolved to make a change. I created my new knee-jerk reaction: Ask a question."
PAG. This paragraph made me wonder whether the author actually practises a martial art. If he does, I hope he also realizes that it depends very much on the relevance and quality of the question. Not just any old question will do. But then the issue then becomes, 'What is a good question to ask?' This complicates the issue somewhat and reduces the value of the knee-jerk reaction.

"Whenever I'm surprised and I don't know what to say, I now ask a question. Even if that question is: "Can you tell me more?" That gets the other person talking and in a difficult conversation, it's always useful to let the other person go first. It reduces their defensiveness, you might learn something that could change your perspective or at least help you frame your perspective so they could hear it, and you'll provide an example of good listening they might just follow."
PAG. In my opinion this is pseudo-psychologizing of a very amateurish kind. If I realized that my interlocutor was simply regarding me as an uke, on whom he could practise his 'communication waza', I would probably respond as a proper uke should do and prevent him from completing his waza. Actually, I have seen this type of pseudo-psychologizing going on at aikido meetings and the results have invariably been disastrous.

Just to give some context, I once taught a seminar on intercultural negotiation. I happened to have three different cultures represented in the seminar: the US, China, and Japan. I presented two different scenarios of negotiation: a zero-sum type, such as fixing a price for a car, and a more general scenario such as the one presented here. However, I was more interested in the 'frames' in which the negotiators saw the interactions.

The responses were interesting: the Chinese: "Know your enemy"; the Americans: "Enter a courtship and always end in a win-win situation"; the Japanese: "See which way the wind is blowing before making any commitment."

To me it is interesting that there are very few books in Japanese on negotiation. There are thousands of books on how to dress properly for skiing or biking, or how to cook, but virtually no manuals on how to negotiate successfully, such that the result is always a win-win situation. I had a student once who wrote his thesis on the role of negotiation in the Meiji Restoration, with special reference to Sakamoto Ryoma. He needed a reasonable working hypothesis on negotiation as an art or science, but was surprised to find that very much material was published in the US, and especially by schools like the Harvard Business School. There was very little in Japanese. I think there is a moral somewhere, especially for those practising a Japanese art like aikido.

Best wishes--and apologies in advance for any thread drift.

PAG

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 11-06-2009 at 06:23 AM.

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Old 11-06-2009, 11:59 AM   #31
Janet Rosen
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

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Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
The responses were interesting: the Chinese: "Know your enemy"; the Americans: "Enter a courtship and always end in a win-win situation"; the Japanese: "See which way the wind is blowing before making any commitment."...
...and apologies in advance for any thread drift.
If you are going to provide such an interesting post, please don't apologize! :-)
I agree that there is a peculiarly American optimism inherent in the faith that "win/win" is alway acheivable (or as a friend of mine bitingly puts it, "Let's all be palsy-walsy") but I also think that in neighborhood disputes its not bad to aim for raprochment in which continuing to get along is possible (assuming we aren't talking about drug dealing, theft, etc....).
Let's note that the offending neighbor was NOT taken off the hook in terms of the time and money dealing with the towed car, which to me meant that not only were things de-escalated but ultimate responsibility for the offending action remained on the culpable party.

Last edited by akiy : 11-06-2009 at 12:45 PM. Reason: Fixed quoting

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Old 11-06-2009, 12:39 PM   #32
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

Picture yourself an American Soldier on a Check point, your job is to keep people safe. So you stop car after car and make people get out of the car and stand aside while you inspect their cars...day after day after day.

You are doing your job, which you have legitmate authority to do, and in the greater scheme of things you are indeed protecting folks from greater harm and you understand this and you are justified.

However, the people you are doing this to, are not of any concern to you. You see 100's of them daily, they are all part of the process, they come they go, some might be terriorist too. So you don't really care that you are delaying them or invading their privacy...it is a minor inconvience.

So, you are a person being stopped. Everyday you have to go to another town to make enough money to bring food and medcine home to your sick realtive...it is a hard life and you only want to get through the day so you go through this check point everyday where you are poked prodded and search and questioned by an arrorgant, rude, sunglass wearing soldier in body armor that can't even bother to look at you as a human being. You don't like being treated like a "part of the process" it is your country, your community and you want the respect you deserve and have earned.

I used to remind my soldiers to consider how what you are dong is viewed from the other side...regardless of how right and justified you are....it is important to not only to the person you are dealing with...but also to you and your family.

I agree with Peter's assessment, this is a very overly simplified vignette for sure.

I think though that the reason I posted it was I thought it served as a good one to remind us to consider the other perspective.

Heck even when we dig defenses in the Army, we are supposed to go forward of the fighting postion and look back at it to view it how the enemy see's it.

It's like Sun Tzu 101 really!

I think too often we get caught up in our "roles" in society, especially in big cities where we have lots of rules both formal and informal to maintain good order and discipline. Coloring within the lines is rewarded typically with fairness and boarding the metro train in a fairly peaceful manner.

When we get cut off in traffic, someone parks in our space, runs a light, honks the horn a little too quickly...it is easy to get upset and get angry since that person is clearly out of line!

I think though that sometimes it helps to take a breath, and maybe put yourself in their shoes and maybe think about their perspective a little.

It doesn't necessarily have to change your position or response.

heck I would support towing the persons car! As Josh points out, the end result was that the car was still towed.

I used to be a a HOA board and had to do almost the same thing years ago in towing a car. Also had a neighbor that had a work vehicle that everyone felt was not within the rules of the association. It got nasty. It was going to go to court. It was going to be painful for everyone...and I was able to diffuse it. by finding a way for everyone to be win.

I like what Ghandi said. An eye for an eye and pretty soon everyone is blind!

Anyway, good discussion. I really just posted this on a whim since one of my buds on FB linked to it. I agree the article is a little "freshman", but it has generated some decent discussion!

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Old 11-06-2009, 12:54 PM   #33
Janet Rosen
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

I am reminded by Kevin's post of an exercise I did with the nurses' aides in a residential care facility I worked at in SF:
I sat one of them alongside me. We each put up our hands in a "hands on car steering wheel" position so we were like motorists alongside each other at a stoplight. I let my eyes rove around, including at her, but only as part of the scan, NOT fixing on her, while I let my face set into a furrowed brow and slightly downturned mouth.
I then asked the group to interpret what they saw.
EVERY SINGLE ONE, both the woman next to me and the observers, assumed my face was a negative reaction to the person "in the next car." Nobody for a moment had the notion pass through their mind that I might not have even noticed her, that I might have indigestion, be planning my dinner menu, be worried about my mom's health, be composing a song, have a headache, be chronically depressed....No, it was all framed in personal terms.
We had a lively follow up discussion about how that applies to communicating with the residents....

Janet Rosen
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Old 11-06-2009, 02:52 PM   #34
Michael Hackett
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

I used to teach my trainees and subordinate officers to treat every human being as well as he would allow you to, as well as treating people with courtesy, dignity and respect. That meant asking for compliance when appropriate and using appropriate force when necessary. This was usually translated into the "ATM Method of Field Contacts" - Ask, Tell, Make.

Something that worked particularly well for me at the scenes of the yelling disagreements was "The Quiet Man" model. The louder they got, the quieter I would speak to them, sometimes dropping my voice to almost a whisper. Often they would stop the loud voices to see what I was saying. It didn't always work of course, but it worked so frequently that I kept it close at hand in my toolbox.

It always struck me as senseless to ramp up an event unnecessarily. My uniforms cost $9.00 to clean, the shirts cost me $ 80.00 and the trousers were over $ 100.00. Why roll around when I didn't have to?

Yes the article that Kevin referred us to was sophomoric, but it had grains of good common sense to consider.

Michael
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Old 11-06-2009, 08:51 PM   #35
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

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Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
If you are going to provide such an interesting post, please don't apologize! :-)
Hello Janet,

Why ever not? I do it all the time here.

PAG

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Old 11-07-2009, 10:03 AM   #36
Keith Larman
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

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Hello Janet,

Why ever not? I do it all the time here.

PAG
Hmmm, how very, um, Japanese educator-like...

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Old 11-07-2009, 12:01 PM   #37
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

Mark,

Sorry I missed your post the other day, did not mean to ignore it.

Mark wrote:

Quote:
. Give them the options of either conversing as adults to resolve the problem (which includes listening) or if they want to keep screaming like children (don't use those words), then law enforcement will be called.
That is one way of dealing with it for sure. That is, you set the guidelines and parameters and dictate the terms of the "fight".

Again, I understand that we are simply dissecting this at great detail for the sake of study, so I just want to let everyone know to keep that in mind.

My comments/thoughts on this are this:

Well, it can also be one sided....that is I think you have to be careful with the mentality "you either act like an adult, or we are not talking."

You did a couple of things...you drew a line in the sand, and you called them a child. You in one cut of the sword called invalidated their emotions, called them a child, and dictated the terms that says...you are the one that is in charge, holds all the cards, and they have none unless they want to meet you on your field of battle.

That is not necessarily a bad strategy and is one that I agree with in some situations that require immediate establishment of power and authority.

It is, however, dependent upon a couple of things. One, that you do indeed possess this kind of power...and that they will never have it. Two, that the "relationship" is temporary, as I don't believe this type of strategy to be "sustainable" over a long period of time, without patching things up. With a situation dealing with a neighbor like this, assuming that you want to maintain a good relationship with them, I think it much more skillfull to take the "empathetic" approach the article used, than to follow the strategy you propose.

Now, that said, there are certainly people out there that are unreasonable and that they will walk all over you if you take this approach to. So Agreed, I think there is a time or place for everything and if this is happening and you are not too concerned with this neighbor, then your approach is a very good one, as it does not require you to "Nuke" them, nor for you to get emotionally charged either.

Mark wrote:

Quote:
? The author reinforced the neighbor's ideas that other people's property can be used without permission. I don't care how "understanding" the author believed himself to be, what he did was entirely and completely wrong. There are ways of being "understanding" that do not imprint or reinforce bad ideologies.
I believe that the author really wanted the neighbor to use their spot. I think permission was implied based on their relationship. So, I don't believe the author sees what the neighbor did as being unreasonable based on their relationship. I think he sees the situation more as a bummer that it ended up this way.

He mentions something that I find interesting..." made the best decision, based on the situation and information that he had at the time."

So, I believe this is very, very important to not miss. One, in validates that he does not think he did anything wrong, however, he still feels empathetic and wishes that he would have had more information, time etc. If so, the assumption I am making is that he may have decided to park further away, double parked etc.

I think this is also in line of thinking with a police officer pulling the trigger. I think most feel justified in their actions, but still wish they would have had more info, more time, etc...that their might have been room for another solution.

This is no small point in the practice of budo. No small point at all. I like to talk about OODA. In our practice what we are really trying to do is EXPAND our ability to make decisions and act on the in a most efficient manner, based on the observations and orientations that we have. The more "intel" we have, the better choices we can make AND the more room AND "time" we have to make them.

(time is in quotes, as we really don't get more time as it is a constant, but our processing speed relative to the events increases giving the perception of more time.)

Off tangent a little...sorry, but I think alot of this hinges on your perspective of what was reasonable entitlement/implication of use.

So, with that said, I certainly respect your perspective and course of Action Mark.

Mark Wrote:

Quote:
The author apologized for their actions, which reinforced the neighbor's ideas that she was right to use someone else's driveway without permission or notice. Apologizing also signifies that the author believes what he did was wrong and what the neighbor did was right. Would you want to fight a court battle over paying the towing fees where the fact that you apologized is evidence? You stated by apology that you believed that what you did was wrong. Good luck in court with that. Best lawyer wins, but you lose no matter what.
Well I think there are skillfull and yet still very geniune ways to appologize and still not yield your position and remain strong. Buddhist vignettes and stories are choke full of compassionate strength.

Stories such as "I am sorry great deer that I must kill you, but you body will go to help a greater cause". (funny coming from a vegetarian I know!).

I think the ultimate skill for a warrior is to be able to have compassion for his enemy, understand his position, and still not hesitate to pull the trigger the moment that it must be done.

My hope is that one day, mankind can transcend the need to do that, but until then, I think the middle way is a good way to go.

So, I am sorry this has caused you such pain, and I was a part of it, does not mean the same thing is "I was wrong in towing your car.". to me at least.

I think this is one of the key tenants we want to achieve in our practice of budo. The ability to be strong and yielding at the same time. Compassion.

Mark Wrote:

Quote:
Another thing that was reinforced was that screaming and throwing a fit works. She got her apology from the author. Through yelling and throwing a fit, the author "understood" her position and apologized for his actions. Nowhere in this whole incident did the neighbor ever learn the lesson that you don't use other people's property without permission. The author didn't learn the lesson that you don't reinforce bad ideologies, but try to teach people where they went wrong and how not to repeat that mistake.
Now I understand that this article is most likely a article of fiction....and is very textbook or "kata" in nature.

But, I disagree. I don't think the neigbor got away with anything really. One without a conscience might have....there are clueless idiots out there that simply need to be hit over the head as that is all they really are gonna process..so I am with you...let these guys have it. However, a true authentic friendship...I think not.

I think in this case the neighbor went away understanding the true nature of the situaiton. Her feelings were validated as being legtimate and valuable as a human being. She also began to empathize how the person who had their car towed must have felt coming home and finding a strange car in their spot. No one is happy about the situation, but I think they end the situation with the ability to move on and try again another day.

Mark wrote:

Quote:
When you do something wrong, you're supposed to learn from your mistake. And people should be there helping you to learn if you can't do that yourself. None of that happened in this scenario. No one learned anything.
I think they did learn alot. But learn is the wrong word. The communicated and empathized, so what they learned was that each of them is a human and shit just happens in life sometimes.

Conversely, with your strategy, I believe that what possibly could have been "learned" is that my good neigbhbor who says they are a giving and caring person is really not authentic....he really does not mean that I can depend on him in time of great need...that in the face of my distress and time of need will tell me to not act like a child, and hide behind norms and rules and that our relationship will always be based on him being in control and dictating the terms.

Of course, this is extreme...but I think it drives at the core of what is really being leaned at a karmic or unconscious level...which is where alot of learning/reflexes take place without us really ever understanding this is what is going on.

I do agree though...that their are alot of people out there Mark, that can't necessarily take a subtle hint and are not really concerned with friendship and humanity...and those people..well they are the ones that you need to fricking hit between the eyes to get them to understand what you mean."

I think before you do this though, that if at all possible to try to use a more skillful approach.

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Old 11-08-2009, 06:25 AM   #38
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

Mark is inside Kevin's foyer.

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Old 11-09-2009, 11:14 AM   #39
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

To me, the neighbor aspect of the situation changes how I'd value different outcomes. I've had friendly relations and strained relations with neighbors. I prefer friendly, whether or not "close;" and would want to react differently to an upset neighbor than to, say, a chance encounter with an aggressive driver on the road.

Here, given that the car had already been towed, it seemed to me a bit of "active listening" didn't cost the author anything, and might have been needed to get the neighbor to a place where she could hear somebody else's point of view. Heck, it might even have saved time and aggravation in the long run.

That said, in the luxury of hindsight at least, I was left with the feeling they'd left unresolved what to do about the son parking there in the future, without notice, as he had in the past.

I'd have been interested to know whether, having been heard, the neighbor was ready to listen.

YMMV.

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Old 11-16-2009, 01:28 PM   #40
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

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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. have to disagree, my friend. what is going wrong in this country (and almost every other) is the increasing acts of violence and anger in society; and it is caused by the modern lifestyle people have living under the 'ideals' of capitalism; it puts a lot of pressure on people. and they are getting angry not because of this example, but in spite of it.

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

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.yes

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

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". not really. it depends on what you mean by "have to be".

5. As long as her intentions were good, her neighbors should have bent over backwards to let her do what she wanted. As long as her intentions were good, standing straight would be fine. less pressure on the lower back that way.

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. no, but i would have waited for a 'different' time to present my views.

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. trouble with this approach is that you expect the person to make a logical choice, when clearly, the person is already emotional, and hence, illogical. The person was however, at that moment, not a threat to life or property. She was, at worst, merely an annoying irritation.

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. dude, seems like you run into quite a few 'angry' drivers on a regular basis. any particular reason why they would be 'drawn' to you? glad you dont get into any trouble though. drive safe...

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. i guess i would just differ with you on the timing issue.

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.
of course, agreed. that's why i'm surprised why you didnt seem to go with his 'solution'. seems like he just blended at a different 'angle' than yours.

Final note. Think about this. Because the married couple capitulated and apologized, some neighbors might have sued them to pay for the towing fees. some neighbours might have have sued them even if they had not apologised. and in the absence of a recording device, where's the proof? and it's 2 against 1. besides, any decent snake (lawyer) would be able to 'spin' the meaning of the apology.

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. m'friend....the only bone that exist is the 'imaginary' one that we make up. everyday, in life, some people experience someone else cutting them off on the road, and ...its 'hey, he took my bone!", or when they are walking to work on a narrow walkway and somebody is coming the opposite way; dont give way cause "he aint gonna take my bone!" or some 'big-deal' life changing event along those lines. and i dont know how 'a good little doggie' came into this story but there is a subtle difference between passive and submissive.

A perfectly horrible example of "aikido" outside the mat.

i think a horrible example would be if the situation had escalated to a point where the law had to be called in. then you may have criminal trespassing charges, and various other legal entanglements etc and if it got physical,you'd have physical abuse/criminal intimidation charges; and the 'participants' if they are lucky, will have only minor bruises & wounds.

an excellent example of 'aikido', outside the mat, would be where the perceived 'aggressor' and the 'aggresies', who could have ended up hating or/and hurting each other, instead went for dinner together. and the neighbour sounds like she's buying too, great stuff! in my humble opinion, this is an example of 'perfect' aikido.

p/s- and lest someone accuses me of "pseudo-psychologizing of a very amateurish kind", this is just my 2 cents.

p/s- mark, wish i could write more now but it's late and i have to go sleep. i hope to comment again soon. cheers, man!

Last edited by ksy : 11-16-2009 at 01:43 PM.
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Old 01-13-2010, 11:09 AM   #41
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

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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.
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Old 01-28-2010, 02:10 PM   #42
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

I agree with the Dale Carnegie method of letting the other person be right even if they're not; as long as it doesn't involve life and limb situations. If you know yourself and trust your good intentions then LET IT BE.

I know not everyone thinks this way and I am certainly not a poster child for harmonious behaviour.

At the end of the day what does it matter? Life's too short and raising your blood pressure in anger will only take months off of your life.

I greatly respect law-enforcement officers that are trained to diffuse situations as described in the OP and have the wherewithal to maintain discipline in the face of such encounters.

EGO.

It's so fricken insincere! This is why I sought out Aikido.

Self-discipline is the chief element of self-esteem; and self-esteem the chief element of courage. Thucydides
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Old 01-28-2010, 11:46 PM   #43
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

I started Aikido in 1999 so I probably can't comment from experience when this phenomenon originated. One of the things that has always mystified me is how often these "verbal negotiations" or other examples of "Aikido in Everyday Life" come up in magazines, newspaper articles come up. Maybe it all originated with Terry Dobson's book that Peter Goldsbury highlighted in his post. I remember reading the book and thinking - "what does this have to do with Aikido?"

It seems to me that in North America especially that Aikido is viewed as a "spiritual" martial art without any clear definition or understanding of what "spiritual" means. If an outsider read all the literature it would seem that Aikido can be applicable everywhere - from physical conflict, to disputes over parking spaces, and even to raising horses (?!- a recent newspaper article).

The risk this runs is that the term "Aikido principles" (usually irimi, tenkan, blending, etc) are diluted to the point where I don't believe they are useful anymore. The term "Aikido" then becomes something meaningless like "the art of peace" which can be an umbrella term for everything nice...

For instance - someone comes up and slaps me, I turn the other cheek and walk away. There is no further conflict. Is this "aikido"? Reading a lot of the literature this seems that the common denominator it boils down to is avoidance of conflict and being calm.

Now I do believe there are distinct fields where good research and practical work is being done such as "crisis management", "negotiation", "international relations and diplomacy" and "body movement" and "alternative medicine". But we should take care not muddy the waters and label them all as part of Aikido practice or embodying Aikido principles, because we risk devaluing aikido or applying it where it has no business being applied.

To me it is a little like Marxism, you can have a bunch of general principles that you can apply to everything (sociology, economics, psychology,etc. ) and in the end the term becomes so abused leaving you with Communism with Chinese Charateristics (which is to say not really communism at all).

I am writing as an outsider here, although I did study and work in the US for three years, but I believe that other countries don't necessarily see Aikido in the same way? For instance do people in Europe have the same vision of Aikido as "self-help / personal improvement in a dance format"?


Sigh...maybe this maybe a little off topic and needs a thread of its own...

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Old 01-29-2010, 07:00 AM   #44
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

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Bernard Kwan wrote: View Post
It seems to me that in North America especially that Aikido is viewed as a "spiritual" martial art without any clear definition or understanding of what "spiritual" means. If an outsider read all the literature it would seem that Aikido can be applicable everywhere - from physical conflict, to disputes over parking spaces, and even to raising horses (?!- a recent newspaper article).

The risk this runs is that the term "Aikido principles" (usually irimi, tenkan, blending, etc) are diluted to the point where I don't believe they are useful anymore. The term "Aikido" then becomes something meaningless like "the art of peace" which can be an umbrella term for everything nice...
What you said.

Quote:
Bernard Kwan wrote: View Post
For instance - someone comes up and slaps me, I turn the other cheek and walk away. There is no further conflict. Is this "aikido"? Reading a lot of the literature this seems that the common denominator it boils down to is avoidance of conflict and being calm.

Now I do believe there are distinct fields where good research and practical work is being done such as "crisis management", "negotiation", "international relations and diplomacy" and "body movement" and "alternative medicine". But we should take care not muddy the waters and label them all as part of Aikido practice or embodying Aikido principles, because we risk devaluing aikido or applying it where it has no business being applied.
Not only that, but these fields deserve recognition in their own right. It's arrogant to appropriate thousands of years of development in various fields and call it "aikido". If you want to, say that your aikido practice helps you to understand these things better...but don't go appropriating all that is good in the world under the banner of aikido.
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Old 01-29-2010, 10:57 AM   #45
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

I remember reading Aikido in Everyday Life and thinking it included some rather blatantly manipulative strategies for "getting my way" (including in emotionally intimate relationships) but no real guidance on "finding my way." Didn't seem "spiritual," didn't really seem connected to "aikido" in a way that resonated for me, and didn't really strike me as great relationship advice.

Oh well. Been wrong before.

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Old 01-31-2010, 11:28 AM   #46
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

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Bernard Kwan wrote: View Post
I started Aikido in 1999 so I probably can't comment from experience when this phenomenon originated. One of the things that has always mystified me is how often these "verbal negotiations" or other examples of "Aikido in Everyday Life" come up in magazines, newspaper articles come up. Maybe it all originated with Terry Dobson's book that Peter Goldsbury highlighted in his post. I remember reading the book and thinking - "what does this have to do with Aikido?"

It seems to me that in North America especially that Aikido is viewed as a "spiritual" martial art without any clear definition or understanding of what "spiritual" means. If an outsider read all the literature it would seem that Aikido can be applicable everywhere - from physical conflict, to disputes over parking spaces, and even to raising horses (?!- a recent newspaper article).

The risk this runs is that the term "Aikido principles" (usually irimi, tenkan, blending, etc) are diluted to the point where I don't believe they are useful anymore. The term "Aikido" then becomes something meaningless like "the art of peace" which can be an umbrella term for everything nice...

For instance - someone comes up and slaps me, I turn the other cheek and walk away. There is no further conflict. Is this "aikido"? Reading a lot of the literature this seems that the common denominator it boils down to is avoidance of conflict and being calm.

Now I do believe there are distinct fields where good research and practical work is being done such as "crisis management", "negotiation", "international relations and diplomacy" and "body movement" and "alternative medicine". But we should take care not muddy the waters and label them all as part of Aikido practice or embodying Aikido principles, because we risk devaluing aikido or applying it where it has no business being applied.

To me it is a little like Marxism, you can have a bunch of general principles that you can apply to everything (sociology, economics, psychology,etc. ) and in the end the term becomes so abused leaving you with Communism with Chinese Charateristics (which is to say not really communism at all).

I am writing as an outsider here, although I did study and work in the US for three years, but I believe that other countries don't necessarily see Aikido in the same way? For instance do people in Europe have the same vision of Aikido as "self-help / personal improvement in a dance format"?

Sigh...maybe this maybe a little off topic and needs a thread of its own...
I think there is a happy medium here. We can apply aikido's ethics, underlying motivations, and thought process to any kind of conflict, not just violent conflict. But I think we go too far if we try to find verbal equivalents of tenkan or irimi.

O Sensei believed that we could use the lessons we learn in aikido to create a more peaceful and harmonious world. Those lessons, as I see them, are to be relaxed and flexible and to move in harmony with the world around us rather than statically resist it. These are things I think we can apply to our daily lives.

More broadly, any martial art with do in its name fancies itself more than a method of combat. A do is a way, a path, not just an art or method. My students at school who learn taekwondo are learning respect for authority and others, perseverence, confidence, integrity, and leadership. If taekwondo were just a method of punching and kicking, it would be catastrophic to teach it to our students, many of whom have gang connections and/or violent personality disorders.

While I think the martial arts analogy can be (and often is) taken too far, I believe that the martial arts can and should teach us things that we can apply to the non-martial aspects of our lives.
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Old 01-31-2010, 08:45 PM   #47
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

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Matthew Story wrote: View Post

O Sensei believed that we could use the lessons we learn in aikido to create a more peaceful and harmonious world. Those lessons, as I see them, are to be relaxed and flexible and to move in harmony with the world around us rather than statically resist it. These are things I think we can apply to our daily lives.

More broadly, any martial art with do in its name fancies itself more than a method of combat. A do is a way, a path, not just an art or method. My students at school who learn taekwondo are learning respect for authority and others, perseverence, confidence, integrity, and leadership. If taekwondo were just a method of punching and kicking, it would be catastrophic to teach it to our students, many of whom have gang connections and/or violent personality disorders.

While I think the martial arts analogy can be (and often is) taken too far, I believe that the martial arts can and should teach us things that we can apply to the non-martial aspects of our lives.
Hi Matthew -

Thanks for making this point, and I do note you also raise the example of TKD and other martial arts.

However let's say I practice a form of meditation, and the practice leads me to me more calm, centered, less prone to aggression and more present in the moment. If an argument/ non physical conflict arose and I resolved it in a skillful and peaceful manner, people don't usually say "that's good Meditation, or that's a good application of of meditation principles!"

I would say that skips a step and gives too much credit to the meditation itself. IMO, meditation causes me to be a better human being and by being a better human being I am able to conduct myself better in the world. However the toolset that I am using to resolve the conflict may have nothing to do with meditation or aikido, but the kind of person that I have become as a result of these meditation practices helps me to use the toolset more effectively.

Another analogy may be yoga improves my flexibility which helps with my golf, which may lead me to a getting a hole in one. Is my hitting the hole in one good "yoga"? I don't think anyone would say so.

One can still credit yoga or aikido as part of an overall training regime but making the distinction is very important.

Would like to hear your thoughts.

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Old 02-16-2010, 08:33 AM   #48
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

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Hi Matthew -

Thanks for making this point, and I do note you also raise the example of TKD and other martial arts.

However let's say I practice a form of meditation, and the practice leads me to me more calm, centered, less prone to aggression and more present in the moment. If an argument/ non physical conflict arose and I resolved it in a skillful and peaceful manner, people don't usually say "that's good Meditation, or that's a good application of of meditation principles!"

I would say that skips a step and gives too much credit to the meditation itself. IMO, meditation causes me to be a better human being and by being a better human being I am able to conduct myself better in the world. However the toolset that I am using to resolve the conflict may have nothing to do with meditation or aikido, but the kind of person that I have become as a result of these meditation practices helps me to use the toolset more effectively.

Another analogy may be yoga improves my flexibility which helps with my golf, which may lead me to a getting a hole in one. Is my hitting the hole in one good "yoga"? I don't think anyone would say so.

One can still credit yoga or aikido as part of an overall training regime but making the distinction is very important.

Would like to hear your thoughts.
I think the difference between the yoga and meditation analogies and the martial arts analogy used in the article here is that martial arts and mediation are both methods of resolving conflict. With that in mind, I don't think it is unreasonable to draw more parallels between these two than with, say, yoga and golf.

But the short answer is no. The author here tells us that martial arts taught him to keep a clear head in conflict and to have a "go to" ready for the outset of any conflict. He never, however, says that his method for working through difficult conversations is actually an application of any martial art. What he is saying is that some of what he has learned about resolving physical conflict in martial arts can be applied in resolving other forms of conflict.

There is a line between claiming to apply the lessons of martial arts and claiming to apply the martial arts themselves, and I think we are dishonest with ourselves if we cross it. But that line is finer with aikido than with most martial arts, because aikido's founder clearly intended aikido training to teach us things we could use in non-martial aspects of life.
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Old 02-16-2010, 11:33 AM   #49
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Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

Good read Kevin. As pointed out, these strategic points are often discussed in a contrived scenario. There are dozens of help books that navigate the same principles through similar examples...but I believe that most of the points are good ones.

I advocate projecting the authority and responsibility necessary to resolve an issue - unless you are unable to resolve the issue. If you are unable to resolve an issue, you involve the appropriate individuals who are empowered to resolve the issue. In this article I would say that police are not the appropriate escalation unless you are incapable of resolving the issue without assistance. If you do not require the police, the escalation was not only unecessary but will also remove police from other situations in which their presence may be needed. We have an obligation to take personal responsibility for our actions, and we need the courage to stand up for those decisions. In the article, the married couple take personal responsibility for their actions and I like that part.

I also generally support the golden rule. In the article, While I may not have made the same decision to park my car in a vulnerable location, I would certainly appreciate some consideration if I found myself looking for a towed car. Understanding a decision has nothing to do acknowledging the validity of the point of view, only the appreciation for how the decision was derived. Sometimes we think that in order to understand one side of an argument, our mindset has to be aligned with the point of view that creates the argument.

These two points in mind, I will also say that there is some truth to the "roll over" theory when this sort of tactic is displayed in responding to conflict. First, as soon as you express the need to include greater authority figures [than yourself] you reduce your stature as a role player in resolving the conflict. Second, when you do not shoulder personal responsiblity you reduce your ethos in the initial decision leading to the conflict, which further reduces your stature. The sum of these two actions is that you are not important, nor are you capable of resolving the conflict. In my business this opens the door for abusive interaction as you have just set yourself up to be only part of the problem, not part of the solution - you become expendable.

Finally, in the tactical argument I use chess as a good example of threat assessment. When you play chess if you do not assess the inherint danger of each of your opponents pieces, you will leave yourself vulnerable to longer developments that will expose and capture your pieces. Similary, if you are in a situation and assessing the [immediate] potential dangers, you are assessing out of reaction and vulnerable to danger from beyond your scope of assessment. In the example, the mother reacted poorly in her assessment of the situation created by the decision made by the married couple. The mother excluded the potential situation she created by not informing her neighbors of her son's visit. I believe in verbal conflict, finding a key piece of information which precluded the opposition from making the correct assessment of a situation is often the catalyst that starts the resolution. "Oh...I don't know that...bah blah blah."
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