short excerpts...other writings...upon occasion or as prompted...
The tiger in the water? A representation of my life -- spirit and environment!


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Act on the Basis of Knowledge

All too frequently, we react, rather than act, and reacting rarely gets us what we want, let alone what we need. Doing the research, finding out what the possibilities are, listening rather than talking, learning what the other person knows--these actions provide us with the basis of acting in ways that are more likely to lead us to positive ends.

If one truly wants an upper hand, one might take a page out of the book of an American diplomat in the 1980s (a student of mine, in fact). At the negotiation table in Stockholm, formal interpretation was provided to the US and USSR negotiators by expert conference interpreters although most of the American delegation did speak Russian, including one very American-looking, young, female diplomat who Russian skills were near native, departing from the common perception of Americans as tongue-tied in foreign languages.

During one break, Samantha (not her real name for obvious reasons) remained in the room, sorting her notes. Therefore, she overheard the Soviet delegation, who thought she knew no Russian, discuss the positions to be taken, their negotiation strategies, and what they would settle for. Following the break, she was able to get the Russians to play the cards the Americans wanted because she knew what cards they held!

Fisher and Ury (Getting to Yes!) suggest that the very best way to negotiate the deal that we want is to set up a win-win situation. We get what we want, and our antagonists get what they want. However, one must first figure out what they want.

Knowing what the other person wants sometimes means understanding the other person's culture. Some cultures do not want to get right down to business but to build a relationship before conducting business. This is characteristic for Japanese, Russian, and some other cultures. In American culture, swift action is valued over relationship, and American businessmen and politicians have often failed to conclude deals simply because they failed to develop a relationship with their foreign counterparts and partners.

Other values, too, can be important. If, for example, the Western world had understood the value of "face" and "saving face" to the Soviet government, the Soviet war in Afghanistan might well have been prevented or at least shortened. When the Soviet leaders claimed that they were there just for a temporary intervention, had the Western world asked for an estimated timeline for withdrawal, the Soviet leaders might well have felt the need to give one -- and then to honor it -- in order not to lose face.

Knowing what the other person wants sometimes means understanding the other person's personality. The famous psychologist, Jung, who wrote about the concept of personality archetypes, talks in one instance about two opposing types: thinkers and feelers. As a thinker and young administrator, I once had a middle manager who worked for me call me at home to complain about the problems in her department. They were legitimate problems, and as a thinker, I am quick to try to solve problems. I gave her some off-the-top-of-my-head advice. She became angry and hung up. I did not understand why she did that, but her reaction caused me to spend some time thinking about her problems. Thus, when she called back an hour later, I had better solutions to suggest. This time, she became even angrier and hung up abruptly. When she called again later, she began by telling me what a bad boss I was. I was by then quite confused.

"What is it that you expected from me?" I asked.

"Sympathy," she answered.

As a thinker, I wanted to fix things. As a feeler, she wanted to know that people, and especially her boss, appreciated her efforts and problems and cared about her.

It was a good lesson: don't assume that we know the other person's wants and needs. Rather, know who the other person is and act accordingly.


Excerpted and adapted from a collection of vignettes I published, copyright 2003.

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About Me

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I am the mother of 4 birth children (plus 3 others who lived with us) and grandmother of 2, all of them exceptional children. Married for 42 years, I grew up in Maine, live in California, and work in many places in education, linguistics, and program management. In my spare time, I rescue and tame feral cats and have the scars to prove it. A long-time ignorantly blissful atheist converted by a theophanic experience to Catholicism, I am now a joyful catechist. Oh, I also authored a dozen books, two under my pen name of Mahlou (Blest Atheist and A Believer-in-Waiting's First Encounters with God).

My Other Blogs

100th Lamb. This is my main blog, the one I keep most updated.

The Clan of Mahlou
. This is background information about various members of the extended Mahlou family. It is very much a work still in progress. Soon I will begin posting excerpts from a new book I am writing, Raising God's Rainbow Makers.

Modern Mysticism. This blog discusses the mystical in our pragmatic, practical, realistic, and rational 21st century world and is to those who spend some or much of their time in an irrational/mystical relationship with God. If such things do not strain your credulity, you are welcome to follow the blog and participate in it.

Recommended Reading List

Because I am blog inept, I don't quite know how to get a reading list to stay at the end of the page and not disappear from sight. Therefore, I entered it as my first post. I suppose that is not all that bad because readers started commenting about the books, even suggesting additional readings. So, you can participate with others in my reading list by clicking here.
I do post additional books as I read them and find them to be meaningful to me, and therefore, hopefully, meaningful to you. One advantage of all the plane traveling I do is that I acquire reading time that I might not otherwise take.