It seems to me that no matter how you walk, you are always going to be stumbling over other people’s concerns, other people’s desires, and other people’s understandings.
There is no getting around it: The World is full of other people and every one of those guys have their own world-views and their own agendas. They get in your way and you could spend a lot of time struggling with them…or not.
One lifelong project for me has been putting together a bunch of strategies for dealing with other people. These strategies were taken from my years of studying the thoughts in a mountain or two of business books and how-to manuals and scientific studies about the human mind as well as in the I Ching and more esoteric studies, and the musings from martial artist practitioners and from crazy wisdom masters.
My professional practice as a residential property manager has been a testing ground for these things and I’ve had many opportunities to try my hand at getting to pono, what Hawaiians call “balanced and righteous actions and behavior.”
I’ve worked hard at learning how to move through the travails of my (basically contentious) trade gracefully and learning how to be a proper go-between so that everyone involved can get where they want to go.
It’s been a fun exploration – often ARGH-making, and sometimes sublime.
ASKING, “HOW CAN I GET TO MINE?”
I’ve noticed that, very often, touted hacks for getting your own way tend to be war-like (where you bash other people out of your way, using the force of your persona to bull your way through) or manipulative (where you basically trick someone into doing what you want).
Either way of walking may get you the crown and let you be king (or queen) of the mountain, but then there’s the problem of being there all by yourself because nobody wants to hang with such a bully or trickster.
Some of my friends have gone that route. They don’t seem very happy with it.
So, it seemed to me that it might be a better thing to become a martial artist of the mind instead – to understand and practice forms that are made up of many smaller moves that evoke certain responses from the other person which you can use to get to where you want to go.
It’s not about using force and strength. It’s not about making tricky moves. It’s about using your own mind’s balance, leverage, and focus to affect another person’s way of moving.
How do you get to that?
THE SEVEN HACKS
Over the years I’ve tried and discarded many so-called sure-fire techniques and tactics and distilled the ones that seemed to work every time into seven all-purpose hacks. These strategies (with appropriate martial artist-type names) are as follows:
STILLNESS OF THE MOUNTAIN. In this one, you become silent and you quietly observe. You let the other person talk and you listen.
What do you see? Does the other person’s point of view have validity? Or is the other person wanting to do the waltz when you were thinking you were going to be doing the tango together?
Just taking the time to be still can bring a lot of things into view that perhaps your concentrated focus on your desired outcome has obscured.
You may be ignoring some big pothole because you have not looked down. A boulder may be on its way to squishing you because you’re standing there and you haven’t looked up.
Other people may be seeing the things you’re ignoring. Pay attention.
REFLECTION OF THE LAKE. You can reflect back the other person’s concerns or resistance to your idea using his or her own language. Tell them back what you think you are hearing and check that what you are hearing is what they are actually saying.
Ask them to clarify their point of view in a very non-aggressive way. Listen. Pay attention.
SUPPLENESS OF THE WILLOW. You can agree with another person’s demand in principle. Say, “I suppose we could do that. How would we handle this or that negative consequence, do you think?”
Perhaps the other person has not thought through the consequences of some move they are proposing. Perhaps they are short-sighted.
Or, maybe, they’ve done their homework and might be able to point out workarounds that you can’t see. Pay attention.
THE STONE WRAPPED IN SILK. You can calmly state solid fact (the stone) in as supportive a manner as possible: “Are you aware that this is true? What do we do about that?” Listen. Pay attention.
MOVING LIKE THE RIVER. You can acknowledge a proposal you don’t want to accept and then invite the other person to think of another way to solve a problem you can see with it.
“Hmmm. That’s an interesting idea, but I do not think it is the way I want to go. Can you think of another way that we might be able to do this, that would meet your needs at least partway and help me meet mine?”
DISPERSING THE CLOUDS. When you see that the other person is caught up in beliefs, assumptions and fears and has boxed himself (or herself) into a corner, you can acknowledge all of the perhaps-legitimate concerns and then ask what he or she might do if the perceived obstacles did NOT exist.
Use their concerns as a springboard for further movement.
ACCEPTING THE FIRE. Name the major sticking point for the other person, the one main thing that he or she cannot accept about your proposal.
If that thing is an absolutely important, non-negotiable issue with them and you are not able to deal with it in a way that would be equitable for your own self, then you will have to accept that you and this other person cannot dance together.
Say, “thank you.” Walk away.
I have found that it’s important to remember that a lot of struggle results from your emotional investment in any one dance. The thing is this, there are many ways of dancing and many, many other dances.
If you can step back from the emotions involved in working towards a desired outcome and remember that it’s all just dancing, then it can make the whole thing a lot smoother.
Here’s a poem:
STUCK IN THE BOG
When you focus on the outside,
Bringing all your strength to bear
On some damnable situation or other,
You are stuck in a quagmire.
The more you struggle,
The more effort you expend,
The deeper you sink.
If you can be still,
Let your feet rise up,
And lie down on top of the sticky,
Maybe you can float to where
You can pull yourself out.
Float and reserve your strength
For when you can do something
To help yourself.
by Netta Kanoho
Header Picture credit: “Be As Mount Fuji…” by Timothy Takemoto via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
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