Monday, March 05, 2007


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Dear Friends:

Life, as we live it, may be viewed as an experiment, and the world around us as a laboratory. In one of the most impressive meetings of my unusual career, a dear friend of mine (a former Delta Forces chap), and a very refined, educated and courtly person, was making a conference room presentation to a group of four or five businessmen, each of whom probably regarded himself as the intellectual and tactical superior of all of the others present (the author of this post being specifically excluded).

My friend finished making his proposal, in his very articulate, thoughtful, low-keyed way. When he had finished, one of the businessmen made the serious mistake of misjudging context and territory. He was not aware of my friend's background, and was assuming an opportunity to press his supposed advantage in negotiating a deal with terms that were, at best, belittling of my friend...and this poorly misguided fellow put forth his counteroffer in a very insulting way.

My friend listened quietly, until the "negotiator" had finished his salvo. What followed was systematic, and effective:
  • My friend nodded his head in polite acknowledgement;
  • My friend put his face forward, staring directly into the eyes of the negotiator;
  • Ten to fifteen seconds (a long time) passed, in silence;
  • My friend placed the flat of his left palm on the conference room table, and simultaneously pointed the first finger of his right hand (with his thumb pointed up, as if he were preparing to aim and fire a loaded pistol) at the torso of the negotiator, and said, sotto voce, " Do not ever mistake my kindness for weakness. " The emphasis was on the word "ever";
  • Every person in the room was stunned for a brief moment;
  • The negotiator apologized for his presumptuousness;
  • My friend merely nodded his head in assent.
  • The meeting continued smoothly, with each party on his very best behavior.

Try an experiment. Make your point (with full eye contact, and pointed finger), and be silent. Maintain eye contact (sort of like those staring contests we had when we were children), and wait for your target to respond. You are likely to see a display of humility which you will find gratifying. People are terrified of quiet intensity, and horrified by eye-riveted silence.

Have fun. Make your observations. Don't abuse the power you gain by this approach.


Douglas Castle


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