Comments and observations on social and political trends and events.

Monday, December 31, 2007

How to say NO?

How do we say No? Why is it so hard to say for many of us? Is there a way of saying no that respects our interests while respecting those of others? Many of us feel uncomfortable telling people no so we take several ways of doing it. Probably the most common way is to avoid saying no by giving in, thus making us feel bad about doing so and begrudging the person who put us into that spot. As one who tests as an Amiable in Social Styles I know it’s hard for me.

On the other hand we all know people who have no trouble saying no and seem to relish in it with the sensitivity of brass knuckles. (Fortunately, this group seems to be a minority.)

Are these the only ways of handling saying no? No! (There, I said it!) William Ury, who has written a number of books on getting to yes [Getting Past No and Getting to Yes] and directs the Global Negotiation Project at Harvard University, tackles the flip side in The Power Of A Positive No.

His book lays out a three-step process consisting of 9 sub-steps. In essence his three steps are yes-no-yes. By that I mean:

  1. Prepare by expressing your interests,
  2. Deliver your no
  3. Follow through by offering a yes that stays true to your interests while acknowledging theirs.

Throughout the book Ury also offers tips on how to word your no. “I won’t be serving on the committee. Thank you for thinking of me.” “I’m saying No now. Thank you.” As for offering an alternative yes, Ury suggests making a proposal that gives the other person a chance to say no to you. The idea behind this is “As Churchill realized, showing respect comes not from weakness and insecurity, but rather from strength and confidence. Respect for the other flows directly from respect for self. You give respect to others not so much because of who they are but because of who you are. Respect is an expression of your self and your values."

This last step – offering a counter-proposal - might seem to be controversial but to me it ultimately makes sense especially for on-going relationships. This proposal might be as simple as saying, “Thanks for the offer to work on this project but my plate is full. Maybe next time?”

There is much more to The Power Of A Positive No than I can cover here. Truth be told, I don’t have the 9 complete steps memorized. Maybe if I took a course on the subject all 9 steps would stick. But I can attest to the effectiveness of packaging my no’s in the yes (to my interests)/no (declining to agree)/yes? (offering an alternative) has worked for me. Plus, Ury’s approach is based on maintaining your objectivity, which appeals to me. By doing so you can clearly express your interests while respecting the other party. Being a proponent of passionate objectivity, Ury’s approach to saying no gets a big yes.

Friday, December 21, 2007

U.S. Senate Report: Over 400 Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007

To stifle disagreement with his dire global warming message Al Gore has relied on the mantra that the debate is over. According to Gore there is an overwhelming consensus among reputable scientists that human activities cause global warming. This document with the title shown above, posted on the U. S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works web site, says otherwise.

The Dangers of Undermining Patient Choice: Lessons from Europe and Canada

The Galen Institute has posted an article with the above title that analyzes the health care systems of various European countries. It offers the strengths and weaknesses of each from a free market perspective. Here is a key quote from this document.

But consider: Clothing, housing and food also fill basic needs. We do not want anyone to be without clothes, shelter or food. Yet those sectors are organized differently from health care. We do not have the government outfitter that issues the one-size-fits-all coat. We do not have the central quartermaster who provides standardized housing. Nor do we eat the same menu in the people’s canteen. For all these very basic needs, we let the market do the trick—and, as a society, we help the poor who cannot pay market prices so they can at least enjoy a minimum level.”

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Health Care Analysis

Here is an article on health care from The Objective Standard. Given that health care is likely to be a central issue of the upcoming Presidential campaign this essay is well worth reading.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Competition and sportsmanship

Recently I watched the movie Blue Crush (Widescreen Collector's Edition) with my twin teenage daughters. Blue Crush tells the story of a young lady surfer who wants to compete in an upcoming national event. However, she has to fight her own fears because of a previous surfing accident. Naturally, the plot follows the formula of almost all sports movies. Blue Crush is not a great movie but it’s not bad either. The conclusion of the movie takes a slight detour from the usual. The heroine, Ann Marie, makes it through the first round when her competitor wipes out on a massive wave. (The film takes place in Hawaii where the famous Banzai Pipeline is the scene of major competitions. I visited the Pipeline a long time ago and was impressed by the ferocity of the waves. The movie also uses professional women surfers for the final competition scene including Keala Kennelly.)

In her first heat Ann Marie takes a spill right after her competitor falls and has to leave the competition with a back injury. Ann Marie’s ankle leash gets caught on the reef so that she in unable to reach the surface until she can release the leash. Ann Marie gets to move to the second heat because her opponent can’t proceed but she doesn’t want to go out on the water again. Her romantic interest, an NFL quarterback, stops by the medical tent to check on her. He starts to tell a story how he was blindsided and drilled. She says, “So you got back into the game and won it, right?” He says that his coach talks him into going back in, does not win the game, gets pounded some more but he vividly remembers a perfect touchdown pass. Ann Marie decides to go back in, against Keala Kennelly.

In Ann Marie’s first attempt she wipes out then gets pounded by a series of waves. When she returns for her final attempt Kennelly tells Ann Marie to follow her to a place where the waves break better, tells her which wave to catch then cheers on Ann Marie as she takes the ride of her life and gets a perfect score from the judges. Her score is not enough to overtake Kennelly but Ann Marie doesn’t care because she overcame her fears and rode the wave perfectly. Kennelly gives her a high five afterwards. One of the cameramen watching Ann Marie celebrating her performance with her family and friends asks a colleague, "Doesn’t she realize she lost?”

So why does this sequence stand out for me? I think it points to several key points about competition.

  1. Competing against a strong rival can bring out your best. Speaking from experience, I know that playing tennis against an opponent who is equal or better than me gets more out of me than if I was just working off a backboard or against a weaker player.
  2. Which leads to the fact that competition can be a form of collaboration if both participants share this spirit. They recognize that hard competition can bring out the best in each other. This is why Kennelly cheers on Ann Marie. In essence she is saying, “If you’re going to beat me, do it with your best stuff.” This is where Blue Crush avoids presenting the adversary as evil or nasty.
  3. Winning isn’t everything, but trying to win is. (According to books I’ve read recently Vince Lombardi actually said this, not “Winning is the only thing.”) There is no shame in losing as long as you try your best.
  4. If you have a strong self-esteem then losing to a worthy opponent does not threaten how you feel about yourself. Losing might not be fun and you might feel miserable for a while, especially if you did not perform up to your standards, but it should not lead to resorting to cheating to get the win.