Category Archives: Life Skills

Giving Unhurtful Feedback

I am notorious for giving cruel, uncaring, cutting feedback.  I thought that if I was clear, firm, and to the point, I would achieve perfect communication.  This is true only for robots, but not for humans with emotions.

Here’s what I thought happens when two people talk:

(idea in head) -> words spoken -> sound in air -> words heard by other person -> (idea in head)

Here’s what actually happens

(idea in head) -> words spoken with tone and expressed with body language -> sound in air and visual imagery -> other person’s emotions at the time + other person’s unconscious biases and habits + other person’s beliefs and world view + other person’s view on the relationship between you and them + other person’s feelings of their relationships with themselves and the rest of the world at that moment + what you said + what they interpret what you said meant + what they see + what they interpret what they see meant -> (idea in head)

As a result, when I say something like “Don’t do that. Do this instead.”  What I think is happening is I’m clearly communicating what needs to be addressed, and how it needs to be addressed.  What is happening is I’m 1. taking authority and command and superiority to tell the other person what to do 2. making them feel small 3. making them feel threatened 4. making them feel confused and afraid from the threat 5. making them question why 6. making them insecure about whether to trust the information or not 7. wonder about my intentions 8. wonder about the impact on the relationship and on them self if they obey and if they don’t obey 9. creating a hostile environment into which it is difficult to give feedback, ask for clarification, be equal 10. etc.

Instead, lead with intent that is selflessly benevolent to the other person: I want you to do well, so I care if something bad happens to you. I an concerned that if you do that, a unfortunate etc. thing will happen to you, which I don’t want.  So my solution to the situation is to do this because given my experience etc. will happen. What do you think?

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Conquering Fear  To conquer fear, focus on courage and the payoff rather than the fear.  This is an exercise in controlling your mind and controlling your thoughts and controlling your emotions.  Choose to be courageous and strive for success. However, it’s important to recognize the practical use of fear: it’s an emotion designed to protect you from danger.  Don’t mistake fear for prudence. Be prudent.

Use fears to keep you out of trouble,  but don’t let fears deter you from goals when the fears are invalid. Use your intelligent mind to determine whether the fear you are experiencing is valid in preventing you from getting hurt, or whether it’s mis-applied by your reptilian brain and can be logically and safely ignored.

An example is a fear of people.  If you were abused or bullied, it’s natural to develop a fear of people as a result of such experiences.  However, it’s important to recognize that what you want is a fear of the specific individuals who harmed you, and avoiding those specific individuals is key to future success.  That’s the practical side of fear.  The impractical side of fear is avoiding all people, including those who aren’t going to hurt you.  In those instances, it’s important to use your intelligent mind to recognize that the situation is different, and use courage and optimism to overcome that fear of people and develop meaningful connections with good people.

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Negotiation Dimensions



This diagram is from the article and aptly summarizes a valuable set of dimensions through which to think about negotiation.

I won’t dive into the details, the article does it better and I’d recommend you read the article. I’ll just sell the article by talking briefly about the value of these skills.

The value of negotiation is that it helps you get what you want in life, and it is involved in every stage of getting what you want.  Let’s say you’re hungry and you see a restaurant selling a hot plate of spaghetti for $11.99.  That is a negotiation.  The restaurant has proposed an exchange of $11.99 for food, and you can accept, or reject.  This is an example of an ultimatum strategy of negotiation.  The explicit terms of the negotiation is obvious, the implicit terms of the negotiation are not obvious.  Every restaurant has a sign displayed that says “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.”  This means that your option to execute the purchase order for spaghetti is not guaranteed.  You still have to negotiate for the product by behavior in a socially acceptable manner, not being insulting, not being rude, disrespectful, etc. to the staff who will be serving you.  Purchase is the basic form of negotiation.

Relationship is the complex form of negotiation, and this is further subdivided into personal and business relationships.  If you want to go to the park with a friend, that is a negotiation: the cost to each person to travel to the park, and the amount of happiness derived from the trip has to be of high enough interest to all parties for the activity to occur.  Thus, negotiation is employed for you to get what you want, which is to go to the park with a friend.  In a business, a manager wants an employee to do work, so they negotiate over the terms of the work and the terms of the pay.  The manager is trying to get what he/she wants: work from the employee, and the employee is trying to get what he/she wants: pay.

Negotiation is different from persuasion.  Persuasion is about generating interest in the transaction, about creating the opportunity.  If the restaurant didn’t serve spaghetti, but had all the ingredients for it and the chef knew how to make it, persuasion would be talking to the owner and asking them to make spaghetti for you.  Negotiation takes over after the option exists, after the opportunity has been created, and is used to determine the terms of the transaction: price of the spaghetti.

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