Archive for February, 2013

Let’s elect a Sequester Jester

February 27, 2013

Budget problems fester

We don’t mean to pester

But is that the best you can come up with? a  sequester !

We’d be better off being governed by a  jester.


The Wild West Of Decision Making in Negotiation

February 13, 2013

The Camp system adheres to the principle that all decisions are 100% emotional until a decision has been reached. I don’t know about you, but I found that to be pretty disturbing when I first heard it. I tended to blame my emotions for my bad decisions, and credit my intellect for good ones. Emotions can be wild and unpredictable, and in most negotiations, there is no sheriff to keep you safe.

Let’s examine how emotions play out on our internal mental landscape. Let’s say I am making a decision to ask a friend for a favor. Sticking with the wild west metaphor, let’s say I want to borrow a horse. It starts with an idea in my mind that I could ask a friend for this favor. I see myself asking, and then I see problems with asking. I decide not to ask. Decision made. I will not ask. The pressure is off, and my intellect begins to poke around and ask questions. “I could have solved that problem this way”. Now the decision to ask or not looks differently, and my emotions respond to it differently. I say yes, I will ask this friend for that favor. Decision made. Intellect kicks in again and notices a new problem with asking. This changes the picture, and my emotions respond in kind. It is back to ‘no’, I will not ask. Pressure is off, and the intellect looks at the problem. It figures out a solution. New vision, new emotions, it is back to ‘yes’, I will ask.

At Camp, when we negotiate, whether or not it involves horses and cowboys or cowgirls, we are aware of this principle operating in ourselves and our adversaries, and we work off this principle. We work to make the adversary feel comfortable telling us both yes and no. We know their intellect will be kicking in to justify their decision. Their heart rates will go down. As negotiators, we make nurturing statements to help maintain that atmosphere of calm, and ask interrogative-led questions to stimulate their now receptive intellect. In this way we build vision.

Our brain needs to make decisions in order to work properly. Our adversary’s brains need to make decisions in order to work properly. The decisions by themselves are not really trustworthy, but the entire body of work includes a sequence that builds reliably on itself: vision -emotion – decision – intellect – vision – emotion – decision –intellect, VEDI, VEDI, and so on until you reach a conclusion. With persistence and skill, this VEDI sequence builds and develops the capacity to complete a circle that allows us to get a working handle on our problems.A cowboy’s rope is useless alone, but put in motion as a lasso, and you can take down a wild bull.

Similarly, a professional negotiator’s intellect is useless alone, but put it in motion with vision, emotion, and decisions, and you can strike an agreement with the most challenging of adversaries.  

Please share your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you.

William Chase

The revenge of the mirror

February 9, 2013

Ever look in a mirror and feel insulted by what you see. I generally don’t, probably because I don’t expect much. I am a 45 year old man and being attractive is not really a priority. I’ve seen photos of myself though, or heard recordings of myself, that were pretty insulting to my ego. I couldn’t really fight back and blame the mirror or photo to recording. It is what it is. Or is it?

Reflections of ourselves carry much more weight than observations or comments  from someone else. You can blame them and their faulty personality or perceptions if you don’t like what they say. But who do you blame when you are looking int he mirror? It is your expectation that makes it insulting or embarrassing, your perception or view of yourself.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We assign beauty to various elements of the world, as well as ugliness. What is the point of it all? Lately there has been this movement where women are fighting back against the super thin super model. They want to reclaim the definition of beauty. It is hard on my daughter who is thin. When she complains about being thin, no one takes her seriously. She is told she is lucky.

None of us are lucky. We are in the world and subject to its definitions and limiting ideas.

But what about the mirror? It just keeps reflecting us back to ourselves. What can we learn from it? I’d like to incorporate ‘mirrorness’ into myself to provide an opportunity to myself and others to look longer, to look at what is looking, and to learn how to see how to see.





Step aside cutters, there’s a new game in town

February 8, 2013

Working in mental health, I have worked with my share of ‘cutters’, folks who cut themselves with sharp objects until they bleed. It is part of a serious psychiatric condition.

Well, my daughters ( 5 and 6 years old)  do the opposite – they are band-aid er’s. At the slightest sign of discomfort, they ask for a band-aid. Of course, they start mutilating their band-aids until they need a new one in 5 minutes.

This winter they have been getting dry skin, so they ask for all kinds of lotion and ointment to avoid the slightest anomaly on their skin. It is a competition almost – who is the driest? And they also love to use saline spray for their nose.

I hope their fussiness over the intergity of their skin carries over into an aversion to getting tatoos when they get older.

A broken man

February 7, 2013

I came across the book Better to be Broken.  It looks like a great read. It is very inexpensive, only $1.99 on Kindle. The writer,  Rick Huntress,  broke his spine in an accident and is nowconfined to a wheelchair. I read one of his blog posts on his website and was impressed with his insights.

Rick is a Christian, and so am I.  His words got me thinking about the emphasis of my religion on sin and forgiveness. I don’t always feel like a sinner, any more than I feel like a saint,  and it can seem phony and even self-absorbed to keep asking for forgiveness. I know I sin in lots of little ways but how good an approach is it to being a better person to constantly confess sins to acquire forgiveness. It seems to be too focused on me getting something for myself for my effort. Selfish.

Instead of sinner, I like the word broken, and seeing myself as broken. Maybe it just makes it more concrete for me than the word sinner, yet it means the same thing. Seeing myself as broken I have certainty in the knowledge that I am just not completely together and on target ever, and I should not expect to be, nor should I expect others to be. It takes pressure off, and reminds me to slow down and lean into God.  And being broken, I don’t know exactly how to do that, but that’s ok. That’s the point, actually.

Broken, I remind myself in prayer and confession,  but keeping it moving, focusing on what’s important, getting done what ought to be done.

Kids driving you nuts?

February 6, 2013

Certain things become so obvious when you start seeing family interaction through the lens of negotiation. Children and even babies make noises and gestures and expressions that are designed by nature to get adult attention. Not only that, they are designed to make us emotional enough to take action on their behalf.  Nothing wrong with any of that, but it can really cause parents to feel out of control sometimes emotionally as their kids learn what works when they want something from a parent.

Sometimes, it might seem like kids work against their own interests because they get their parents angry and lose privileges. But what do kids gain from those situations? With each interaction, they learn how far they can push their parent’s emotional budget before there are negative consequences.  When a parent’s emotional budget is high, they are more likely to concede to a child in order to end the negotiation.  They might quickly regret the concession, and then resentment can set in, and they are more likely to pick on their kids for other stuff in order to regain a sense of control. In short, our kids drive us nuts.

It is important to be an effective negotiator and decision maker with your children. As they get emotional, and do things that tend to make you emotional, catch yourself.  Protect your emotional budget like it is your last drink of water in the desert. Remember that you want something. You want a calm request from them.  Ask for a calm request. If they continue to be demanding or sullen, do nothing. Send them away if they are still driving your emotions. And don’t feel bad. You didn’t say ‘ no’ to their request, yet. They said  ‘no’ to your request to be calm.


Parent: “I asked you to be calm and ask in a relaxed way.”

Child: “But I want to …….and have …….and ……..” (NEEDY VOICE)

Parent: “What do I want first?” 

It is important not to rush this. You will know when they are really no longer feeling a NEED for something from you, and are able to ask calmly and easily. At first, it may take them a long time. Don’t save them. They will benefit most from figuring it out on their own. They might get loud though, so don’t hesitate to protect your sanity and have them be alone behind a closed door.  

Stay respectful. Your job is not to be liked by your kids, but to respect them, and teach them how to respect you.

Now let’s say that you know that you are going to have to say ‘no’ to their request. It may seem unfair that they have to go through all the work of calming down in order to hear ‘no ‘ from you. Keep in mind that you are not rewarding them for being calm or any good behavior. You are making good behavior a prerequisite for even being granted an audience.  If they meet the requirement,  you will be deciding about the request based on what you believe is best.  You have to maintain your high standards, and not get the child thinking that they get what they want whenever they calm down.  All you would be doing is teaching them to be more crafty manipulators.

In reality, they will handle ‘no’ much better after they become calm. They will be better able to cognitively process your explanation, if you decide to offer one. They will be better able to come up with alternatives to their request, and maybe accept an idea that you offer.   It all rests on your resolve to not say ‘yes’ or ‘no’  until they are calm.  In fact, they will often not remember what they wanted from you. They will get distracted by something else during the time that they are calming down. They will become more independent, and more realistic about making requests.

It really does work. I have seen it work with my kids, but I had to learn the hard way. I squandered ‘millions’ from my emotional budget on my kids over the years.

Snowstorms help my psyche

February 6, 2013

Apparently there is a winter storm coming, and we might get a foot or more. I get excited by snowstorms. It may be because it forceably simplifies life. You have to stay h0me until it is time to dig out to leave the house. If it happened too often it would be a problem economically because clients would cancel appointments. But being home with family and having the younger ones get excited about going outside, enough so that we go out in the beginning of the storm, that is fun. Fun in snow must have been passed down the generations, because my parents and grandparents enjoyed the snow. They weren’t even big skiers or anything like that.

Snow slows everything down and that is just a relief in my go-go-go life. I can focus on things that I normally don’t make time for.

The paralysis of analysis in relationships

February 5, 2013

Things progress in relationships when people go beyond talking and start negotiating.  I want my readers to actually negotiate, and not just discuss it. It may sound funny to you coming from me, a blogger, since many of you only know me as someone who writes about negotiation. I am not trying to discourage you from reading my blog posts, but if you have to choose between reading about negotiation and actually conducting a negotiation, please go with the latter.

Just in case you are wondering, I don’t just write about negotiation. On average, I negotiate with 8 clients per day as a psychotherapist. I work to build client vision of their pain, budget, and decision process as a prelude to asking for what I want. Typically, I want them to decide to take some action or not that will move them toward their long term aim and fulfill their ongoing tasks and responsibilities to themselves and others they identify.

It may seem obvious to you that therapists should ask for decisions from their clients, but if you are at all familiar with psychotherapy you may have observed that it can easily get bogged down with the paralysis of analysis. If I forget that therapy is a negotiation, and that I want something from that negotiation, clients will often get too comfortable with venting or intellectualizing their situation.

Helping therapy clients or negotiation adversaries in your particular context to become better decision makers requires that you provide opportunities for them to make decisions. They will come to understand that even if they make a wrong decision, as long as they are dealing with a Camp trained negotiator, they can always make another better decision. If you try to save them from having to make decisions, you will not only be hurting your negotiation, you will be hurting them. You will be communicating indirectly that they are not capable, and whatever agreement you may strike with them will be made by someone whose confidence in their own decision making has been reduced by their interaction with you. Since executing an agreement will require them to make decisions, you are increasing the chance that they will fail to be effectively decisive.

If you want to stop just reading about negotiation, and thinking about it, and discussing it, and start doing it, here is a start-up tip to avoid getting overwhelmed: take the time to decide what you want, and then make sure you ask for it. Only then will the rubber start to meet the road in your career.  

Please share your thoughts.

William Chase

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