James Crisp

Coding, calisthenics, book reviews, mind hacks and the occasional personal bit.

Month: October 2006

Mocha, office style

I’d like to share with you an easy recipe for Mocha, made using only the commodities found in your average office kitchen. I learnt this from a colleague the other day, and it makes a nice change from one’s usual tea or coffee in the morning.

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp milo
  • 1/2 tsp instant coffee
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • milk
  • hot water

Mix all ingredients and stir 🙂

Interestingly, tea and milo is not a bad combination…

Successful Negotiating

Recently, I read “Successful Negotiating” by Julia Tipler. It’s a pretty quick read (just under 100 pages) but has some interesting info. Here’s some titbits from the book:

Relationships
Try to build long term relationships based on win-win deals rather than scoring points / grinding down opposition.

Language
Use precise language with dates rather than “ASAP” or “when you have time”. Use simple language, and do not assume both sides hold the same assumptions and clarify often with questions.

Preparation
Prepare well by deciding your objectives (needs & wants), non-negotiables, what you can compromise on and limits. Research your opposite number – what do they need and do they have power to sign off?

Agenda
Create agenda and send to other party in advance of the meeting, emphasising that it is a draft and they can add items to it (aim to create a climate of agreement even before discussion begins). Place items that you think will be easy to reach agreement at the top to get momentum.

Place
If you are selling, you should go to the customer as you are making the most effort and people feel more comfortable/polite on their “home ground”. Second meeting could be on “your territory”. If there’s a history of conflict, “neutral ground” may be best.

Time
Make sure you’ve had time to prepare. On the phone, check that now is a convenient time for the other person.

Exploration

  • If person says they need or want something, ask why and encourage them to explain.
  • “If I can’t meet that condition, is there something else that would make this deal work for you?”
  • Identify mutual interest.
  • Chunk down to find out the details of what people want and also chunk up to find out the big picture of why/when. With this understanding, you can then negotiate solutions which meet the needs of both partieis.
  • Show you understand the reasons that lie behind wants/needs as this may reduce resistance to alternative suggestions.
  • Once understanding is reached, move to middle ground of bidding and proposing. Both sides will need to compromise to some extent. At this point, you are asking the other party to consider what a good deal is, rather than firm agreement.
  • Ask “what if” questions (eg, “what if I could offer you slower delivery but lower costs”?) and ask “why not” if they do not agree. Ask direct questions if this fails (eg, “what is the minimum delivery size you would agree to?”).
  • Aim to uncover variables in the negotiations and come up with possibilities based on these.
  • Don’t concede, exchange – doesn’t need to be of equal value however.

Reaching Agreement

  • Summarise and restate after each point is agreed on. Eg, “We’ve agreed on W, X and Y. That only leaves Z to be decided”.
  • Ask series of questions which are closed/leading, where the answer to each is yes, leading to the final question which closes the deal.

Closing

  • Always put agreement in writing (start with a draft framework for discussion).
  • Agree on review and complaint handling processes.
  • Agreement should be specific, measurable, agreed, realistic and time-bound.

Body Language
When interpreting somebody’s body language (or projecting your own), consider these aspects in decreasing order of importance:

  • Eye contact (around 70% of the time ideal, too little suggests disagreement or disinterest, too much suggests aggression, looking up suggests thinking, looking down suggests discomfort)
  • Facial expression (smile, make sure you show what you are feeling, don’t be deadpan, that’s unnerving)
  • Posture (Relaxed and upright, leaning forwarding slightly, crossing legs are all signs of interest. Folding arms or turning body away suggests discomfort with the proceedings. Mirroring other person suggests agreement.)
  • Hand gestures (open hand gestures suggest open mind, fiddling or doodling suggests disinterest or nervousness)

If body language is unclear, clarify. Eg, “Is this still all right with you?”

Listening

  • Do make listening noises such as “uhuh” and “mmm”.
  • Do not finish other people’s sentences for them, as they may find this irritating.
  • Take notes to show you’re interested and to help you summarise the agreement as you approach the close.

Respond

  • Keep cool and respond, rather than react. Stay adult and detached and offer time out if the opposite part is losing it.
  • Show respect at all times.

My Sister’s Wedding

Today was Mia and Neeraj’s wedding. It went really well, and the newly weds looked awesome 🙂 After so much planning, everything was very smooth. Neeraj and Mia made their vows and danced very nicely and the speeches were all good.


I got to sit at the top table facing all the other guests for the wedding ceremony, as I was doing a reading of a poem. Afterwards, I joined Soosun on the family table for the reception.

After the reception, Mia and Neeraj left for their honeymoon, we went back to Neeraj’s family’s place. We dressed up in our Bangladeshi clothes (many thanks to our flatmate Asif and his family for these!) and ate far too much tasty curry.
A wonderful day was had by all 🙂

Dance Dance Dance

Just finished reading Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami. Amazing novel. Not exciting, but totally gripping. I couldn’t put the thing down. The plot is a little unconventional to say the least, but my empathy with the narrator was overridingly strong and it is really this that made the novel so gripping.

Our narrator is 34, and in many ways, leads a normal and boring life. The boring parts of his life are described in detail. If you counted the pages devoted to descriptions of his every day life such as cooking, eating etc, I think you’d count about 1/3 of the novel. Rather than making the novel boring, as you would expect, it instead makes our narrator more real and human. And since he is so real, and so like you and me, even the “boring” parts of his life are interesting and enjoyable. For example, having a good meal and reading a book are nothing “exciting” in the traditional sense. However, since the narrator is so real, and so human, you can easily remember your own feelings when doing a similar thing.

There is something so real in the mediocrity of our narrator that strikes a chord with me. Our narrator is a good, fair guy, playing his part in an “advanced capitalist society”. He’s not amazingly talented at anything, he doesn’t fit in and he’s not very socially ept. He “shovels cultural snow” writing pieces for magazines. He has a few friends and romantic interests. He tries not to hurt people but doesn’t know where his life is going or what he really wants. When you look at him, and think about him, it forces you to look at yourself, in a very similar advanced capitalist society, shovelling virtual snow, or whatever you do. At the end of the day though, he’s the best of the bunch. He’s responsible and he cares. Maybe that’s cause for hope.

Dance Dance Dance follows on from A Wild Sheep Chase, although you could probably get by without reading the earlier novel. It’s a great book, go forth and read it 🙂

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