James Crisp

Software dev, tech, mind hacks and the occasional personal bit

Category: Soft Skills and Mind Hacks (Page 2 of 2)

Neuro Linguistic Programming – Part 1

I recently finished reading “NLP at Work” by Sue Night. It was quite a nice introduction to the topic. Here’s some of the more interesting bits through the filter of my interpretation.

Styles of Thought
Visual/Auditory/Feelings – from the way people speak (eg, “that sounds good”), you can guess what style of thought they prefer.

Eye Movements
The way you move your eyes is meant to reflect your thought patterns:

  • Looking up (or straight ahead defocussed) => remembering/constructing images
  • Looking sideways => remembering/constructing sounds
  • Looking down => feelings/internal dialogue

As an aside, if you’re talking and somebody looks away, they are probably thinking, and you should wait till they meet your eyes again before continuing.

Empowerment thought Word Choice and Questions
Empowerment means you take responsiblity for your own experience. Resolve ambiguity and abdication of responsiblity though challenging your thoughts with questions.

  • Deletions: “They overlooked me in the recent promotions” – who are they?
  • Vague actions: “We are going to develop Joe’s ability to learn” – how are we going to do that, and when?
  • Baseless comparisons: “The company is doing well” – compared to what?
  • Abstraction: “It was a difficult conversation” – who was involved, and what made it difficult?
  • Hidden opinion: “This is the right way to do it” – according to who? The speaker?
  • Generalisations: “She never listens to me” – how do you know that? Has there ever been a time when she listened to you?
  • Blame: “the company demotivates me” – how does the company demotivate you?
  • Drivers: “I want to see my friend” vs “I should see my friend”. The former (driven by you) empowers and motivates, the latter (forced on you) triggers opposite feelings.
  • Assumptions: “he is fiddling with his pen => he is bored” – how does fiddling with his mean mean that he is bored? Maybe it is just his habit.

With this approach, you can untangle your beliefs. Eg,
“These presentations never go well” – Never? Has there ever been a time when one did go well? How do you determine if it went well?
“Giving these talks makes me feel stressed” – How exactly does giving the talks cause you to feel stressed? How do you want to feel?

The power of imagination
If you imagine something sufficiently strongly and sensually (when, where, sight, smell, touch, taste, sound, etc), your feelings will be similar to what they would be if it was really happening. Ie, your feeling do not differentiate between what is really happening, and what you imagine.

Hence, if you want to know how you would feel if you did X, simply imagine it in great detail and you’ll find out. Similarly, if you want to achieve something, imagine what it would be like in detail and it will be as though you have already achieved it. Believe it is true, and you will act as though it is true, and then it will be easier for it to become true!

No negatives
The unconscious mind does not understand negatives. Hence, if you say “Don’t worry” to yourself, you are in effect triggering the “worry” emotion.

Rewriting Memories / Modifying Perception
Bring up a memory in detail, and bring in as many senses as you can. Try changing the lighting, the background sound, the relative size of objects etc and see how you feel. If you do this enough, you can change how you feel in the memory, and how you will feel when something similar arises.

I think that this could be done mentally in real time in real situations as well by changing your perception. Eg, somebody is screaming at you. If mentally imagine yourself to be larger, and the screamer to be smaller and imagine a glass between you, you could avoid feeling overwhelmed or getting angry yourself. You could then respond in a better manner.

Beliefs of Excellence
What you believe will influence how you act. Hence, if you take on positive beliefs, you can become more friendly, productive and motivated. Similarly, negative beliefs (eg, “I can’t do it”) are often self-fulfilling. According to the book, the important beliefs for excellence are:

  • Each person is unique
  • Everyone makes the best choice available to them at the time
  • There is no failure, only feedback
  • Behind every behaviour is a positive intention
  • The meaning of the communication is its effect
  • There is a solution to every problem
  • The person with the most flexibility in thinking and behaviour has the best chance of succeeding
  • Mind and body are part of the same system
  • Knowledge, thought, memory and imagination are the result of sequences and combinations of ways of filtering and storing information

Presuppose that these beliefs are true for you – try them out 🙂
Or go back into memory and imagine how you would have behaved differently had you had these beliefs.
Practice should make the belief become more fixed in you, and change your automatic behaviour.

Outcomes and Goals
What do I really want to achieve in 3 months/6m/1yr/3yrs, beyond..
List, prioritise and choose top 3. For each goal,

  • Imagine it with all senses – how does it feel/look/sound
  • When, where and with whom?
  • What have you got now you’d need to give up?
  • Is it worth the risk/pain? If not, chose another goal and start again.
  • If not self-maintained, chunk up (“recession to ease”, ask “what’s important about that?”) to find the higher level need (eg, “security”)
  • Ensure the outcome fits with who you are and who you want to be
  • What alternative ways are there to satisfy this need that will allow you to move towards the outcome?
  • How does having the outcome fit with the other people who are important in your life?
  • Act by dividing what you need to do into many small steps that you can work through in a real way every day or every week, potentially with time frames.

This topic is continued in Part 2.

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.

Litost in Le Petit Prince

I was reading a post on Phillip Eby’s blog recently which quoted a little of “Le Petit Prince” by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry (“The Little Prince” in English). It’s been a long time since I read it (I studied it in French class at school), so I got hold of my old copy and have been re-reading it. It’s really great – both funny and serious, and I’ve been enjoying exercising my atrophied French muscles a bit. If you haven’t read it, I recommend you get it and have a read in either French or English. Wikipedia has got some more information on the novel here.

Anyway, I came across an interesting passage that seems to dove tail very well with my recent post on Litost. Here we go:

“Elle serait bien vexĂ©e, se dit-il, si elle voyait ça… elle tousserait Ă©normĂ©ment et ferait semblant de mourir pour Ă©chapper au ridicule. Et je serais bien obligĂ© de faire semblant de la soigner, car, sinon, pour m’humilier moi aussi, elle se laisserait vraiment mourir…”

And here’s my rough translation into English:

“She would be very vexed, he said to himself, if she could see that… she would cough violently and pretend to die to escape being laughed at. And I would be obliged to pretend to heal her, so that I could humiliate myself as well, otherwise, she would really let herself die.”

PS – Found the full-text available online in English, French and some other languages!

Litost

For some reason, while doing the washing up today, my mind was wandering and I remembered reading “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting” by Milan Kundera. A colleague and friend of mine gave me the book for my 24th birthday. It was a fun and interesting read with a good story. The passage I was day dreaming about was “What is Litost?”. I was thinking I might take a stab at explaining it in my own words, but having read the passage again, I’m sure Milan Kundera has done a better job than I could hope to achieve. Hence I give you the passage verbatim:

What is Litost?
Litost is an untranslatable Czech word. Its first syllable, which is long and stressed, sounds like the wail of an abandoned dog. As for the meaning of this word, I have looked in vain in other languages for an equivalent, though I find it difficult to imagine how anyone can understand the human soul without it.

Let me give an example: The student went swimming in the river one day with his girlfriend, a fellow student. She was athletic, but he was a very poor swimmer. He could not time his breathing properly and swam slowly, his head held tensely high above the surface. She was madly in love with him and tactfully swam as slowly as he did. But when their swim was coming to an end, she wanted to give her athletic instincts a few moments’ free rein and headed for the opposite bank at a rapid crawl. The student made an effort to swim faster too and swallowed water. Feeling humbled, his physical inferiority laid bare, he felt litost. He recalled his sickly childhood, lacking in physical exercise and friends and spent under the constant gaze of his mother’s overfond eye, and fell into despair about himself and his life. They walked back to the city together in silence on a country lane. Wounded and humiliated, he felt an irresistible desire to hit her. “What’s the matter with you?” she asked him, and he started to reproach her: she knew about the current near the other bank, and that he had forbidden her to swim there because of the risk of drowning – and then he slapped her face. The girl began to cry, and when he saw the tears on her cheeks, he took pity on her and put his arms around her, and his litost melted away.

Or take an instance from the student’s childhood: His parents made him take violin lessons. He was not very gifted and his teacher would interrupt him to criticize his mistakes in a cold, unbearable voice. He felt humiliated, and he wanted to cry. But instead of trying to play in tune and not make mistakes, he would deliberately play wrong notes, the teacher’s voice would become still more unbearable and harsh, and he himself would sink deeper and deeper into his litost.

What then is litost?

Litost
is a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.

One of the customary remedies for misery is love. Because someone loved absolutely cannot be miserable. All his faults are redeemed by love’s magical gaze, under which even inept swimming, with the head held high above the surface, can become charming.

Love’s absolute is actually a desire for absolute identity: the woman we love ought to swim as slowly as we do, she ought to have no past of her own to look back on happily. But when the illusion of absolute identity vanishes (the girl looks back happily on her past or swims faster), love becomes a permanent source of the great torment we call litost.

Anyone with wide experience of the common imperfection of mankind is relatively sheltered from the shocks of litost. For him, the sight of his own misery is ordinary and uninteresting. Litost, therefore, is characteristic of the age of inexperience. It is one of the ornaments of youth.

Litost works like a two-stroke engine. Torment is followed by the desire for revenge. The goal of revenge is to make one’s partner look as miserable as oneself. The man cannot swim, but the slapped woman cries. It makes them feel equal and keeps their love going.

Some Interesting Quotes

“Imagine, Paul said to me once, that the present is simply a reflection of the future. Imagine that we spend our whole lives staring into a mirror with the future at our backs, seeing it only in the reflection of what is here and now. Some of us would begin to believe that we could see tomorrow better by turning around to look at it directly. But those who did, without realising it, would’ve lost the key to the perspective they once had. For the one thing they would never be able to see in it was themselves. By turning their backs on the mirror, they would become the one element of the future their eyes could never find…
For years I’ve been determined to get on with my life by doggedly hunting down the future… It’s a blind way to face life, a stance that lets the world pass you by, just as you think you’re coming to grips with it.”
— Extract from “The Rule of Four” by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason

“You know, for the longest time, I kept trying to make my life easier. It wasn’t until a month or so ago that I started to realize just how unbelievably fucking stupid that was. We’re not here to have an easy life. We’re not even here to do the things that we have to do. We are here to do the things we choose to do, and sometimes we choose to do them because they are challenging, not in spite of it. Would you keep playing a video game that was trivial to beat?”
Phillip J. Eby

“Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Only arseholes do that.” (Nagasawa)
“You try too hard to make life fit your way of doing things. If you don’t want to spend time in an insane asylum, you have to open up a little more and let yourself go with life’s natural flow… So stop what you’re doing this minute and get happy. Work at making yourself happy.” (Reiko)
— from “Norwegian Wood” by Haruki Murakami

Happiness

A few weeks ago, I read an interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald about happiness and also listened to a talk by the abbess of the Nan Tien Buddhist temple near Wollongong. These have merged together in my mind as they covered a lot of the same ground. I’m going to summarise the points that seemed important to me, and also include my own take on some of the ideas.

A mental approach
* If you’re happy, and your emotions are generally well balanced, you enjoy life more, other people enjoy your company more, and you’re more productive.
* Happiness is only in the mind.
* In your life, there’s a lot of things that happen to you. Some of these improve your life and some of them negatively effect you.
There’s a lot of chance involved that you can’t control.
* Therefore, if you want to be happy, you can’t rely on external events to make you happy.
* However, your mind is your own, and it is the organ through which you interpret everything.
* Since you are in control of your mind, you are in control of your interpretation of the events that happen to you.
* Therefore, by actively shaping your own interpretation and view of the events that happen to you in your life, you can choose to achieve happiness.

Completing goals
Completing goals makes you feel good.. for a little while. But there is always more to achieve. This means that you spend almost all your time trying to achieve, and the actual time after achieving is in fact very short before you need to rush on to the next task. Therefore, you’ve got to enjoy the path, not just the goal. Thus, see the mental approach above.

Ways that don’t work
* Achieving happiness through possessing things never works. No matter how much you have, you always get used to that amount, and want more. This means you’re always seeking, and the achievement is almost an anti-climax.
* No use comparing yourself with others to feel superior. Even if you are the “best” in your circle of acquaintances, it won’t be long before you find someone who is “better”. They’ll always be people who are richer, faster, smarter or better than you in a particular area, so this approach will only lead to disappointment.

Other Thoughts
Since happiness is only in the mind, the reality of your situation is completely irrelevant. If you feel like you are in control of your life, you think you are achieving your goals and you think you are doing well, then you are.

Book Review: My Job Went to India, 52 Ways to Save Your Job

Full Title: My Job Went to India (And All I Got Was This Lousy Book), 52 Ways to Save your Job

Author: Chad Fowler of the Pragmatic Programmers

185 pages, Paperback

An interesting book written by Chad Fowler, who spent 1.5 years in India hiring and managing an outsourced team of developers. The book’s main focus is on how you can make yourself as, a developer, more valuable to your company / community so that your job is not outsourced. There are quite a lot of valuable and interesting ideas in the book for professional development, and “getting your name out there”. The book also gives the reader some idea of what development is like in India, some tips and the pluses and minuses of outsourcing.

The style of the book is conversational, and easy to read. I finished it in 2 days. I’d recommend it to developers wondering about outsourcing and looking for some tips on professional development.

Rating: 8/10

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