Listen before you speak

Nowadays I’m learning to listen to people’s story before speaking. Instead of jumping straight to judge people’s behaviour, I want to try and understand clearly the motivations behind their behaviour. And I’m not doing very well. It’s really difficult and to succeed at it I need to practice a lot.

Unfortunately we live in a world that encourages us to judge people without understanding their full story. The number one culprit that promotes this behaviour is the media. We get given information everyday which in most cases tells us only one side of the story or doesn’t furnish us with the history that led to the story and we believe.

Next time you decide to say something judgemental about someone because of their behaviour. Pause for a second and ask yourself, what’s behind this behaviour? Maybe, just maybe that will help you to suspend your judgement and listen to the person.

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Which “A” do you go to – Accommodate, Attack or Avoid

In The Power of a Positive NO, William Ury writes about what makes it difficult for most of us to say no to people. It’s the tension between exercising our power and managing the relationship. So while saying No allows us to exercise our power, it may damage the relationship. We typically respond to this tension one of three ways or use a combination of them. Ury calls them The Three-A Trap.

The first A is for Accommodate where we prioritise a relationship at the expense of our own needs and interests. We say Yes when we really want to say No because we don’t want to hurt or offend the person. This is an unhealthy position which in the short term may bring us peace but in the longer term can result in a lot of subdued pain for the person who should be saying No.

The next A is for Attack. In this case we actually say No, but say it poorly. This may happen because we are angry at the other person’s behaviour and we lash out with a No that hurts the person. This can also come from a person who has been accommodating for so long and they become so angry that they lash out with a very angry No.

The last A is to Avoid. We say nothing. We keep silent. We pretend as if nothing is wrong. We do this because we are afraid of offending the other person, so we will rather avoid the issue.

Here are two interesting quotes that capture the effects of “Accommodate” and “Avoid”.

A No uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a Yes uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble – Mahatma Gandhi

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter – Martin Luther King


If you think about these three As, which one do you go to when you mean to say NO?

Rebooting The Power of  a Positive NO by William Ury

I just finished reading a book by William Ury called, Getting To Yes With Yourself, I reviewed that book here. While reading it, I remembered the book I read that introduced me to his reading, The Power of a Positive NO, which I also reviewed here. Now I have decided to read that book again. You may be wondering why. Recently I read two articles, one emphasised the importance of going deep, while the other looked at how to save money by re-using things we already own instead of of buying new stuff. In the area of reading both articles encouraged us to read some of our old books again and be mindful of learning something from them. That’s exactly what I want to do with the book I’m re-reading.

More importantly I want to curate one key idea from the book that I can apply to my life and where possible teach others. So once I finish the book I will share my one idea with you.

Respect them even if – A radical idea!

You’ve probably heard the statement, respect is earned”. Well, it was a statement I agreed with and attempted to live by for a very long time, many people swear by that statement too. But what does it really mean? Simply, if you respect me, I will respect you, if you disrespect me, I will disrespect you. At least that’s how people I have discussed it with interpret it. But then I met William Ury, not in person, but through his books.

William introduced me to a new perspective of the whole respect thing, which is, you give respect because you are a respectable person and not necessarily because the other person respects you. I first read about it in Williams book titled, The Power of a Positive NO. You can read my review of the book here. But in another of his book’s titled, Getting To Yes With Yourself, (you can also read a review of that book here) he expands on the concept. In fact he denotes a whole chapter to it. I like how he titled the chapter, Respect Them Even If. 

While I can’t go into them in detail, here are bullet points of the ideas we can use to ” respect them even if”.

  • Put yourself in their shoes
  • Expand your circle of respect
  • Respect them even if they reject you
  • From exclusion to inclusion

Respecting people who disrespect you is hard and seems almost impossible at times, but William shows us through his ideas that it is possible. It will take us changing the way we think and a lot of practice and learning.

I definitely want to learn this way of thinking about respect and live it too. What about you?

Book Review – Getting To Yes With Yourself By William Ury

IGetting to yes with yourselff you haven’t heard the William Ury, the author of this book, know that he is someone worth exploring. I previously read one of his books titled, The Power of a Positive NO. You can read my review of that book here. My experience of that book meant I could not resist picking this one up. Ury writes about negotiation and he has worked as a mediator and negotiation advisor. He wrote his first book on the subject with the late Roger Spencer titled, Getting To Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, over three decades ago, so when Ury writes about negotiation, he has a wealth and depth of experience and knowledge he’s writing from.

In Getting To Yes With Yourself, Ury looks at negotiation from a different perspective and he calls this book the prequel he should have written before he’s other books. He believes that in negotiation situations, the biggest obstacle is often not the other person, but ourselves. According to Ury, it’s a good step before any discussion involving a degree of negotiation to first negotiate with ourselves. This involves asking ourselves key questions about what we really want from the negotiation and also being honest about how we react in difficult exchanges with others.

To teach us this concept of ‘getting to yes with yourself’, Ury has created a six-step framework with the necessary actions. Each step in the framework forms a chapter in the book. I have briefly introduced each step below.

  1. Put yourself in your shoes: Ury describes the purpose of this chapter as understanding your worthiest opponent which is YOU. Instead of judging yourself, listen intently to your own needs just as you would in a negotiation situation to your opponent’s.
  2. Develop your inner BATNA: When we are in conflict with others, our default stance is to blame the other person. In this chapter Ury is challenging us to do the opposite and take responsibility for our lives and relationships, and to make a commitment to take care of our own needs irrespective of the other person’s actions. That’s why we need to develop our inner BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement). Ury tells us how to do that in this chapter.
  3. Reframe your picture: The advice here is to let go of our fear of scarcity and see life as being on our side even when things don’t seem to be going well. This is about developing a different life outlook.
  4. Stay in the zone: Don’t get consumed by resentment with the past or anxiety with the future. Stay in the moment, in the present which is the only place where you can act to make things better.
  5. Respect them even if: This is a challenging area, but Ury is teaching us to respect others even when they disrespect us. In other words, don’t meet rejection with rejection or attack with attack.
  6. Give and receive: Don’t fall into the trap of a win-lose mindset where you only focus on meeting your own needs. Work to devise win-win-win solutions where you give first before receiving.

This is not a large book with just 177 pages of reading content, but it is a practical one. Ury encourages us to practices the skills distilled into the six steps till we master them. When you read a book like this, you may not be able to grasp or remember everything. It is important that you take something away from it. Two lessons that have already stuck with me are from the fifth and sixth steps. I want to learn to respect people despite the way they may treat me. I also want to learn to give first before receiving.

I wonder what you will learn if you read this book.