Learning from My Mistakes and Successes
How my Trip to Poland Taught Me Lessons of a Lifetime
…and you can take them for the reading.
Blame is such an easy thing to do.
I am just like you, when something goes wrong I diagnose, determine and mentally dictate innocence or guilt upon the people I see.
I do try hard to keep silent until I have a better picture because I know how much I hate to be blamed for things that go wrong…and things go wrong every day.
The Journalists (Newspaper and Magazine Reporters) were upset. That was not an opinion, simply an obvious observation. I looked as they walked into my suite and only one had a bright smile on his face, clearly happy to be able to interview me.
An interesting factor that unfortunately became related to the press conference was the elections for Prime Minister were held the day before and the hard line right wing party was decidedly defeated by a fed up public where a record number of Pole’s voted. (55% of the electorate)
The Prime Minister was staying in the Suite that I had wanted for the weekend. Security was far greater than airport security. Just getting to my room was a project.
So Monday morning arrives, the Prime Minister has lost, the politicians that filled the hotel cleared out and an air of happiness fills the halls.
The Journalists begin their trek to my suite…
It’s Out of My Hands
2 years ago my book Covert Persuasion was in it’s final edit. I never look at a book once it’s out of my hands and written. I’m a terrible editor and find it a task that rates with doing taxes, cutting the checks, and writing book proposals.
Trying to figure out if I need to use “too” or “to.” No…I finish the book, it goes to the editor.
…sometimes I read Coffee after someone points out that I said something that didn’t make sense or seemed to contradict who I am as a person. And sure enough, I will once in a while write the OPPOSITE of what I was thinking, usually because I was thinking of the opposite. So I might write, “and I found myself mad at him,” when I was thinking, “and a lot of people would have found themselves made at the guy, but it didn’t make much difference to me.”
That’s quite a distinction and that’s how the human brain works verbally and in text. Holding someone to something they’ve said only once is a shakey holding. Same is true for what someone writes only once.
I do spell check all issues of Coffee but spell check misses homynyms which is a real bummer (their/there for example).
So, I sent Covert Persuasion back to the editor after she sent it to me. I did scan the pages and found that the hundreds of marks per page indicated the poor woman had suffered enough. I wasn’t going to cause her more work. I signed off on the proof. If there are still a few words or phrases wrong, I’m not going to torment her…
A Time Bomb Waiting To Go Off
Editors are very careful not to change the meaning of an author’s work. They always ask if something is correct or not. They are highly detail-oriented people and perfectionists…which is why they are editors. And it turns out that there is a bit of a “time bomb waiting to go off” in the early pages of Covert Persuasion that I wasn’t cognizant of. Apparantly (I say this because I’m writing in London and my library is at home.)
It says something like, “You don’t need to compromise in negotiation, you can always win as is shown in the chart above.” And then there is a graph that is supposed to diagram this statement. (I had the graph described to me yesterday via telephone and in my mind, it makes little sense. It basically shows a Win/Lose scenario which is abhorrent to me and defeats the purpose of persuasion.)
Now, certainly compromise is not always the best solution and in fact it is often the wrong solution and thus sometimes part of the statement above would be true.
You don’t compromise how many drinks of vodka your 10 year old is going to have tonight. You start at zero, she goes for 4 and you end up at 2. Compromise is certainly a good thing in many instances, but definitely not in all negotiation.
So it would surprise me if I wrote the statements in the book which are clearly incorrect expanded to all cases, but correct for some. Tens of thousands of people have read this book and no one ever pointed out this mental blunder until … the Journalists arrived….
That morning I had been told that The Prime Minister actually appointed the Nazi Party leader as head of education a couple of years ago. That tidbit alone sealed the elections probably especially among young people who have kids in school.
Couple these recent trends with Poland’s perception of selling, something you do TO someone…in other words, you take advantage of them, they pay you, you win and the person who made the purchase loses…That makes talking about Win/Win persuasion and neuropsychological decision making based persuasion…a complicated task.
“How could you write such a book knowing that you can always win and the other person can always lose knowing politicians can use this against us. What if they had this and would have won the election yesterday?”
Long, long questions like that which were actually strong positions against Covert Persuasion and it’s generally affable author. Having handled questions like this before, especially in Poland, I was very prepared for this kind of a discussion which would never become the focus on meeting with press as it did in Warsaw in 2001.
“Covert Persuasion simply means persuading using silent or covered strategy and tactics. There is nothing that is unkind, unpleasant or unethical about it. Covert Persuasion revolves around creating comfort and building long-term relationships.”
And so it was over and on to interesting subjects…
…but only in my head…
“…but you say right here in the book (and they all have the book turned to this page) that you will teach the reader to always win irrespesctive of whether the other person wins or loses.”
I laughed. (an unconscious error)
“That’s not what it says. Read it again.”
They did, and my translator quickly concluded that the journalists were right. It said what they said it said…or roughly that…
My immediate thought is, “Damn, who the hell screwed THAT up? Did the editor think I meant one thing and then changed the meaning…or maybe it was the Polish Translation of Covert Persuasion.”
I couldn’t say that. I explained how sometimes when you write, you make mistakes. To say that dissatisfied the Journalists is an understatement, but eventually they were grudgingly willing to concede that I still might be an OK if not naive foreigner.
“What is this you say you can use magical energy around you to change people’s minds?”
I immediately think, that they think that I wrote ‘The Secret’ or something. I tell them that it’s not possible to move energy (in a meaningful way) by thought and I never had written such a thing.
He picks up a long document which turned out to be an ad for the seminar I gave Saturday. I had told my promoter to borrow anything they wanted from previous ads, tell me what to talk about, and I’ll teach it. I have not a clue where magical energy statements came from. I will do a google search when time permits. I remember describing what some ‘Secreteers’ have claimed as being able to draw things to themselves like magnets and magical use of energy in contexts like that. But again it CLEARLY said that this is what I was going to teach…two days earlier.
Had they attended the training they would have known I was well known as a skeptic and debunker of stuff exactly like this.
…and now I am in defense mode. Their questions are translated to English. My answers are clarifyingly-lengthy to try and repair what they are seeing in print, into what I really believe and show people. (I wished in those hours they had actually attended the weekends events instead of read something about what the events would be like!)
The time lags were painfully long and I knew that this day would be a tough day…and 4.5 hours later, when they left…I discovered I was right.
One angry journalist shoved a copy of the book in front of me with a pen, “Tomasz, I wish you great happiness. Thank you for your time today.”
I can just see all these journalists going back to the offices saying, “this guy in same hotel with crazy Prime Minister and has same…..”
An Unavoidable Negative Anchor
And that was the sense I got from the final two women who left the suite. They seemed forgiving but they had clearly anchored the Prime Minister with me. (Someone whose views I could never share in a million years)
One of the two asked me what my values, ethics and beliefs were about situations in their culture.
I remembered how Elvis answered that question about war protesters back in ’72. “I’d just assume keep my personal views to myself.”
Except I wasn’t as persuasive as Elvis.
They continued until I was willing to share my personal views.
“What about when people go on strike.”
A pet peeve of mine. Ugh. And I know how the Iron Curtain came down…the whole story but I told her the truth anyway. I explained what a strike was in the States and how it was a stupid thing to do in almost all cases. When people strike there are plenty of people who want to work, who need jobs…
And they understood what I was saying, but they had strong feelings about the necessity of strike as in cases of communist oppression and so forth, something we’ve never experienced back in the United States…thus a TOTALLY DIFFERENT PARADIGM.
Then about the CHURCH. I explained my respect for the church but that my work I had done in Poland to fight HIV/AIDS and encouraging the use of condoms was well considered even in light of the church’s stance on the use of condoms and birth control. I explained that 12 year old girls being forced to prostitute themselves shouldn’t be forced to have diseases and children of their own. Clearly these were things the women felt some part of agreement but the church is VERY powerful in Poland…to be sure…
…Defense is a terrible place to be in communication.
Lesson One: Have someone read your book to see if it makes sense before it goes to print.
Lesson Two: Don’t talk to the press if you don’t want to get grilled.
Lesson Three: If you do talk to the press, think very carefully about giving your beliefs, qualifying them with the fact that your opinion is only one opinion.
Lesson Four: My history is not their history. Their feelings and beliefs are “correct” in the context of their history.
Lesson Five: There are very few absolutes…
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