Anger: I am angry so that I am important?

Active listening

I thought I had a post somewhere on basic active listening.  It seems not.

Active listening is often required when we least expect it

Active listening isn’t hard.  Provided we remember to do it!  When we are needed to listen, simply listen, we are often in a rush ourselves and it is the hardest ever to slow down and pay attention.

Three situations require active listening

There are three classical situations when we must pay attention and listen

  • Requests: Please may I have .   .  .!
  • Help:  Everything is going wrong!
  • Anger:  Life is unfair!

We rarely miss anger!

The third, anger, is the one we don’t miss.  Angry people get in our face.  They are bristling with rage.  They want something to change now and they’ve decided that it is all our fault!  Can’t miss it 🙂

It can be hard to react with applomb

Sadly, because other people’s anger often takes us by surprise, we don’t react well.

If we have a moment to catch our breath, we are probably OK.  We give the person the attention they crave so desperately and reassure them of their importance in the world.  They calm down and feeling a little sheepish, become our new best friend.

But what of our anger. What we we are angry?

It strikes me that England is an angry country.  And people enjoy being angry.

Anger in Britain is a treasured state

Anger in England isn’t an unpleasant temporary state that people want to get away from. It is a treasured state to be sought.  People even seem to feel important when they are angry.  “There!”, they seem to be saying, “I am angry too!” It is almost as if their status is restored by being angry.

I get angry so that I can be important enough to be insulted?

It’s a perversion.  Usually we are angry when our status is diminished, and we want it restored.  When an angry person also has a triumphant gleam in their eye, I wonder whether they are also delighted to have found a situation where they are important enough to have been insulted?

Someone needs some deep respect

If I am right, and there is no reason that I should be, then a way to reduce anger is to help people feel valued.  Courtesy and politeness do this in part – but they avoid “dissing” the other person.  Courtesy and politeness isn’t respect.

If we want to help people find status without resorting to some bizarre form of tantrums, then we need to take the trouble to find out what about them is deeply valuable to us ~ and tell them.  I found a great quotation from E E Cummings yesterday ~ we have to mirror to people what is so wonderful and why we would be so much poorer without them!

Extreme experiments in life

Try that as you are next on a commuter train and your neighbour is annoying you.  Pay them some attention. Yes, I know you are English, but try.  It will be a fun experiment, won’t it?

What will happen when you pick on the one point that is so important to them and that you would really miss if they weren’t part of your life?

Is UK drifting towards a “nothing allowed” culture?

Idiosyncracies that we love

I am a serial migrant and one thing you learn “on the road” is that every community has phrases and ideas that are deeply coded.  They simply don’t mean what they sound as if they mean.

When I first arrived in UK, I heard people saying “Bless”, quite a lot.  I even asked someone what they meant.

It was a dumb thing to do, of course. When he said “Bless”, he was saying “Oh sod off, I can’t be bothered with your troubles.”  He certainly wasn’t going to translate accurately.

He said he was commiserating.  And no, he did not follow through on what I was asking him to do and what I though he was obliged to do. Lol.

Legal systems differ

I remember someone returning from UK to Zimbabwe after studying for four years here and he told us seriously that he was going to study face recognition because it was important in jury trials.

I remember looking around the room and thinking, “Who is going to tell him?”   No one spoke up, so I said as gently as I could, “X, we don’t have juries in Zimbabwe.”

And we don’t have juries in Zimbabwe not because of the current troubles but because we have Roman-Dutch law.  So does South Africa, and oddly Sri Lanka.

On the look out for deep differences

Because of this difference, I am always on the look out for things that I just “don’t get” – where I might be jumping the wrong way because I grew up in another system.

Look at this quotation from a famous US lawyer, Newton Minow.

“After 35 years, I have finished a comprehensive study of European comparative law. In Germany, under the law, everything is prohibited, except that which is permitted. In France, under the law, everything is permitted, except that which is prohibited. In the Soviet Union, under the law, everything is prohibited, including that which is permitted. And in Italy, under the law, everything is permitted, especially that which is prohibited.[9]

Which category does UK fit in to?

It is my understanding that Roman law fits into the German camp.  Unless I am allowed to do it, I can’t.

And it is my understanding, that English law (I am not sure about Scots law) is in the French category.  Do whatever you like.  We will say if you can’t.

An example of how these differences create confusion

This is how confusion arises in practice.

When I read a sign that says “Parking is Permitted with a Permit from 10-11 and 2-3”, my first reaction is puzzlement – followed by a eh? Why would I want to park here from 10-11 and 2-3?

No, it doesn’t mean that at all.  It means you can park here whenever you want, but you must

a) move your car between 10-11 and 2-3

or

b) buy a ticket.

I bet you thought that was obvious.  I am still confused every time I see that sign but as it only costs 40p to park there all day it is a confusion I will put up with.

Does this difference account for the nanny state and other British wonders?

When I heard the Unions negotiating for workers to go to work in shorts during this past very hot week, I got into a Twitter conversation about the nanny state and I started to wonder if this difference accounts for differences in management style as well.

The differences between Germanic and Anglo meetings

Meetings in Germanic countries are brisk.  You go in armed with facts and figures and MAKE DECISIONS, quickly and definitively.

Anglo meetings swirl around this way and that with no agenda and no outcome.  As an American-trained, Indian-born manager used to say in NZ (nudging me with his elbow and whispering out the side of his mouth):  “Sit back and wait. We will be here for the next hour discussing process and there will be no goal”.  Sure enough, for the next hour we discuss who wants what.  What we are trying to achieve collectively is not mentioned at all.  Who knows whate we were there for but we’ve had a spirited discussion about individual preferences.

What does it mean to ‘manage’ in the two systems?

I think I prefer a system where everything is allowed unless it is prohibited.

But possibly when you grow up in  system like that you aren’t used to designing systems or spaces where things happen.

And then you get a profileration of crazy rules.  10 signs per 100 yards, or whatever the figure is for British roads.

And it also means that one of your choices in life is to sit and do nothing.  Though some people are trying to prohibit that too.  This illustrates my point.  Designing and organizing for action is quite different from banning the few things that we may not do. Banning someone from doing X will not get them to do Y.

Alternatives

This thought process is starting to feel like ‘reaching’ to me.  But to try to illustrate my point.

What if you simply told people to drive safely and they will be accountable for what they smash into?

What if you told people to pay their taxes but that we would display online how much they paid?

Life can be made very simple if we choose.

And we shouldn’t have to tell people what to wear to work.  Really. If it is hot, wear shorts.  If it is cold, wear a jumper.

Of course, if you cannot afford a change of clothes, that would be my concern.  I’ve been brought up in system where managers are supposed to make things possible.  We are certainly accountable if people cannot see the way forward and don’t have the resources to get there.

Have a great weekend!

Oops! Should have bcc’d that email!

My first email newsletter  .   .  .

Last weekend, I set up the first email update for the members of Olney100, the community website that we run on the Ning platform for the town of Olney in England.

The broadcast facility in Ning doesn’t allow formatting, so I downloaded the membership list into a CSV file and imported it into my email.  After a hard afternoon designing the newsletter and trying to keep it short, useful and readable in 10 seconds, rather tired, I sent it out.  Oops! I put the group name into CC and not Bcc.

Data transmitted in error

Only one person wrote to complained, and one of course, was sufficient to alert me to the error of my ways.   My apologies.

Interestingly, one of the members also made this mistake this week in his business.  In his case, he had received an inquiry and he replied to everyone on his mailing list.  As it happened, the person making the inquiry was a competitor who was delighted to receive a list of qualified leads and promptly wrote to them all offering his services.

My young friend received a lot more complaints than U – 5% of his list.  His customers are generally younger than mine, and a lot more aware of the norms and law of the internet.

Dealing with data misuse

This is the way he responded.

1  He apologized immediately and unreservedly to his customers.

2  He checked the Data Protection Act and copied and pasted relevant portions into a ‘cease and desist’ notice which he sent to his competitor making it clear that is is an offense to make use of electronic data for purposes other than it was intended.

3  Then he thought some more and recalled that the impersonation of a consumer by a business is also an offense.

Internet laws are much stricter than people realize.  And so they should be.  The rules for driving a car are tighter than the rules for walking on the pavement.

How many dodgy firms will be called to account through internet law?

It strikes me that there may be a parallel between internet law and tax law.

Very few people know that crooks are required to pay tax on their ill-gotten gains and that equally, tax officials are bound over not to report our nefarious dealings to the police or any other authority!

Governments are generally quite zealous about collecting taxes and do inventive things, like audit drivers of flashy cars, the keepers of yachts and persons whose conspicuous consumption exceeds their declared income.   This leads to crooks, like Al Capone, being busted not for crookery, but for tax evasion.

It strikes me that firms who sail close to the line and entice people to purchase their services with false claims might similarly find themselves, not being busted for fraud, but being busted for trying same wide-boy behaviour on the internet.

Gen Y know the rules and will enforce them!

Sharp operators need to watch out.  Gen Y are quite savvy and know the rules!

Have you seen any dodgy activity around electronic data recently?

Enhanced by Zemanta

2nd tip for looking at the future value of professional qualifications

Olney Snow Feb 2 2009 Family Lunch at Much Ado...
Image by joolney via Flickr

Doing well by doing good

On January 21st, just in time to see the inauguration, I connected up the wi-fi at Much Ado, my favourite deli and cafe in Olney.  We watched Obama’s inauguration and the owner of Much Ado, Matt Prosky, was so inspired, he invested in a brand new netbook so customers are able to check their emails while they have coffee.  Bliss!

Today, I followed up what seemed to be a surprising bill from BT and with the help of James in Glasgow, we ended the afternoon by reducing Much Ado’s bill for internet services by 400 pounds (about USD600) – that is 400 pounds less than what they paid before they offered their customers wi-fi!  So they’ve recouped their investment in the netbook by twice over!

I love it.  Much Ado did right by their customers, and gained.

Good business does not mean being tight

So many people in business confuse controlling costs with being mean and cut-throat.

Of course, it is really important to control costs in businesses – we all know that.  When margins are as low as 3 or 5%, which they often are in retail (or even less), taking care of the pennies does indeed take care of the pounds.  I go even further.  I think controlling costs is an act of beauty.  It is almost as a form of reverence and worship, as I heard a lecturer in Islamic finance say on Radio 4.  It’s fun to plan a job of work and to execute it smoothly and within budget.

But controlling costs isn’t a matter of being “tight”.  Businesses do well when they do good. Business do well when they create value and wealth.

How will the internet affect businesses?

I’ve been puzzling over my own challenge to think through the impact of the internet on my profession. It is hard.  I like the idea of branding work with flowers.  I chose a red carnation for myself, meaning I carry a torch for you.

A second technique might be to do something for free just because you believe in it.  That helps us find the core of our business – though possibly a coach would help you see it more easily (I’m not touting here – I am strictly entrepreneurial ).

My favourite deli doesn’t offer wi-fi per se.  They offer hospitality shaped by the place and time in which they work.

What you do for free is probably your competitive edge

What do you do for free because you know it is right?

That’s probably the ‘competitive edge’ that distinguishes you from non-professionals who offer a similar service.  That’s probably the subterranean skill which underpins your profession.

If you can tell me what you do for free, then I can ask the next question.   How do we express that skill in the days of the internet?

Yes this works.  How can a psychologist, for example, express commitment to their clients with internet mediated services?

What do you do for free because you know that it is right?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Life on Market Day in Olney!

Life on Market Day in Olney

I had another delightful day in the village of Olney in Buckinghamshire or Bucks in England, UK.  That’s a long address, isn’t it?

Social Media

Hero of the hour, GarethLRoberts, tweeted well before morning tea that he was back from the markets in London.  A quick look at the blog of MuchAdo deli persuaded me that I was not going to eat noodles this week.  I am going to eat a fresh green salad with tropical fruit and to accompany this extravaganza, I am going to grill mackerel (for the first time in my life).  UPDATE: Catch MuchAdo on Facebook and see the ceiling mural by Lee Farmer unfold.

Market Day

Thursday is market day in Olney.  Market Place thronged with the regular array of butchers and greengrocers, haberdashers, cobblers, and gardeners.  The Coffee Cavern joined Olney100 today bringing their range of exotic teas and coffee.  The Happy Carrot, who are the most-glass-half-full people I know, were the ONLY stall to appear during our heavy snow.  I wish they would blog.  They have a philosophical turn of mind, a ready camera, and extensive knowledge of the whole Bucks area.  This is when I regret using Ning.  People can’t comment without logging in.

Housing Market

After the market, I headed for the eastern corner of Market Place and went to congratulate Taylor’s, the estate agent, for selling a house around the corner from me.  Did you hear that folks?  The market for housing in sought-after Olney ain’t dead.  Poke it with a stick!

Coffee Shops and Youthful Enterprise

A lively young man reminded me of how much fun it is to work with Gen Y – on-the-ball, optimisitic and conecting-connecting-connecting.  Next door at the coffee shop, Beans, young Charlie Ray (17) seized the opportunity to raise the profile of his business Mute . . . Anything but Quiet! – an online store for tie-and-dye shirts.  Charlie and his team will teach us a thing or two about websites and social media with connections to Facebook and Myspace.  He intends to go up to university in a few months to read broadcast journalism – mental note to myself – ask Euan Semple at Amplified09 if he knows any mentors around here.

Hair Salons

Energy levels continued to throb in the next store.  Well, it is a store within a store.  Olney is an old lace-making town and shops are tucked away romantically down alleys and warrens.  To reach Olney’s newest of five hair salons, we weave our way through a baby clothes store.  Secluded, airy, fresh, At the Salon is run by engaging proprietor, Rebecca Green, who also teaches hairdressing in Milton Keynes.

Phonebox

My rounds ended with a visit to the Phonebox – an extraordinary institution.  Ron, or Gandalf, got to the social media business model long before Google.  Funded entirely by advertisements, Phonebox prints and distributes around 50 000 copies of the must thumbed and read periodical in the Bedford – Milton Leynes – Northampton triangle.  Quick remarkable!

And amazingly, we aren’t tourists! We live here!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Surprised and delighted by Britain

Today’s hero!

I have to be honest.  My favorite people have verve, drive, audacity, panache and plain zest for life.

Today, I met GarethLRoberts for about half-an-hour in Olney‘s delicious coffee shop, MuchAdo.

Today’s project

Gareth and I had a quick chat about a tantalizing mixture of IT networks and the hidden highways and byways of rural England: cereal farmers (not serial, cereal!), millers, bakers and eaters.

GarethLRoberts bakes a mean cherry focaccio. Quite scrumptious and delectably breakfast, lunch or supper.  Gareth also does the buying for MuchAdo at London markets.  Every Wednesday night, he drives down and buys our vegetables from Covent Garden and our fish from Billingsgate.

Within hours of our brief chat together using the WiFi provided by MuchAdo, Gareth had his new blog up and running: Connecting with Bread!  Congratulations!

Watch his space!

I hope you will all go over, welcome him to the blogosphere, and bookmark him.  He writes well and he is going to make you feel so well acquainted with rural England, you’ll think your mouse is scurrying across a corn field!

An example of social media helping us be surprised and delighted by Britain!

PS

I’ll pick up some SEO issues later.  For other blogs of Olney, check our blogroll on Olney100.   I am cataloguing the online activity of Olney in Buckinghamshire, England in the UK (or Bucks to the natives).

Flowing motion!   Oh, I do love it when a plan comes together!

Enhanced by Zemanta

5 recession speeds!

The snow brought the people out .  .  . to talk

Today it snowed in the UK – a lot for us.  When I drew the curtains, I thought for a moment my car had been stolen.  It was just buried!

Later on in the morning, I walked down to the shopping centre to see if some of the members of Olney100, a community social network for the town of Olney, England, needed my help.  A suprising number of people had driven.  Others, like me, walked and there was an unusual number of people dallying in the supermarket and in the coffee shop.  Unsurprisingly, given the economic circumstances and my interest in promoting Olney100, we began talking about how we should arrange our affairs in what is a downturn of unknown magnitude and unknown duration.

So what is your view?  What is your recession speed?

  1. I am lucky. My business is OK.  People need us no matter what.
  2. This crisis is outrageous and I take every opportunity to tell decision-makers.
  3. I have cut out all luxuries and I will see this through by keeping my head down.
  4. I am going to wait and see.  I choose to be optimistic that everything will work out all right.
  5. I am systematically reviewing my business looking for new opportunities and new alliances.

I suspect, well I know, that there will be very many more people rating themselves 1-4 than 5.

If we differ in our response, are we wrong?  Should we converge?  Or can we benefit from the variation in our opinions?

Can I ask you this?

Who are three people who give you the most support?  And what is their recession speed?

Does their recession speed help you and does your recession speed help them?

I’d be interested to know.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Positive psychology and the credit crunch: some people got it sorted ages ago

Greater London

 

Image via Wikipedia

What’s morale like where you live?

During the last week, I have seen person-after-person say they are exhausted, catch a cold, and just slump, sometimes close to tears.

My favorite radio programme, Any Questions, (here on Fridays 1900 GMT) is normally my laughter medicine for the week.  This week it was sombre.  Jokes ran to not moving the capital because we don’t want to live with banker, politicians and the press.

What is the most cheerful story you heard this week?

But all is not sombre.  On Twitter, one lively entrepreneur opened two new businesses in the last month.  This being the beginning of the academic year in UK, people are starting new courses, making new friends and enjoying themselves.

On another erratically running train, overfull with two lots of passengers (those for our service and the previous service that had also broken down), I opened a conversation with someone carrying a book on classical music.  He has an interesting story.

So what has opera singing to do with hands-on farming?

He introduced himself as an opera singer.  I found it interesting that he l lived so far from London.  Oh, he said I am also a farmer.  And my father sang well, but for fun.  I sing professionally and run my farm of 150 acres.  By day, I work the farm, and then I go by train to London (2.5 hour journey) to sing and return home to midnight (another 2.5 hours).  Often the only sleep I get is on the train.

He had a shock of immaculately coiffered gray hair as you expect from someone appearing on the stage.  And with a happy smile on his face, he said, his son also sang, but he was a dancer.  His son was off working professionally in Europe. (This is Britain – country undefined – just vaguely over there!)

My happy informant was both proud and embarrassed by his double career.   He is lucky to have two jobs he loves but he is not sure which supports which.

I readily reassured him a business school would say he has a wise portfolio of investments.  When one business is down, the other business is up – which is true it seems.

What is your most outrageous combination?

So remembering that the antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness, what are your passions?  What interesting passions are you combining?

And PS What do farming and opera singing have in common?

Apparently, you must be calm in both – calm to sing and calm to handle livestock.

What’s your brand of magic?

Enhanced by Zemanta