Archive for July 2007

The Vital Truth Every Negotiator Must Deal With

July 21, 2007

You’ve been preparing this deal for weeks. And now, you step into the client’s office, facing this big, fierce, burly character. He flips through the documents, swiftly lifts up his head and stares at you with his piercing eyes.

“I will never accept the terms!”

Mr Fiery Temper cuts through the already tense atmosphere with his booming voice. You can easily tell he is not very pleased.

There is an awkward and uneasy silence. You wreck your brains for what to say next.

In this very crucial moment of the need to reply, your boss’s voice appears in the background.. “Remember, we need this business deal. Must close it. Our company’s survival depends on you..”

Oh, Great! How relieving to be reminded of this? And what a convenient time too.

You have just had reality of a negotiator hit you hard in the face (or the back of the brain). Just when you need a smart, witty reply, the most unnecessary of warning comes forth… with that “our lives is in your hands” thing. A mantra that creeps up on you and goes on, and on, and on…

My friends, this reality comes attached to you as a negotiator. You don’t have to find it, it just is there. It is the vital truth of negotiation and you have to deal with it, sooner or later. It is The Negotiator’s Burden.

Every negotiator carry a burden, unique to his position and to his appointment as the organization’s official negotiator, spokesperson and representative. They had to face the ultimate truth that their words can either elevate their organization or bring it down.

If the burden is mismanaged, it becomes an inner demon that threatens to put the negotiator into constant fear and intimidation. This, the other party can detect it and use to their advantage to bring to your downfall.


Empress Dowager Xiao Zhuang carried this burden when she had to invite Hong Chengchou (Fan Hao Ming in ficitionalized drama serial) to submit to the Qing Empire. The hopes of the expansion and founding of the whole new nation depended on her persuasive skills.

She was later faced with an even tighter situation as she attempted to balance the might and forces of Duoergun, the Regent and Haoge, the late Emperor’s eldest son. Each ambitious man had harbors intention to lay claim to the empty throne. One false move in her actions and words, and her own life and that of her son’s will crumble together with the dismantling of the whole nation.

In both and other challenges, she emerged unscathed, with her position further solidified.


Li Hong Zhang, a key minister of the late Qing Dynasty, carried this burden in 1901 when he had to negotiate with the eight foreign powers in the vastly unequal Xinchou Treaty after the failure of the Boxer Rebellion. This accelerated the downfall of the already weakened Qing Empire with its people increasingly convinced of the incompetency of its government.

Till now, China still sees him as the example of nation’s embarrassment, widely regarded as a traitor of the Chinese people for the disadvantaged negotiated outcome.


Equally worth highlighting was the events towards the Cold War that began from the 1940s to the 1990s. The negotiation lasted through United States Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev and then to Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

The Cold War also saw the dissolution of the USSR, fall of Berlin Wall and other reforms that took place between the super powers. The massive pressures and burdens upon the negotiators-Presidents, knowing the outcome could affect their nations, could be beyond our contemplation.


Closer to home is the example at the Surrender of Singapore on 15 February, 1942. General Arthur Percival of the British and General Tomoyuki Yamashita of Japan carried burdens of different sorts.

Imagine the heaviness of heart as General Percival signed the surrender treaty unconditionally, knowing the eternal shame of defeat and humiliation of the Queen’s colony awaited him when he returned home. He had just sealed Singapore’s fate and handed over the largest British-led surrender in history, totaling 130,000 in overall forces.

General Yamashita, earned the nickname “The Tiger of Malaya” for his aggressive conquering of the British colonies. At the negotiation table, he fervently insisted on the unconditional surrender of Singapore. The strong thumbing of fist with tough exterior looks certainly aided and hasten Percival to give in to his demands.

Had there been any changes in that negotiation, Singapore as we know it, would have been very different.


By a twist of fate, General Yamashita had to surrender to Generals Percival and Jonathan Wainwright in Philippines three years later in 1945 when Japan announced its surrender.

Negotiations by lawyer Harry Clarke and his defense team, to have Yamashita’s death sentence reversed, did not go through this time round despite strong appeal to President Truman. Gen Yamashita was thus hanged in 1946. Meanwhile Gen Percival was active in negotiating compensation for former captives till end of his life in 1966.


Every single one of these negotiators had to manage their realizations of the burdens placed on them. Certain burdens come in the form of company survival or national pride while others are at the expense of livelihood and lives. Some, as history can tell, managed it better than the others.

The fact of the matter remains that a negotiator truly carry a burden that no other in his organization can fully comprehend. And since he is the negotiator, it is a load no one else can take over or bear for him.

He has to thus devote to build an even stronger character that can withstand these burdens. And manage the inner demons that constantly remind him that failure is not an option. For better or for worse, the character must be there. A negotiator with less than steady stealth and mental dexterity will be at a very disadvantaged position at the negotiation table.

What remains is for you to truly be realistic with the fact of it and be diligent at building up your character, then to boldly face the negotiator’s burden before you can excel in deals closing and negotiation.

The Footprints That Matter

July 20, 2007

In our life’s journey, we walk in different directions. Every step we take, leave a print and we display a part of our intention. (or the lack of it)

Those footsteps that form a straight line, you know where you are going.

Those that keep going round and round, a possible situation of being trapped in a loop of life.

Those that are in a haphazard meaningless ways, it’s neither here nor there for one’s life.

Those that changes direction, you’ve developed a new focus in life.

Out of these 4 sets, there are only 2 sets that really make our lives progress.

Ever take a look at how your footprints of life is like?

Turn back now and take a look. Then make a prediction where they will head.

Own The Problem, Generate The Solution

July 18, 2007

How often do you hear of people who complain?

How many types of complains have you heard?

How often do you hear people say that its their own fault instead of others’ mistakes?

Let’s reverse the questions a little…

How often do you hear people giving you solution?

How many types of solutions have you received?

How often do you have people take personal responsibility and do something about it to improve the situation?

Now for the acid test…

Which group of questions do you tend to hear more of? The first or the second group?

Tendency is that the first group seems to be more rampant and take on most quantity. (You can disagree, of course) If they are that positive, drop me an email, would like to get to know them too.

How about a simple wisdom with a simple reply…

Instead of complaining, which tends to add negativity most of the time, why not own the problem then generate the solution?

Invite your friends to take a step over to the other side, the side of solutions.

As long as the problem is linked to us, there is no way we can fully absolve responsibility. The important things is to be understanding to the factors

Once you have a clearer picture, you can start to see new solutions. But it first begins with self-responsibility so that people can take ownership.

Instead of complaining, Own the Problem and Generate the Solution.

The Most Easily Forgotten Part Of Communication

July 18, 2007

It’s a common thing to understand communication by what we intend to express. As we get the message and information together in our heads, we construct an inner structure to deliver it, as smoothly as possible. So the moment we are able to utter the words out from our mouths, we tend to deem that the communication is done since the information is pass from us.

Yes, indeed, that’s communicating… or is it?

Aren’t we forgetting something? That communication is not just a mere act of getting the information out. It has a lot to do with getting the information out CORRECTLY.

In other words, how do you know if the message is getting through? Speaking the words is only half way there. There has got to be something more than that in order to complete the other half of the effective communication cycle or loop.

We are often caught up with deciding on what to say that we forget to ensure that whatever we are saying is getting through. Therefore, we need a corresponding information and ‘data’ to be returned to us, telling us the other party received the message well.

Hey, when we buy certain things, we do get a receipt to indicate everything is in order, don’t we?

That’s the way it is too for communication.

To communicate effectively, we do not just speak words. We check out the responses after we have spoken the words. But in most speakers’ mind, they are so preoccupied with the next word, phrase or sentence that they simply forget to check out the responses by the audience.

What’s so risky about this is that the following sentence that comes out of the mouth is another one that does not mean anything to the listener. Why? Because they could already be lost on your first sentence!

Therefore, whenever we say something, we must internally ensure that the message is getting through. We do this by… observation. We watch out for signals emitted by our listeners then craft, in our minds, the next sentence structure that befits the listener’s response read by us.

So what’s the most easily forgotten part of communication? It’s Observation (of your listeners).

The placement and sequence of sentences matter in terms of aiding or obstructing comprehension.

Should you decide to place sentence C after sentence A, instead of the original sequence of sentences A, B and C? The whole message will turn out to be very different.

Well then, will it be sentence B or C after sentence A? Now this will be entirely up to what you had observed. Certain clues will lead you to mention sentence B after sentence A, while other signals will get you to prefer sentence C over B.

Of course, there is also nothing to stop you from deciding to say statement Z if you want.

But sound observation of your listeners is required in order to craft your next sentence maturely and fluently. This will ensure that your audience stay with you throughout the whole speech or conversation.

A Case Of The Lost Cause: How To Remedy It?

July 17, 2007

Ever tried to accomplish something that you dream of but gave up halfway? Did you ever decided that it was not worth your time and effort after all?

Well, then you are experiencing a case of the lost cause. A situation where the original cause or purpose of your actions are no longer worthwhile or justifiable.

In other words, to put it directly, you simply gave up on your dreams. For one excuse or another. Anyway, it’s gone.

And since it’s gone, what do people do next? Most spend the rest of the life lamenting and complaining about it. They drew out a series of excuses that they can conveniently pull out and place the blame on them for their lack of accomplishment. And mind you, these excuses are actually followed by well-argued rational and reasoning.

Nevertheless, it’s a lost cause.

To find back the cause and the purpose of why does it even matter to you in the first place, here are some remedies:

** Revisit the original site or event where your cause began.

** Review the original reasons for your cause and dreams.

** Reevaluate critically if you have discovered an even greater cause.

** Relate them to the consequences and the lives of your loved ones.

** Realize the cost you have to truly pay for moving from your original cause.

Remember, human beings are truly designed to accomplish and achieve. They are meant to pursue their causes and bring their dreams into reality. Those causes they have should be the driving force behind their inspiration instead of a lost cause.

The only case where the original cause should be lost is when you have a greater cause.

The Real Truth Behind The Leadership Connection

July 16, 2007

Whenever a person is brave and bold enough to step up to the calling, he becomes a leader. At that moment, he claims the right to make decisions according to his vision as well as the right to take on the challenges that lie ahead. However there is a right that is not automatically his… in theory yes, but not in practice. That is the right for others to obey him.

Leadership does not imply that other people must instantly submit to him. He must first earn it, either through his charming charisma, respectable personality or a worthy vision that everyone shares.

Charisma infects people and draws others to him. A personality worthy of respect makes others listen to him, while a common vision inspires others and unites everyone together with him.

Possessing all 3 conditions are not enough, a leader must also find a way to reach out to others so that these 3 traits can truly make their magic work. He must, thus, find a connection… the leadership connection.

When an ordinary man becomes a leader, he is no longer just an executive. His work is not only to act and to execute, but a majority of the time is now spent on planning, then to find ways to get others to execute his plan. Executing his plan by himself, on his own, merely makes him a better executive, not a better leader.

Hence, what is the real truth the leadership connection? It is actually the Emotional Connection.

The emotional connection comprises of ways to influence others, emotionally. After all, people don’t just obey you just because you feel like becoming a leader of others. Remember, leadership is not automatic. Barking orders will not get you far and will not let you remain leader for long.

Besides adhering to your plan of fulfilling the tasks, you must now first bridge with your followers. For without this bridge, you cannot get the 3 traits or conditions across into the hearts and minds of others to make them execute your plan. Emotional connection therefore is the answer.

Every single one of the traits arouses emotions in the people. Charisma arouses admiration and affection for the leader, personality arouses respect and reverence to obey the leader, and vision gives rise to inspiration and infusion of enthusiasm of everyone.

Therefore, leadership becomes as follows:

Leader —– ( emotional connection ) —–> Followers —– ( execute plan )—–> Goal

Modern leadership is not just about issuing orders, it is emotionally connecting and influencing others first before they will commit to executing your orders.

The next time you step into the shoes of leadership again, consider establishing the emotional connection as a bridge first to get others to dedicate and execute your plans.

In this way, not only will you excel, but with others in your court, you will truly excel beyond excellence!

The Root Cause of Conflicts: What Is It and What To Do?

July 15, 2007

It is often enough that people get into discomfort, quarrels, arguments, fights and wars . Yet it is not often enough that people stop to consider why do they even go into these in the first place.

Conflicts, as a result, happen in the community, our working life, during sales and negotiation, in studies, in our personal, private relationships and even within our internal self and ego.

These occurrence of conflicts cause great depths and degree of disharmony, undue stress and unease in our lives, often a disruption to our original life paths. (Are conflicts necessary? It’s possible to be necessary and does have its merits. We’ll leave this to our future discussion.)

But first let’s consider why do conflicts occur?

The root cause of conflicts is the clash of values (and beliefs).

Values, in layman’s term, refers to things, notions and subjects that we hold dear to our hearts and matter to us. They are critically important, gets top priority and have high worth to our life meaning and personal existence as human beings. Examples: love, survival, responsibility, helping others, savings, honesty, self-protection, commitment, integrity, happiness, etc.

Beliefs are statements of life and living (SoLL) we have come to accept as our own version of truth as a result of our values. Examples of beliefs: (you don’t have to accept these, they are just examples.)

We must put happiness before money versus money must be above-all.

Honest is the best policy versus be honest only if it benefits myself.

Family must come before career versus career before family.

There are so many other beliefs and values in our lives. I am sure you can come out with a number of examples of your own.

Hence, as you can see, its not always the case where people will agree with each other. Meaning? People don’t always see eye to eye with you.

Understand that these differences in values and beliefs in thinking and outlook of life arise from differences in upbringing, culture, beliefs and values, authority figures, inherent characteristics, personality traits, media exposure, life experiences, family, friends, loved ones (FFL), societal norms and mores, map of the world, social interpretation and symbolism as well as other variables.

When our own internal values and beliefs are being challenged, doubted or put to test, we experience an inner discomfort and unease. It accumulates to a point where we choose to unleash them and express these pent-up pressure in the form of frustrations and fury. Left unchecked, they escalate into observable arguments, debates, fights and wars.

However the ironic thing about war is that “it does not determines who is right, it determines who is left.” (Get the pun?)

Therefore, even if you win a quarrel, it does not always mean you are right, it simply means you are better at arguing. It also does not win you a friend.

What we can really do, is to be in a state of objectivity, discuss rationally and accept differences generously.

(Bare in mind, we are not condoning actions that cause grievous harm to others and those with malicious intent. As citizens of the world, those are truly values that have crossed the line.)

In order to work better towards resolution of conflict, certain fundamental premises must first be stated and accepted:

Basic Premise 1: People’s thinking and outlook can be different from each other.

Basic Premise 2: Hence our values and beliefs are different.

Basic Premise 3: Conflicts can happen but not necessary must happen.

Next, we work on the follow steps:

Step 1. Always Agree to Disagree first.

Step 2. Look for Areas of Acceptance, Appreciation or Agreement. (AoAAA)

Step 3. Change Perspective or Paradigm (CPP) to grow.

Step 4. Express our AAA for each other amicably. (Ways include saying thank you, smile, hugs, treat each other to drinks, sending a simple gift, or simply taking a break from arguing)

Step 5. Constantly expand your life learning to extend your areas of AAA.

Step 6. Appreciate life, its magic and mysteries.

Work these steps out to improve your relationships with yourself and others.

Be well to excel.

How Was Your Friday The 13th?

July 14, 2007

Just in case you haven’t noticed it, yesterday was another Friday the 13th. A supposedly unlucky day for most people. So for this time round, was yesterday more filled with unfortunate events than usual or did it remain the same just like any other day.

For this year 2007, there are 2 Friday the 13th. Just in April of months ago, I wrote about the notion of this notorious date on

It was an usual day for interesting events. Of course, there are trials and challenges that happened to me yesterday, like traveling a much longer distance to a more distant venue to conduct training on Interview Skills, being caught in an unexpected jam and a couple of taxi trips that took on a different turn.

But I realised that I was not even aware of the date itself. On hindsight, it was hardly extra-unlucky on that day. It was, to me, the usual issues.

Even when the little challenges cropped up, I was able to go into my automatic Solution Seeking System. It was a series of pre-programmed mental steps and planning in my mind that automatically results in my taking on solution generating behaviors. I’ve implanted this into my mental neurology years ago, almost the same time as when I first became a trainer and speaker.

What I’ve discovered is that we must truly learn to take control whenever we encounter issues. There are people who simple abdicate the decision to the circumstance that occur and let it flow. Well, if that’s their plan of life… to let external forces dictate their life, so be it.

I’d rather deal with it, take whatever necessary steps to improve it and move on, learning from it. In short, I take control.

Be it Friday the 13th, be it any unlucky day, I take control. It’s my life. Not the situation’s, not external forces’, but mine alone to be ultimately responsible for.

After all, taking control means the capability to excel.

The One Unchangeable Effect Of Emotions

July 12, 2007

Do you have feelings?

How are your feelings usually like?

What really causes you to feel this way?

The one unchangeable effect of emotions is that one type of emotion begets another. One negative feeling causes the rise of another negative feeling. And so does the positive ones.

If a person is feeling negative and interacts with the rest of his friends, those that come into contact with him becomes more negative too.

And contact in this case does not even need to mean physical forms like handshake. It can simply be eye contact or mere hearing of the words from this person’s mouth.

A negative emotion does begets another negative emotion.

A positive one inspires another positive emotion.

You can’t help but get affected by it… unless your mind is so strong, so tough that nothing can affect you. (That will make you close to an ice block.) It’s difficult not to be affected by someone.

If you want to get affected by positivity, stay close to positive people. Read positive thinking books and watch inspirational shows. Get as much into the positive side of emotions as much as positive.

Excellence does not come just from being the way you are. It comes from the willingness to change into the positive, then excelling becomes naturally.

Critical Comments About Complaints

July 10, 2007

Just finished conducting an intensive 2-day course on Managing Complaints From Difficult Staff. I love the course! It makes me reflect a lot and I too, find myself growing from the sharing and mutual learning. Thanks very much, dear participants!

In a fast paced, high-stressed society like Singapore, its not surprising that many people find themselves falling into the “complaint mode”. Every issue, be it a major concern or a minor irritation, can become the trigger factor for an onslaught of complaints.

“The coffee’s too hot! Are you trying to burn my lips??! Where’s the sugar?”

“What?! The work’s not done? What’s wrong with you? That slow?”

“This policy and procedure is simply ineffective. Takes up so much of my effort.”

“So little time, so much to do…”

The primary thing about complaints is that it often arise because of a need to vent frustrations and to seek a listening ear. Do understand that its not necessary seeking a solution AT THAT MOMENT, at least NOT YET.

Let the complaint be Expressed first, Acknowledge it (bearing in mind you DON’T have to agree with it.) then Address it. I call this the EAA steps.

The complainer simply needs to “get it out of his system”. Hence let him or her “complete the cycle of complaining” before you comment on it. If its uncompleted, (that is, expressed but not acknowledged), the complainer will simply repeat the similar complaint either at the same moment or the next time. Worse still, sometimes it is harbored for a period of time within the person, mentally and emotionally infesting, ultimately manifesting into a strong bull dozing anger outburst.

Its not the time for explanation nor the logical resolution. Not yet, not until you know the person is ready to listen to your opinion.

Complaints are essentially harsher expressions of opinions and viewpoints. And when its being spoken, the complainer’s “inner ears” are shut. They are not ready to listen to rationalization explanation at that instance.

Bide your time and watch for signals of emotional receptivity. Note the body language where the person has cooled and calmed down. Then probe for readiness to listen by asking diplomatically, “Would you like me to explain now?” and the likes.

Quick wittedness comes into play here. Your next comment after a complaint is extremely crucial. This next comment can simmer down his temper or raise the boiling anger beyond.

Instead of an instant defense of your viewpoint or an attack back to the complainer, you must approach with diplomacy, tact and caution. Use EAA. Before you rationalize with the complainer, check that the person has ‘cooled’ down already and is ready to listen to you.