Conflict resolution

A number of years ago I spent most Tuesday and Friday nights wearing a skirt whilst other men in skirts tried to grab, punch, stab and hit me.

Sometimes with sticks.

To the uninitiated, as Mandy was quick to point out, it looked very, very gay. Not like a proper martial art at all. And in a way it wasn’t. In fact, the top dogs of the Ki Aikido Federation were adamant it wasn’t a martial art, more a physical philosophy … and there’s some truth in that.

One of the main principles behind defending an attack was: Put yourself in your partner’s place. From a martial art perspective this meant the safest place to be when someone is trying to hit you is beside and slighty behind them. Almost as if you’re trying to see the world from their perspective.

If someone tries to stab you with a knife you can kick, punch, slap or otherwise knock it out of their hand or you can try a fancy arm block/lock – but they aren’t half dangerous to apply and standing in front of someone who’s trying to stab you is silly.

A bit like standing in front of a rampaging bull. Bullfighters wait until the last second then simply step to one side and turn to face the same direction as the bull.

Same in Aikido.

Except the bulls are pointy and called knives.

Knife comes towards you, step to the side, drape a comforting arm across your assailant’s shoulders, grip the knife wrist with the other and hurl him to the floor.

Ideally, when someone attacks you in any way, you want them lying on the floor – preferably regretting their attack and wondering what the hell just happened. The beauty of Aikido is you gently encourage them to throw themselves at the floor.

You don’t stand in front of them, meet strength with strength and bodily hurl them down. No, no, no. You step aside, allow them to move past you. Agree with them, take them in the direction they want to go … at first. Once you’re both moving at the same speed in the same direction, you’re in control. You make yourself the centre, make them orbit around you and decide which part of the floor you’re going to plant their face into.

And here’s where the physical philosophy comes in – you can apply that technique to meetings.

Next time someone gives you a note you know for certain won’t work – agree with them.

“Yeah, sure, we could do that.”

Look at the note from their point of view – why are they asking that? Is it the change itself they want or is there some other reason? If changing x messes up y – instead of defending y, take a good look. Do you need y? What happens if y changes or is totally removed? A lot of times you’ll find you’re resisting a change because you’re wedded to a different idea when you don’t need to be. If that’s the case – change x and fuck y.

But what about those times when changing x is wrong? Well, again, agree with them … at first.

“Yeah, sure, we could do that.”

Then slowly move them off course, one little nudge at a time.

“Yeah … although, if we change x, does y still work? Oh, hang on though, if we change x and y we’re going to have to get rid of a, b and c. Shame, I think we both agreed a, b and c were the best bits. Ah, and d to g will have to be different. Be a lot of work but … perhaps if we use a different alphabet?”

By this point most people will decide they don’t want to change x after all. Now’s the time to be magnanimous.

“Shame, changing x is a good idea but … maybe we can use it in the sequel?”

And there you go, the note giver has completely changed their mind without you once having to say no or call them names. In most cases they won’t realise you talked them out of it and they’ll think it was their idea to discard the note.

Not that I’ve ever done this to you, of course. With you I’ve always implemented every note because they’re thoughtful, intelligent and benefit the story. It’s those other idiots I have to steer, not you.

Not that the phrase ‘other idiots’ implies you also are an …

Fuck it’s getting dark in this hole. Keep digging!

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Categories: My Way, Random Witterings | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Conflict resolution

  1. A few years ago I spent the waking hours of the working week amongst an assortment of City yuppies, muppets and go-getters, lurching from one meeting to another playing bullshit bingo under the table and making high-powered decisions on things that seemed to be important at the time.

    Every day was filled with political maneuvering, snide emails and power plays. Even to this day I still analyse body language and seating arrangements in meeting rooms.

    These were the kind of people who said things like “You’re either a hawk or a dove”, and believed it.

    I was a dove. At least, I pretended to be a dove. Compliant, easy-going, no hassle. But I still got what I wanted and did the jobs I liked precisely because I knew how to convince the hawks that they’d thought of it in the first place.

    After a while it got so easy it was kind of embarrassing.

    Yeah, I practiced a martial art for a while too: Tai Chi. Not joss-stick twirly hands leisure centre Tai Chi, but proper hitting people Wudang Tai Chi Chuan. There are some interesting parallels between that and Aikido; using your opponent’s force against themselves.

    Still, I’m not qualified to comment on it. I was dreadfully crap at it and didn’t practice hard enough. Not sure why I mentioned it now. I’ll get my coat.

  2. Pingback: It’s not(e) the end … « The Jobbing Scriptwriter

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