Reabro este hilo que estuvo perdido por un tiempo y que apareció luego sin contenido con estas notas editadas. Me disculpo por que estén en inglés, pero fue así como las escribí inicialmente. Espero que les sean útiles y que generen buenas e-conversaciones para que este hilo nos sirva a todos:
There is plenty of information about the benefits of the Shaolin Arts – Internal Martial Arts, Imperial Qi Gong and Zen - for health, vitality, combat, spiritual joy, etc., both in my Sifu´s books and on the net. The idea of this thread is to focus on another aspect of the applications of Taijiquan and Imperial Qi Gong principles to the Western World´s principles of negotiation.
Part of my job/hobby/personal interest focuses on the research and the application of non-Western wisdom to personal/organizational development. This interest started several years ago with my “discovery” of genuine Taijiquan as a profound Internal martial Art. For some years I had been practicing Shaolinquan and Bagua to improve my force and had gained very good Fa jing (explosive force) - my capacity to confront and destroy was great. Of course, this jumped over to all the non-combat situations of my life - meetings, negotiations, relationships, partnerships, etc. But confrontation and destruction only brought more of the same…
So, one day my Sifu recommended I should learn Taijiquan.
"It is slow and powerless" - I thought, but still decided to give it a try – “My Sifu knows best!”
I learned from him and soon after I started to gain a new, deeper perspective and great respect for the wonderful Internal Art of Taijiquan and its amazing possibilities of application in everyday life. Experientially, I came to realize that to kill was easier than to heal, to destroy was easier than to build, but that the essence of life was focused on the conscious use of "constructive power".
The deep meaning of the basic technique of "yielding" had been my greatest discovery since my Sifu introduced me to Taijiquan. And the application of this simple and powerful technique to daily life allowed me to start using my internal force not only in its destructive form, but also to build and to heal. Everything inside and around me started to change - when we construct, when we generate, when we add full value, everything around us constructs with us, generates with us, adds Full Value and soon everything is plentiful.
A couple of years after my initiation to Taijiquan, at a Warrior Project meeting (a martial arts combat training with my Sifu), he kindly invited me to be part of his Scholar Project, which was an initiative to connect the Shaolin Arts – especially the internal martial arts - to enrich everyday life. He suggested that I should start making connections to his teachings, philosophical background, principles, skills and techniques, etc., and the organizational and personal consulting work I did, to teach a workshop on those topics.
Of course, I accepted his invitation and, together with my dear Sister Emiko – a great internal martial arts Master, we designed and implemented a workshop we called “Shaolin & the Art of Negotiations”, which we led in Japan, the Netherlands, Canada, and several Latin American countries.
So, I decided to share some of my notes in this thread, hoping that someone might find them useful and also hoping to read others perspectives, discoveries, connections and applications of the internal arts to the art of negotiations...
Most of our negotiation skills are based on our capacity to debate. When we train our negotiation skills, we usually train our rational part. In negotiation workshops it is common to see the focus on developing such concepts as "concentrate on interests, not on positions", "insist on objective criteria", "find the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement"...
If the only focus to develop our negotiation power is “argumental” - our rational capacity to debate through comparative strengths - and we forget to train "the fundamentals", it is as if we would forget the “Three Internal Harmonies” in our martial arts training, and would only focus on external arm/hand training.
The Power in a Negotiation (Pn) is a relationship between our argumentative skills and our “energy fundamentals” (Pn = A+F). Even though the position of the variables doesn’t affect the outcome, I think it is clearer to put it this way: Pn = F+A:
Having conscious fundamentals increases the potential of arguments, very much like having the correct stances to increase the potential of our arms and hands. But as we know, it is not enough to have a correct stance to be able to use our arms and hands to absorb, neutralize and/or redirect an attack. It also requires that we learn harmony, internal force, correct timing and spacing, etc. The same principles are applicable for the proper training and gradual development of negotiation skills. Debate skills without the development of the non-rational aspects of a negotiation are not enough. We need to also focus on acquiring emotional, perceptive, intuitional skills to interact with our counterparts.
“Stance Training” in Negotiations
“A negotiation is an interaction which focuses on maximizing the valuable outcome for the maximum of parts involved.”
If we use this definition of negotiation as the basis for any interaction, then our "basic stance" is correct. When we practice internal martial arts, we have to focus on stance training to generate a good bedrock for all other aspects of the practice. The same applies to develop negotiation skills - If we keep this definition in our minds, souls, bodies and hearts throughout every interaction, we prevent negotiations from falling back to mere rational battles with shortsighted outcomes.
Therefore, our "stance training" to develop negotiations skills needs to follow the same basic rules we use for our martial arts training:
Using correct stances is not meant only physically, but in negotiations one should always go back to the original definition mentioned earlier, re-check that "basic stance" again and again and be able to readjust it anytime one finds it out of synch, until it becomes natural. As in martial arts training, it is good to have a qualified master or instructor, or a good sparring partner to keep an eye on this and help one refocus. Before one tries to apply this into "real combat", one should practice this with interactions that require less emotional involvement and that have low expected outcomes. If one learns to do this in this kind of settings it will become second nature and will come out easily at more difficult negotiations.
"Relaxed" is a term that is not easily understood in our Western World. It is commonly mistaken for unaware, disorganized, non-caring, but as in martial arts it refers to non-tensioned. If emotional tension is present, physical tension will join in and the mind will not be able to focus and be flexible at the same time. These three aspects go hand in hand, so if one of them gets tensioned the other two react alike. It doesn’t matter where this tension starts. A relaxed negotiator looks calm, feels calm, is calm, so his/her mind/heart/body are completely present, ready to act and react with firmness and flexibility at the same time. Many internal martial arts practitioners that are involved in high-level executive decision-making always mention that these arts truly help them to be alert and relaxed at the same time.
"Smiling from the Heart", one of the main fundamentals of our training, is essential at negotiating. When an individual learns to Smile from the Heart, he/she is connected to everything in the Universe. One is both integral as a human being (physically, intellectually, emotionally, intuitively and energetically) and in Togetherness with All. In this way, the only possible outcome of any interaction, be it a negotiation or else, is of maximum benefit for the maximum of parts involved. Our perceptive senses and emotional focus gather information from each action and reaction of those involved. At the same time, the mind plays with the facts, the different criteria presented, the possible outcomes of each scenario, etc. And our intuitive part searches for hidden options with best mutual benefits, usually unknown to everyone, including ourselves. This integral approach generates surprising results, which may seem “magical”. But they are the simple result of the integration of focus of our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual body as guides for our energetic body to flow and generate value.
The Art of Yielding
In genuine Taijiquan the concept of “Yielding” is essential. Yielding is not easy to describe in words, but it could be defined as the correct sequence to absorb, neutralize and redirect an attack, as in Taijiquan.
The conscious capacity to yield gracefully during a negotiation to allow the counterpart to "attack" with arguments, gives us the opportunity to generate new perspectives in the negotiation. Yielding in a negotiation does not mean giving up or losing, but offering vulnerability through questions about the counterpart’s perspective to allow the full debate to happen, very much like the tactic of "offering an opening to create an opportunity to attack" used in internal martial arts.
Once we have attentively and actively listened to their offer, and have asked with real interest to fill us up with more info about it, showing interest in finding a new outcome, the counterpart usually feels less threatened, opens up and allows for both parts to find a more reasonable outcome. This is a very difficult habit to acquire. We tend to enter a debate with "force against force" causing a no-exit situation. We both lose, but each feels they won "their one case", because we proved the other one wrong. Yielding is a skill which needs to be trained and practiced until it turns natural. A negotiator that knows how and when to consciously yield has better fundaments to make his/her arguments more effective.
Tension Threshold and Yin-Yang Differentiation
“Every group has a threshold for tension that represents its optimal level of conflict among members. Conflict too far below this level results in group apathy, boredom and lack of involvement. Prolonged conflict above this level, on the other hand, causes shared disagreement, heightened hostility, and a loss of group effectiveness. What is needed then, is a balance between too little tension and too much tension…” - Donelson R. Forsyth, “An Introduction to Group Dynamics”
This same principle applies for negotiations between two or more parts. Many times, a negotiation requires for us, as conscious facilitators of the process, to “move back” and allow the counterpart to “attack”. This attack will decrease tension and allow us to move around the “most efficient tension level” (Tension Threshold – TT). This is “simple”, but not “easy” to do. When we practice Taijiquan we develop the skill of yielding, to avoid situations where “brute force opposes brute force”. We learn to absorb the opponent’s attack and create new opportunities for us. But in a negotiation, there are other times when we are required to initiate the attack (use force!), so the counterpart feels the threat and reacts, increasing the tension and elevating the interaction to the TT.
The practice of Taijiquan helps us develop skills to assess the right action to generate the best result at the right time. Once we learn this for combat application, the transfer of these skills to the world of negotiations is natural. When we learn to be relaxed and alert at a combat situation, we can use the same skill at a negotiation to avoid “emotional reactions” to an attack. When we learn how to use force or diffuse the counterpart’s force as a means to take the interaction to the TT, we are applying the basic principles of Taijiquan to our negotiating skills.
Most “negotiators” don’t even know the existence of the TT concept and even less how to recognize it and play the “force” game to move the interaction towards it. During our practice of Taijiquan we learn to differentiate between Yin and Yang and we experientially realize that they are not static opposites, but an infinite possibility of harmonious combinations. During a negotiation we can find the TT, understanding it as the most harmonious combination of Yin and Yang between the parts, and we can play the game of conscious use of force to create and recreate this balance once and again. Then the negotiation will be at its most effective level.
Our internal martial arts training focuses a lot on the concept appropriate use of force. When we are pushing hands, striking hands, or free sparring we neither hit each other with full force nor make full contact at dangerous spots of the body. We simply “mark a victory” with a gentle tap, so both training partners realize that in actual combat that opening could have been highly dangerous or even lethal. When teaching, we usually show how correct spacing allows us to make contact, penetrate or go through the opponent’s body with a punch, for example.
This principle applies perfectly to the conscious search for the ideal tension threshold:
We usually use our words to convey our thoughts through rational arguments. The Modern Western World uses language mainly to this level. But words are “perceivable energy”. The more we understand this concept the better we can use said energy. We can use the energy of our words to “touch, penetrate or go through” our counterpart at a negotiation. The response we’ll get will depend on the depth of that “strike” and the force applied to it. In order to reach the tension threshold one needs to learn to adjust this. This is not done through more volume or the use of aggressive language, but through “energy management”. As in the practice of internal martial arts this is a matter of intention (mind, heart…); it is intention that manages energy. When we train internal martial arts we develop the skill to generate and manage internal force. This internal force is usually applied in combat, but it can also be trained to be used as “adjustable - perceivable energy” through our words. Once we learn this skill, we can “energetically” move our counterpart and ourselves to the most beneficial level of the interaction, and then, once there, we can present our rational arguments, making the most out of them.
Energy and Mind in Negotiations
Here is another link between the essence of internal martial arts (especially Taijiquan) and the art of negotiation:
“To get the best results from any Taijiquan set, you must understand its energy and mind aspects so that your poetry in motion is imbued with internal force and consciousness.” - The Poetry of Energy and Mind – The Complete Book of Tai Chi Chuan, Wong Kiew Kit.
Several authors/trainers have developed a high quantity of tools, methods, and techniques, to improve the “form” in a negotiation. Roger Dawson, for example, calls them “Secrets of Power Negotiating” and these include his famous “Negotiating Gambits” or maneuvers for advantage (. A negotiator that has been trained in these concepts will have a better form and therefore an advantage against a non-trained counterpart. Dr. Robert B. Cialdini () has gone deeper into his research and has touched aspects of “energy” with his “6 Universal Principles” of persuasive psychology, and Dr. Ed Brodow () has touched the “mind” concept of clear intention with his “Three Rules for Win-Win Negotiating”. People who incorporate the energy and mind aspects into their negotiation skills will be in great advantage even against a skillful “technical” or “form” negotiator. But someone who understands the principles of Jing, Chi and Shen through direct experience and disciplined practice will be able to combine this knowledge and skills with those of the classical negotiations and be the most powerful yet gentle negotiator, because his/her interactions will be “imbued with internal force and consciousness”. The poetry of energy and mind will be easily transferable to any of his/her daily actions. That is the essence of the art of negotiating – consciously generating meaningful interactions of energy to create maximum results for the maximum parts involved.
Here is a simple example of a paradigm change in our mind focus at a negotiation, which can generate great impact:
In most negotiations, most people see their counterpart as their enemy. And they come to the negotiation table with the essential paradigm of “knowing their enemy to be able to win the battle”.
What would happen if we would consciously change the term "know your enemy" for "understand my counterpart"? Or even better, “create unthought-of agreements with my negotiating partner”?
When we practice Taijiquan we view our fellow practitioners not as our "opponents"; we view and therefore treat them as our "practice partners". This simple but profound change of perspective makes all the difference when interacting with others at Pushing Hands, combat sequences or sparring. And its application in everyday life has deep positive consequences, also. In every negotiation, if seen as an interaction that seeks an agreement that generates value for every party involved, our "counterpart" is our negotiating partner and not our rival. We can then explore new possibilities, new opportunities of potential agreements, which neither had seen before.
But how do I change my counterpart from a “rival” to a “negotiating partner”?
The principle of reciprocity is the magic key here: I don´t need to find ways to "make them like me"; I need to find ways to convince myself of "why I like them". And I am easy to convince by myself! Once I have done that, my counterpart will most probably reciprocate my behavior and an opportunity for agreement will develop. This will not happen if I see/label my counterpart/client as my enemy.
Taijiquan principles in action!
Relaxed and Focused
There is an important difference in Spanish between very similar words that most people don’t see: "Negocio" translates as business or deal, an interaction that seeks maximum value for most of the counterparts involved. "Negociación" is an opportunity, limited in time and space, to reach an agreement about a specific deal or business. This difference is commonly missed, and so people cannot take full advantage of the opportunity. As in a combat situation, it is not necessary the most technically advanced adversary the one that comes out with a victory, but the one that makes the most out of the given (or purposefully created) opportunities.
In a negotiation of any kind, one must be alert with all his/her senses, to see the opportunities emerge, yet relaxed to be able to use argumentative data calmly and precisely. It is not only a matter of having done the necessary research to have the right data for debate, but to know how and when to use them. Many times, negotiators use all their arguments quickly and end up empty-handed. A good negotiator needs to be alert yet relaxed to maximize the impact of each of his/her arguments.
The conscious development of a harmonic relationship between relaxation and alertness is a normal consequence of good Taijiquan practice.