This years travel December 28, 2009
At the end of each year, I like to review what I did, things I liked, things I didn’t, how I grew and other interesting things I learnt.
This year I thought I’d share some of my explorations in Travel…
First off, I did plenty of travel. This year I traveled to (sometimes multiple times):
New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Phillipines, Japan and Malasia. And around Australia to Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Cairns, Byron Bay, and many others. All told about 26 weeks away.
Worst situation while traveling. Once again, a stop over story. Returning home from Malasia and routing through Singapore I had a 7 hour stopover. Now I hate stopovers anyway, but this one was extra special as it was between midnight and 7 am.
I knew this would be the case when I booked the tickets, and I thought – incorrectly it turns out – Singapore being an international hub, would have the business class lounges open between those hours.
Next time (and I’ve said this several times already in my personal history) I’ll book a more direct flight…
Best situations in transit:
Traveling through Malasia for the first time. On arrival the city didn’t touch me. The food was great, but I can find great food almost anywhere. It took about a week for me to get a real feel for the country.
Practicing my language learning in Japan. Both encouraging and disheartening all at the same time. Encouraging because I had the ‘tip of the toungue’ feeling while listeining to certain conversations. Disheartening when I compared that to listening to the news.
Being slammed into the Aikido mat over and over again in many and varied cities.
Can you control your emotions? December 22, 2009
An easy question to answer – it depends…
Being in control of your emotions does not mean you can’t get angry, upset, sad or even happy. It means you have choice of what emotion you feel when.
At least in the western world, ‘emotional control’ often implies no emotion at all. A robot.
The opposite side of this is the person who is a rudderless boat under full sail in an emotional storm. Every event they have a full emotional response to. Very young kids are often like this.
For an aduly, both are just as bad as the other.
Part of the reason for this is there is a prevailing idea that emotions are out of our control. Many times you’ll read an article or listen to someone speak and notice the underlying current that because someone has emotional control, they are somewhat special, or somewhat alien. In reality they are special like someone with a ham sandwich is special – anyone can get a ham sandwich if they put the effort in.
With your friends, they are used to your emotional responses, be they high, low or inbetween. When interacting with someone new, the amount of emotion you can display changes with the person you’re speaking with. For example, in general if you’re speaking to Japanese, emotional outbursts will damage your credibility (or worse). Not enough emotion when speaking to others will achieve the same result.
The trick is to always know yourself first, and then the person you’re speaking to.
Self deception is good? December 3, 2009
Such interesting research that it fits into many different areas. From life, sports, business and other pursuits. And the research hints at top performers often ’self-deceive’ more than others.
Psychologist by the name of Joanna Starek discovered that swimmers who lie to themselves swim faster than those who do not. (Link to the research).
The document hints at much of the other evidence out there that ’self-deception’ helps with stress, depression, happiness, and more.
Above all, this shows that the ability to focus on your goal, ignoring any other information that goes against that goal, makes it more likely to reach your goal.
So what do you think? Is self-deception needed for success? Does it help at all from your perspective?
Thanks to Radiolab for the links.
How do we miss the message? November 19, 2009
Last week I discussed the idea of non-verbal clusters. If you read it, you probably said to yourself, “Of course”. Yeah, you’re an intelligent aware human, you know this basic stuff. So how come we so often miss these clusters until after the fact?
You might have had the experience, but I’m sure you know someone who has: After some particularly bad experience you (or your friend) say something along the lines of, “how could I be so blind?” How could you miss obvious signs of lying?
Chances are you’re listening too much to what is being said. Maybe the person is telling you exactly what you want to hear:
“You’re good looking.” (While they smirk and shake their head.)
“I like and respect your opinion.” (Said while reading an email.)
“I trust you to do some tasks.” (While their shoulders shudder and their voice wavers.)
I’m not suggesting that what is said is not important. It is very important. However, it’s no more or less important than the rest of the message. Forget the well known research that says that only 7% of the message is verbal. While that’s true (for a very select type of communication) the communication itself is worthless without that 7%! Just try and communicate with someone who doesn’t speak your language to know how critical that 7% is.
So how do we train ourselves to not get caught by the words? As with most things – practice. We’ve practiced (even trained) to only listen to the words. Breaking that habit can be hard. It is possible.
Start with watching their eyes. When they talk, notice where their eyes go. Once you can keep watching their eyes while listening fully, notice the connection between where they look and the words they speak. When they pause to think, do they look in the same direction every time? Where do they look when talking about themselves, about others, about events, about places?
Yeah, this is a basic, but if you’ve not done this before it can be tough. Stick with it and you’ll pick up much more than just their eye movements.
Feel free to comment about your experiences below!
Non-verbal clusters November 12, 2009
In a general post, I wrote about how to improve your lie detection. Now when I state lie detection, I’m also talking about every other thing a human can do. Truth detection, for example, is much harder than lie detection.
Emotion detection is also a useful skill. You may think that’s obvious to tell when someone’s emotional, and you’re right. However, we often find meaning where there is none.
Imagine you walk into a room, and there is an acquaintance of yours sitting by themselves with tears running down their cheeks. Are they happy or sad? We don’t know – chances are they are sad but we are not a statistic, so we can’t tell just by seeing the tears.
Now, if there are tears and they are frowning, that increases the likelihood that they are sad. If their shoulders are hunched, they hide their face in their hands, their breathing is shallow, and the likelihood goes up even more. All these single non-verbal messages go together – they cluster. The more matching messages clustered together, the more certain you can be (but never to 100%) of the emotion.
Another way to put this: Every single human gesture has multiple meanings. If you sense one single gesture, it could mean any one of those meanings. When you see two gestures at the same time, the meanings overlap. The meanings that don’t overlap can be ignored. The more gestures you spy, the more likely you can know the meaning.
How to haggle November 6, 2009
Last week, I was in China having another adventure.
During my stay I had the joyous opportunity to visit a few large bustling markets. These markets are full of small (usually no larger than a few meters square) open stalls, filled to overflowing with all kinds of merchandise and staffed with some of the best negotiatiors on the earth.
All of the markets I visited haggling for price was expected. When I first arrived, I was told this, but forgot some of my most important haggling skills. It’d been almost a year since bartering on the streets of Bangkok, and I’d forgotten what I was doing. And this is why I’m doing this post – to remind me what to do next time, so I don’t again pay a 100% markup on items.
Bad example 1: My first purchase of the week I asked for the item by name. Several were shown and a price of 150 was stated. I countered with 40. He dropped to 100. I raised to 50. He dropped to 60. At this point, I knew I’d made a mistake buy stating a high price too early. I walked out with the item for 50. See rules #4.
Example 2: Later that same day, I haggle over a sweater. The sales girl starts with, “This is nice, genuine cashmere” (see rule #14), “last customer I sell for 1200, for you I give you best price 1000.” (see rule #3).
I counter with “Too much. 10.”
She gives me an academy award performance of shock (rule #24), “No. Best cashmere. Last customer I sell for 1300 (yes, in direct contrast to the 1200 thirty seconds ago), for you 900.”
“No, way too much. Thankyou.” I say, turning to walk away (rule #5). She grabs my arm.
“How much, real price, not crazy price.” (Rule #15)
Example 3: I’m haggling for some belts and we’re about half way through the negotiation. She says “You good bargainer.” I say, “You’re better.” (see rule #9, #26).
She thrusts the calculator into my hand again, “your best price.” I type out another very low offer, she looks at it, looks at me with confusion and says jokingly “You Aussies are usually so nice.” (see rule #24).
Example 4: I look at some nice fans. The girl shows me the variety, explains the double silk and bamboo construction. The opens the negotiation with 200. I shake my head say “crazy price” and just walk off. She yells after me, “100! Ok 50. You good bargainer 20, 10!” (see rule #5, #15)
Example 5: I’m haggling over a teapot. Their initial price 500. Mine 20. They come down some, I immediatly jump to 80. We then spend the next 10 minutes with me staying on 80, and them dropping the price by increasingly smaller amounts. They began getting frustrated that I wouldn’t raise my offer. (See rule #11.)
Bad example 6: I’m haggling over some luggage. There was about a thousand RMB difference between our two prices, and I’d already raised the max I would pay twice. I guessed (incorrectly it turns out) that we can’t meet so start to walk away for the third time. The sales girl physically stops me and says, “Best price,” and for the third time I give the same price I did last time. I then start to move her and she says, “ok,” dropping 1000 off her last offer. (Rule #5, #2 and #21).
Bad example 7: Negotiating hard for a nice jade pendant and silver chain we’d tested the jade several times to prove it’s real jade and not plastic. The chain was a fine silver chain. Once we settled on price, she took away the chain and pendant and offered it to her assistant to package. As I’m watching to ensure they don’t swap for a similar looking plastic pendant, the attendant says, “which sized necklace?” and they swap the necklace right in front of me. It’s not a bad replacement necklace, just different than what I was negotiating for. See rule #31.
So after those examples, these are my loose rules for haggling. They can be used anywhere, and even extended to bigger price negotiation, but work best for small scale, one off situations that you find in these kinds of market.
- Let them state the price first.
You might have been happy to pay that initial price, now you know you would be paying too much.
- If you think you got a good deal, you did. It doesn’t matter if someone else got a better deal or you could have got a better price if you did something different.
- They will usually give an overblown price, then immediately discount just for you. Related to rule #10.
- Counter with 1/10 price or less.
This is highly dependant on the market, some more, some less. However, you’re low-balling, just like they are high-balling. Do so with a smile knowing you’ll haggle. Related to rule #11.
- At least once walk (or threaten to walk) away, if they call you back, or yell a lower price. The relationship and negotiation is still on.
- Except in the most extreme situations, it’s unlikely they’ll ever sell at a loss. That means profit is their problem not yours. Your job is to get the best deal you can, and have fun doing it.
- Joke around, flirt, have fun. This is enjoyable (or should be) for both of you. See rule #20, #6.
- If they touch you, touch them back in the same way.
- If they compliment you, compliment them back.
- They often have a bad, fake or broken version of the product you’re haggling over. They might offer you the bad version for your last price. This means you’re on track.
- It’s much, much easier to start low and raise your price in tiny increments, than staying on your initially higher price.
- If you buy and they seem angry, you got a good deal (although they would have still made a profit – see rule #6) Related to rule #24.
- If you bargain too hard and don’t end up making the deal. You now know their profit margin, go to another store and start over with this new information. Usually in these markets, all the stores have the exact same products.
- They will throw reasons at you to convince you to buy. “You can’t get this at home”, “Best product”, “Genuine, not fake”, “best here”, etc. Throw the same number back. “I have to carry it home”, “Not the colour I want”, “See the scuff mark here” doesn’t matter what the reason is, use it to justify your last price just as they do.
- Use the exact words one stall uses with you on another. “Crazy”, “kill me”, “hard bargainer”. Etc.
- Say no many times before saying yes.
- Go in early or late. First and last customers of the day have an easier time getting a good deal through most of Asia.
- Take their comments and compliments and own them. “I am your best customer!” Tends to throw them off.
- They are the person that’s working. Make their job enjoyable and you get a better deal.
- Have fun. Smile, joke around. See rule #19
- Do some preparation before hand. Find out rough price guides for what you’d be expected to pay. Ask many locals (and some forigners for comparison). Incorporate this information into you initial offer and maximum price.
- Make one, or a few tiny purchases first. Things you might not want, but can use as gifts. Haggle very hard. Haggle so hard that the shop owner doesn’t sell to you. This gives you direct experience on what to expect when you’re haggling too hard or too soft.
- Do not raise your voice or get angry. It’s never ever personal. See rules #19, #20.
- They can act well. You’ll experience shock, upset, mild anger, and other emotions. They might even laugh at you and throw insults in your direction. “Aussies are usually so nice.” Act back, win an oscar for me.
- Keep an ear out to the haggling going on to your left and right, you can know how good or bad yours is doing comparatively. Did the person before you pay less or more? You can also use this to know the markup. See rule #4, #21.
- Flattery works both ways. See rule #9 #15.
- Carrying a bag with purchases changes the dynamic. You’re now a confirmed buyer of ‘that product’ and usually get a better response. They might ask how much you paid, you can use that to negotiate another one of the same for cheaper.
- You will not be treated as the unique individual that you are in the beginning. You will be offered an initial price based on some unknown reason. Could be their standard price, could be your accent, shoes, haircut, or just that the last guy paid off. It’s not about you. See rule #23.
- When a second person joins the negotiation, you’re getting a good deal, or having fun or both.
- Bulk or multi item discounts add additional aspects to the negotiation.
- Watch for the bait and switch.
Above all remember their job is to get as much money as they can out of your wallet and yours is to keep as much as you can in your wallet while getting the items you want and have fun doing it.
Do you have any others that you use?
Meaning and belief October 29, 2009
Events have no meaning in themselves.
Imagine you’ve planned a huge party. You’ve planned the food, layed out the tables and drinks on your lawn. Put up streamers and lights preparing for a big night. The sun is high as people arrive. Soon the party is rocking, everyone enjoying themselves. Suddenly, within minutes the wind picks up. Dark clouds gather and rain begins to fall. How do you feel about the rain?
As a seporate example, imagine you are sitting at home reading a book. Outside is a cold winters day, but inside is warm and cosy. You’ve just got yourself a nice warm beverage. Suddenly, within minutes the wind picks up. Dark clouds gather and rain begins to fall, spattering the windows. How do you feel about the rain?
As a third example, imagine you are a farmer and your farm has been in drout for the past three years. You’re walking through a dusty field and suddenly, within minutes the wind picks up. Dark clouds gather and rain begins to fall. How do you feel about the rain?
The rain itself is the same, the surrounding events different. All that really makes the difference is not the rain, but the meaning you attribute to that rain.
Beliefs are like this as well. Because of a belief we attribute specific meaning to events.
How to improve your lie-detection October 22, 2009
From my previous post, I forgot to mention one of the most important aspects needed to improve! (and not just lie-detection either)
That aspect is feedback. It’s all well and good to think you caught a hint that something was wrong. It’s another thing entirely to follow up and find out if it is/was misunderstanding, exaggeration or mistake.
You may think you’re the best person at detecting lies, but unless you follow up to confirm your suspicions, you’re just lying to yourself. Think of poker players, they have to first spot, then test that the tells are consistent.
So what are some of the ways you can get feedback? As I discussed, outright asking won’t help. One of the best methods I know of and use is to write down my suspicions. Write out what they did and said, and what you thought was going on. You can refer back to this in a few months time after the situation has changed. You can ask someone about it at that time as well, as usually the overall situation has changed and they won’t mind telling you what was happening. Often new information will come to light just over that time.
A good example of this was many years ago when I was working as a consultant. One of my clients was a single older female who wore a lot of jewelry. Many rings, often multiple on each finger, bracelets and necklaces.
This went on for many months, until one day she came into work wearing just as many necklaces and bracelets, but a single very simple ring. Instantly this change got my attention. I made a joking, exploring comment along the lines of “Anything special happen on the weekend?” And she replied with a no.
So I made a note. Described the behaviour, and that I thought she had gotten engaged. A few weeks later I got confirmation that indeed she was engaged.
If you do this and discover that you’re wrong, this is much better feedback that if you’re right. And this is the main reason I write down what happened as wel as what I thought. It means I can adjust my thoughts next time I see that same behaviour. Being right means you’re right. Being wrong means you’re learning. But only if you make that effort.
Today is the day… October 15, 2009
Stressed and under pressure?
Take a breath and put to one side all that stress and pressure that you’re under. We’ll come back to it soon enough.
Now we’ve got a break, let’s ask a few questions to give us some perspective.
What is your outcome from work?
Two years ago, where did you want to be?
Two years ago, what did you want to be doing?
Two years ago, who did you want to be?
What do you want to achieve right now?
What do you want to achieve in two years?
What do you want to be doing in 2 years?
Who do you want to be doing it with?
Who do you want to be?
If you could do whatever you want without failure, what would you do?
What would you be doing if it didn’t mean anything about who you are?
What would you do if it was ok to fail?
How would you know when you achieved your outcome?
How would the people around you get tangible benefit?
Take another breath.
Decide now if you want to pick up that stress, that will sit and wait for you indefinitely, or if you want to do something else. Be something else?
Are you good at telling lies? Are you good at noticing them? October 1, 2009
Recently the TV series “Lie To Me” started it’s second season. A show detailing the adventures of a human lie detector. And throughout the show, they offered hints on how to tell if someone is lying. Hints like micro-expressions, word choice, body movements, gestures and more. All very interesting.
Unfortunately, even with hints like that, even people you’d think would be good at lie detection – psychologists, poker players, actors – are no better than you.
When most people talk about lie detection, they consider things like a cheating husband, or thief claiming innocence. It is however very useful in everyday life. For example, have you ever had the experience where you asked someone for a favour and they flaked on you? How useful would it be to know when you ask for that favour you know they don’t express the whole truth when they say ‘yes’?
Other examples are when you talk to your boss about your raise, or when you ask a client if there is anything else you can help them with, or when you as a friend if they liked the cake you baked?
Maybe with that last example you’d rather not know…
Either way, lie detection is a science, and can be learnt. It’s also an art, but that too can be learnt.
So here are a few hints and tips for lie detection:
Be aware of the behaviours in front of you - How the person holds their hands, blinks, breathes, where they look, how long they pause. It all relates to their internal state.
Be aware of dramatic changes in those behaviours such as holding their breath, reduced or increased blink rate, faster or slower speech etc. These all relate to this individual, at this time, only. Tomorrow they might well be the opposite.
Listen, all the time – Verbal pacing, word choice, incessant talking, pauses (or lack of). They all give you hints of what’s going on internally for this person.
Look for anomalies - hands and eyes pointing in different directions. Saying yes and shaking their head no. Blink or look away.
Ask the right questions – Asking ‘are you lying?’ will (almost) always get a congruent no. Asking ‘is there anything else you want to tell me?’ may also get a no, but might also show some of the other hints above.
After a while, you might discover that someone ‘always’ covers their mouth when they lie, or that they ‘always’ look you right in the eye. You might also discover that there is no common element with someone else. Understand how someone lies is deeply personal and varies depending on the lie, context, environment, pressure they feel and many other variables.
In the end, once you know someone just lied to you, withheld some information, or just exaggerated the truth, what you do next is up to you.older posts »