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Negotiating the Economy: You Can't Save Your Face and Your Ass at the Same Time

by Victoria Pynchon
September 2008

From Settle It Now Negotiation Blog

Victoria Pynchon

See Marginal Revolution's post today The problem is that both of you are right citing David Brooks for the proposition that the "failure to pass the bailout represents a massive failure of American governance and leadership, most of all at the Congressional level. That's true even if you think, for other reasons, that the bailout was a bad idea. (Can any hero be cited in this debacle?)"

There are no heroes in this crisis -- only leaders and representatives of the people, many of whom are now being seriously burned, most particularly in their retirement accounts.  

If inaction is the answer (which I doubt -- see the Harvard Working Knowledge round-up of solutions from the smartest people in the room, here) our representatives should say so.  If they're afraid of looking bad, we should get rid of the bums.  If they're angry at Nancy Pelosi, they should get over it.  Though Pelosi's speech is an example of the way that being hard on the people rather than on the problem can cause negotiations to break down, surely our elected representatives realize they can't pout their way through this crisis.

We need in Congress what every negotiation requires:  preparation, communication, collaborative problem solving and, in this particular bargaining session -- courage, which Webster's defines as

"the attitude of facing and dealing with anything recognized as dangerous, difficult or painful instead of withdrawing from it; quality of being fearless or brave; valor. The courage of one's convictions or the courage to do what one thinks is right."

Come to think of it, all negotiations require courage.

So get back up on the donkey, Congress; be prepared; be principled; be brave.  We're counting on you.

And for those who aren't afraid to admit that they don't know the difference between a strategy and a tactic, here's a brief tutorial.

Here's more from Harvard (link here to full article)

If ever there was a time for resonant leadership, it's now. We need to rise above panic. Panic kills. Really, it does. If you're caught in a riptide (which we are) and you freak out, flail, fight it, you will die. If you smell smoke in the house and run wildly around gathering things you will die. If you freeze in your bed and hope the smoke is outside, not inside, you'll die.

This is not a time to give in to panic. Of course we are scared. It would be stupid not to acknowledge that the economic world as we know it -- knew it -- has changed fundamentally and forever. Actually it probably changed a while ago. We just ignored it, covered it up. So we are justifiably terrified. Now what?

Let's do something with our feelings, rather than let our emotions do something to us. Fear has its place -- it gets our attention. But we can't let it paralyze us. This is a time to breathe deeply. To think about what is most important -- family, life, health, love, purpose. And for my countrymen and women -- let's think about who we are as Americans. We can move beyond fear. What's beyond fear? Hope. Creativity. Resilience. Compassion. Courage.

Back to my daughter Sarah for a minute. She's at work today, in good spirits and having fun helping to create an awesome TV special about an inspiring American hero. My brother --also at work, creating. That's what he does--he creates new solutions for new problems. And me? I'm at work too. I spent the day with my team, a group of incredible people who dedicate their lives to others.

No, it won't be easy. But yes, we can make it, and we can make a better world too. That is not a noble goal, it is a necessary goal.

A final word. Common wisdom, backed up by research: hope, optimism, good humor and compassion (among other positive emotions and experiences) can literally free us from the deadly psychological traps of panic and anger. It takes tremendous self-management. But we can do it.

Courage quotes to remind all of us who we are:

Winston Churchill:

Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm

Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Theodore H. White:

To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform

Soren Kierkegaard:

To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.

Maya Angelou:

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.

Margaret Chase Smith:

Moral cowardice that keeps us from speaking our minds is as dangerous to this country as irresponsible talk. The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character.

Aristotle:

Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave act.

Charles DuBois:

The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.

 

Clare Booth Luce:

Courage is the ladder on which all the other virtues mount.

Dorothy Thompson:

Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live

Eleanor Roosevelt:

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.

Biography


Attorney-mediator Victoria Pynchon is a panelist with ADR Services, Inc. Ms. Pynchon was awarded her LL.M Degree in Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute in May of 2006, after 25 years of complex commercial litigation practice, with sub-specialties in intellectual property, securities fraud, antitrust, insurance coverage, consumer class actions and all types of business torts and contract disputes.  During her two years of full-time neutral practice, she has co-mediated both mandatory and voluntary settlement conferences with Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Alexander Williams, III and Victoria Chaney.  As a result of her work with Judge Chaney in the Complex Court at Central Civil West, Ms. Pynchon has gained significant experience mediating construction defect litigation.  Ms. Pynchon received her J.D., Order of the Coif, from the U.C. Davis School of Law. 



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