expertise in the fighting arts means being a great
fighter. At Iron Crane Dojo, self defense is very
important, but not nearly so important as being able
to avoid an unnecessary confrontation with dignity. In
the old days, considerable time was spent developing
techniques which helped students understand potential
threats, and to neutralize them before the only
possible outcome was battle. The following account is
fictional, though based on real life
experiences. Jack Thomas is a composite of
several men with like backgrounds, with whom Iíve
Somewhere in each of our
backgrounds, experiences have forged the person we are.
For Jack Thomas, Army Interrogation School was such an
. While sharing wine with Jack during a recent
encounter at a cocktail party, it occurred to me his
recollections of Army Interrogation School were directly
on track with those same notions, but unfolded with an
elegant simplicity I'd like to share.
The high drop-out rate,
and the demands on its participants left little doubt it
was among the Army's most challenging programs. Even
before entering, service members were already trained in
other areas, usually including foreign language.
According to Jack, he spent months studying interview
concepts, body language, and questioning routines. Role
players would visit, playing the parts of insurgents,
enemy soldiers, or even war zone civilians. Each
presented a particular problem for solution. Jack's task
was to "break" their defenses through proper application
of interrogation technique. In lay terms, that meant
finding out what was on their minds, then using the new
found information to encourage their cooperation.
The role players acted
from scripts. They cooperated only if presented with a
correct approach. Imagine going to see a play, then
finding yourself on stage as a main character. Flying
blind, you're forced to discover the script by feeding
off of cues and clues in the dialogue and movement of
others. Jack says that's how it was!
Responding to your
"correct" approach, the role player would abandon his or
her defenses, and start providing you with answers to
your questions. Sort of like holding a key ring in the
dark, trying one key after the other, until you find the
one which opens the door. The right key never fails, the
wrong key never works.
Jack adds, there was no
telling what might happen if the wrong approach was tried.
In one instance, his technique was so off the mark the
actor jumped over the interrogation table and tried to
strangle him. Even after his rescue by passing colleagues,
Jack never knew if the actor meant it, or if the script
was still on. He never found out, but you can bet his
technique was sharper next time out.
Jack adds he had no way of foreseeing the principles
learned then would become integral to his success in
life. In time, he learned how very much like role
players we all were, and how each of us possessed arrays
of switches and buttons. Activating these in different
combinations produced corresponding patterns of
response. Jack stresses, this is the equivalent of "Tai
Chi" for those of us who deal with people on a daily
basis. Identifying the switches requires you be an
emptied mirror, picking up every nuance and reflection.
Hitting the right switches gets you closer to where you
want to be, hitting the wrong switches moves you farther
away. Disregarding the switches spells disaster. What
can be simpler?
When someone chooses to
excel in a career, sooner or later they master the art
of hitting the right switches. Adult life is a
never-ending dance of professionals, personalities,
clients, customers, and issues. Instead of perfecting
our techniques against actors, we work daily amidst a
torrent of specialists, contractors, shoppers,
suppliers, competitors, etc., all of whom favor their
own very specific needs. Though these people aren't role
players, the concept applies just the same. They present
with a package of sensitivities, triggered for better or
for worse by how we relate to them.
pressed him for how to make it work in real life, Jack
responded, "To learn where another's switches lay, be a
good listener. Eventually, people will tell you exactly
what you need to know, if you let them. The difficult
part of this concept is that it's so simple. Simply shut
up!. Then Listen! The influence of our egos, our
opinions, and our perspectives, causes us to shut our
doors to the incoming signals. Wait until you understand
your counterpart's true objectives before reacting. Find
out what they really want. Determine whether they
deserve to have it. Then, decide if you can give it to
them. Never reverse the steps."
Notion of Utility
Behavioral experts have a
word for describing how certain commodities, actions, or
situations satisfy the personal needs of those involved.
The word is "utility." So, when the 35-year old Yuppie
advertising executive buys a new Porsche, his investment
might be difficult for the average grade school teacher
to understand. Motivating his decision is the degree of
"utility" derived from the purchase. This "utility"
represents a composite of influences. Maybe he wants to
look successful to his friends and associates. Perhaps
he's trying to upgrade his social life? It could be he
likes fast cars, then again it could be an investment,
and so on. You can bet that within thirty minutes of
meeting this gentleman, the person who sold him the car
listened, questioned, then listened again, until each
switch was identified. Knowing the needs, the
salesperson used the final five minutes to prove beyond
a doubt how purchasing the car would satisfy each and
every one. After triggering the right combination of
"switches," he moved to close the transaction!
That's it in a nutshell!
When someone asks me about hitting switches, i.e.
charting reliable courses through issues, personalities,
and constraints, I tell them what Jack had to say.
Through careful listening, and skillful use of proper
questioning techniques, you can learn to identify the
"utility" driving the decision making process of your
target. Once identified, all that remains is to
structure a proposal which addresses those needs,
without violating your own constraints. Try it, and see
how quickly hitting switches opens the doors to personal
Do you see how this
connects to your ability to defend yourself???