Hitting Switches

Hitting Switches

For many, 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 had  acquaintance.

Somewhere in each of our backgrounds, experiences have forged the person we are. For Jack Thomas, Army Interrogation School was such an experience .  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.

Learn to Listen

When I 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."

The 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 fulfillment!

Do you see how this connects to your ability to defend yourself???

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