Keeping Counsel

Keeping Counsel
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My Recent Posts

Of course this is no site for shrinking violets.  Here we tend to shout first and ask questions later.  We all like the sound of our own voices.

However in my work as a salesman I am continually reminded that I have two ears and one mouth and that they should be used in that proportion.  To persuade you cannot succeed by only being on transmit.  You have to truly understand the other persons point of view.  That means suspending judgement and listening.  It also requires you not to come out with your own opinion.

This is also a great way to travel.  Encourage those that you meet along the way to come out with their ideas.  Listen, even (or especially) if those ideas are different to your own.

It leads to some truly memorable experiences.  It leads to truly connecting with people.  Then, once you have that basic connection, you can, with great tact and sensitivity, advance some opinions of your own.


Autumn Cote Added Jan 2, 2014 - 9:56am
Recommended.  Writer beat is great Evidence of what you're talking about.  Note how few people comment in the articles of other writers.
Robin the red breasted songster Added Jan 2, 2014 - 10:56am
Sales is not my occupation. 
I consult in marketing in the broadest of senses.  Today I work part time for an aid agency (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent... see my article on the TERA project), an agricultural software business and a mobile phone operator/bank fraud management software company (of which I am a founder).
Robin the red breasted songster Added Jan 2, 2014 - 11:00am
Shows you what we have done in Haiti.  We have also a system live in Sierra Leone.
Promoting TERA as a concept in delivering aid has taken me to a number of interesting places and introduced me to a wide range of very interesting people.
Robin the red breasted songster Added Jan 2, 2014 - 11:47am
Suspending judgement is the other key thing.  Being prepared to accept that there might be another valid point of view.
But it's hard to do so.   Especially if you identify with a "tribe" of some sort that espouses a particular viewpoint.  The tribe can be national, political, religious etc etc
Robin the red breasted songster Added Jan 2, 2014 - 4:27pm
Thank you Diana. 
It is good to be passionate.  But it is not good to shout others down.  I do worry that the aggressive "Anglo Klaxon" nature of some comments may deter some from saying what they really think.
We should be polite and encourage people to participate openly and honestly.  We should welcome different views, even though we may disagree with them.
In the pub we can disagree violently.  In fact in most pubs you will have a wide distribution of opinion.  But it is all done pleasantly and we will also all share a joke together.
It would be nice if we could behave in a similar way on this site and that we could all share a drink and a joke together.  Though sometimes I feel as if I am more likely to be torn limb from limb...
Steve Borsher Added Jan 2, 2014 - 4:54pm
"With the rich and mighty, always a little patience"? Why?  Robin, you probably work with politicians.  That is something I could never do. 
Steve Borsher Added Jan 2, 2014 - 5:29pm
I should have put wanna-bes after rich and mighty. It's really the pseudo-rich that are an enormous pain in the a$$. I could tell you stories ...
Robin the red breasted songster Added Jan 3, 2014 - 2:20am
Very good suggestions Adam.   I think asking open questions is key to a good conversation.
Diana:  I think that this is actually a very cold medium in which to converse.  On the phone you can hear someone's voice.  Face to face you can see their expression.
Face to face you can say quite strong things but with an expression which communicates good intent.  On Writer Beat all you have is the cold, hard text.  That is always, unless you try hard to avoid it, going to lead to greater heat.
David:  As to the not revealing too much about yourself.  I think we should reveal where we are coming from.  There are some on this site who I suspect of having a hidden agenda... for example some perhaps lobbying opinion on behalf of religious schools of thought, political agenda (mainly right wing) and perhaps the oil companies (anti doing something about global warming)
In my opinion it is not a problem to have an agenda, but I would like to know what it was... with whom I am really speaking.
I know, for example, that you are having a serious argument with a Mr Bey.  I have no idea who either of you are.  You ask me to support your view but all I see are you flinging expletives around. (I have not found the will so far to try and read any of Mr Bey's stuff because the content does not appeal to me).  Clearly you are a very passionate character but I have no idea why certain things seem to get you so angry.
What would be the problem with us all revealing what we do and the values we hold?   Maybe our hobbies and political affiliations (if any.... I have none)
Robin the red breasted songster Added Jan 3, 2014 - 2:24am
Politicians:  I have met plenty of those... mostly within large corporations.
I come with a proposition which is entirely positive for all concerned:  saves lives, helps to protect your business, makes you look good to the politicians who regulate your market and maybe makes you significant tax credits.
Yet still they ponder exactly what's in it for themselves personally and generally piss about to avoid actually doing anything.
Most actual politicians have been rather helpful.  The Minister of Telecoms in one African country actually required the mobile phone operators to turn up to a meeting with me.  We were sat in an office with her and four delegations from the operators under a sign that said "maintain decorum".... maybe a motto for this site!
Steve Borsher Added Jan 3, 2014 - 8:34am
Our discussion about "redskins" is a good example of a heated discussion with decorum.  It ended without resolution; but that is exactly what should happen in most cases, as opinions are just that. Without hard evidence, to which each party agrees, a person's logic cannot be impugned. "Criticism is the first refuge of the insecure; name calling is the last refuge of the desperate."
Robin the red breasted songster Added Jan 3, 2014 - 12:00pm
Hi JL:  I find myself getting more and more like my father everyday.  Very worrying when I remember how much I used to rail against him...
Sorry David:  What is you point?   Or are you just saying "HAZMAT" to everyone you disagree with?
Robin the red breasted songster Added Jan 4, 2014 - 6:38am
@Bryan:  On politicians
I can't be too open about these stories because I don't want to prejudice the work we are doing.
However suffice it to say that in one smallish African country we had been chasing four mobile phone operators to help us.  One of these had seen the value to them and took on board the humanitarian arguments as well.  However the others were just not taking time to understand what we were saying and just dismissed us as being too much trouble to work with.
We met with the Health Minister... a jovial character who said "My country is like a supermarket for disease... we have everything here apart from Ebola..."  He saw our proposed camapign to increase awareness of various diseases and to educate the population on basic ways to aovid infection as helping him to do his job.
So he introduced us to the telecom regulator.  She listened carefully to what we had to say.  "Right" she said.  "We will summon the operators here to hear their excuses".
So one day later we had a round table meeting with the full attention of the operators.   Under a sign saying "maintain decorum"... clearly the site of many a heated argument.  She expplained to the operators that they were required to help to serve the public good as a condition of their licence and that they would therefore, if at all possible, help us.
I felt that not all politicians are corrupt.  Some that I have met do genuinely seem to be wanting to make a difference to the lot of the poor in their countries.
On the other hand I have met many corporate politicians where you can almost see the wheels turning... trying to work out what they personally can get out of this.  I have adapted my presentations to subtly show them exactly what they personally can gain.
But again I met one corporate head of IT who spent nearly $250,000 of development time working on our account... before he justified it to the board as helping to provide business resilience... (based on the very simple argument that dead people don't make phone calls).
And in Nepal I met a very polite and quietly spoken man who has, at least in theory, more than 1 million people working for him (he head of the national society).   In Nepal some 5% of the people are Red Cross volunteers... incredible.  There the people seem to be amongst the happiest that I have met despite being dirt poor (way beyond a US or European definition of the word). 
Steve Borsher Added Jan 4, 2014 - 9:17am
Your story can also be related to tech support.  It is always the luck of the draw: sometimes you get a competent dedicated person to help you; most times you don't. If you have the time you keep trying to find one; if not, you go without.
Steve Borsher Added Jan 4, 2014 - 3:17pm
Check out Bhutan, with their Gross National Happiness
Steve Borsher Added Jan 4, 2014 - 4:40pm
Yes, Denmark is #1 of countries that have an economy. All Bhutan has is penises; and they export hydro to India.
Steve Borsher Added Jan 5, 2014 - 12:44pm
Is everyone going Void now?
I hate to burst your bubble Tar, but you can up the number of views just by viewing it yourself over and over. Not that you would do that.  The real test of an article is not in the viewing, but in the Likes and topical comments.
Robin the red breasted songster Added Jan 6, 2014 - 12:48am
Hi Howard:   You are quite right... listening to someone does not mean that you agree with them.  In fact it would be impossible to agree with everything that any one person says.
You can disagree with someone but still like them.  I have friends of a variety of political views and backgrounds.  It makes life so much more interesting than just mixing with people exactly like you.
It also makes it easier to tackle serious problems if you are all friends together...rather than opposed armed camps intent on "defeating" each other.
The key is "win-win" for all involved.
Robin the red breasted songster Added Jan 6, 2014 - 2:48am
Thanks Qasim.  Can you tell us a little bit about what you do?  I have yet to have an opportunity to visit Pakistan although I hope to do so soon on an earthquake preparedness project.   Just waiting for the security situation to improve a bit first.
Robin the red breasted songster Added Jan 6, 2014 - 2:51am
Steve:  Happiness is very difficult to measure but, beyond the point where people have enough to eat, enjoy shelter and decent health care, doesn't actually seem to have a very strong correlation with wealth.
Steve Borsher Added Jan 6, 2014 - 9:38am
I differentiate between contentment and happiness.  I am always content, because I am reasonably certain that my enduring comfort is assured.  I am unhappy at times because the randomness of the outside world creeps in, attempting to distract me from the things that keep me content. And I always take immediate and extreme measures to eliminate anything that makes me unhappy.
Robin the red breasted songster Added Jan 6, 2014 - 10:32am
Hi Steve: 
I guess you could say that contentment is the climate of your mind whilst happiness is the weather that washes across it.
I can be made happy for a few moments by a shaft of sunlight streaming through the window and lighting up the dust in the room.  I am content because I feel that I am achieving something worthwhile with my life.
To appreciate anything, I think you need highs and lows.  If you are never sad, can you ever be truly happy?
Steve Borsher Added Jan 6, 2014 - 11:35am
But I don't think it needs to cycle continually.  If you were sad once, that should be enough for a lifetime of comparison; at least that is the way it works for me. Occasional anger has replaced sadness. After nearly 60 years of undiagnosed depression, sadness has no place in my life.
Robin the red breasted songster Added Jan 6, 2014 - 11:49am
Glad to hear it Steve.  Life is too short to not be happy.
But I don't think sadness is the same as depression?
Sometimes it is OK to be sad, a little melancholic.  Then it passes and you can be happy once more.
For me, I feel that being happy is purely my decision.  I just decided one day that I wanted to be happy and, ever since, I pretty much have been.  Mainly a case of how I look at things I think.  Being grateful for the unbelievable good fortune of having been born an Englishman in the 1950s with all of the advantages that came with it.  For the fellowship of good people.  For good health and much else.
More recently I have become, by many staandards, reasonably wealthy.  But I think becoming happy actually preceded that.  Some believe that being happy can actually make you wealthy I understand...
Steve Borsher Added Jan 6, 2014 - 1:32pm
"I just decided one day that I wanted to be happy and, ever since, I pretty much have been." Yes, that is what I did too; but with the help of the right combination of brain drugs. It took me 3 years to find those.
I got out of stocks a while ago, when I decided I had enough money to not need to risk it any longer.  I will admit that I get twinges as I see the market continue to go up, but it defies any rational investing approach I know of; so I grin and "bear" it.
Steve Borsher Added Jan 6, 2014 - 2:21pm
"they help make us more 'present'". At least for the present. But you can't meditate and exercise 24/7; at least I can't.
Steve Borsher Added Jan 6, 2014 - 4:33pm
I took the Silva Mind Control (now Silva Method) courses back in the mid-70s, and have successfully used the techniques for the past 35 years. But, flying in the face of what some say about limiting beliefs, there are limits to what you can achieve. I have been successful at healing certain things in myself, and remote healing certain things in others, but there are limits there too.  It is irresponsible to make it sound like meditation is a panacea; it really only works well for healthy people. I suffer from GPA (formerly Wegener's Granulomatosis), and I have never been able to control that; although many would say I have, just because I am still alive.  But it can radically change me mentally and physically for months at a time, as it did from 9/12 through 4/13; then, release me go to function nearly normally, as it has mostly since last April. You should thank your health for your success with meditation, rather than the meditation itself.
Steve Borsher Added Jan 7, 2014 - 7:21am
There is no question that regular exercise is key to a balanced life. Unfortunately, the GPA has kept me unable to do that for several years now.  Stress causes it to flare up, so I keep it to a minimum.  I have techniques, other than meditation, for reducing mental stress; the physical aspect is more difficult.  Last I tried to maintain a regular exercise schedule, in early 2010, I used a kettlebell.  It caused tendonitis in my thumbs that spread all up my arms, and triggered a GPA relapse, from which I have not yet completely recovered.  My only New Year's resolution is to try to get back on that horse.
Robin the red breasted songster Added Jan 7, 2014 - 5:03pm
Have you tried singing Steve?  I have found that it does a lot for me in terms of a sense of well being and stress reduction.
However it does embarrass the hell out of my kids when I do it in public
Steve Borsher Added Jan 7, 2014 - 7:53pm
I sang Christmas songs on the Christmas train with my grandkids a couple weeks ago.  That was fun.  But I never was much for singing. I still do extract energy from loud rock music; the raunchier the better. I always exercised and worked to it.  Maybe I should start that again, and return to that former fortress of solitude.  I dropped a lot of old regimes when I moved 2 years ago, and the year before when I had my relapse.  I probably should resurrect some of those. Now there's an interesting New Year's resolution that might actually work.  I still have a couple niggling issues I need to rid myself of first, but I should be done with them, at least temporarily, in a couple weeks.
Robin the red breasted songster Added Jan 8, 2014 - 12:16am
I just find that it is impossible to sing and feel miserable at the same time.  If you are up for it, it might be worth trying out a local community choir.  If nothing else it should be fun and sociable.  If you try the natural voice network there is no requirement to read music.
Robin the red breasted songster Added Jan 8, 2014 - 1:07am
Thank you Qasim.   I hope to get the chance to come to Pakistan.   It all depends on the national Red Crescent organisation deciding to restart the project. We are also somewhat limited by a lack of funding... To succeed with getting a programme off of the ground we really need someone on the ground for at least six months to pull together (and get agreement and active co-operation from) all of the necessary parties in the national society, in the mobile operators and in the various relevant Government departments.  That costs money... and finding that is not easy these days.
If I get the chance to come to Pakistan, I will certainly look you up
Steve Borsher Added Jan 24, 2014 - 8:10am
Criticism is the first refuge of the insecure; name calling is the last refuge of the desperate.
Robin the red breasted songster Added Jan 24, 2014 - 8:15am
It is certainly easier to criticise than it is to create something in the first place.
I salute all those brave enough to post an article here.  More power to you!
Stone-Eater Added Jul 13, 2015 - 12:48pm
OOLD one came back somehow, but it's still valid :-)
Robin the red breasted songster Added Jul 14, 2015 - 11:55am
Any idea what the slogan "Slavery is not racism" is supposed to mean.   Obviously these are two different concepts, so why state that as a slogan?