The ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ Dilemma

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The Stress in Deciding Left or Right

 

Virtually all the decisions we take involve some form of stress. Even small, everyday decisions at home, work or in the grocery store. The huge long term decisions, such as buying a house, accepting a new job, getting married, or starting a new business are, of course, much more stressful.

We often experience stress for days on end about some choices and we sometimes just simply cannot get ourselves to make some decisions. We often lie awake at night, sleepless about the worries related to the choice.

Our decisions could indeed differ immensely in type and seriousness. On top of the choice itself, we could also be concerned about how to communicate our choices to those affected by it.

Perhaps the news could be bad to those who are affected. How do I tell my partner that I do not want to go ahead with the marriage? How do I announce a life changing decision to people who will be shocked by it? How do I tell the family that someone close to them has just suffered a terminal setback?

The Positive-Negative Dilemma

In a simplified form, virtually all decisions have two elements (or a combination of the two). The elements are things that attract you and things that push you away. Psychologists call these ‘approach’ (+) and ‘avoidance’ (-) elements and they lie at the foundation of our discomfort and stress.

  1. The most common internal conflict or stress at the point of decision-making is most often of the approach (+)-avoidance (-) type. In other words, these are decisions where you want something but simultaneously are scared of the consequences. It’s the ‘rags’ or ‘riches’ For example; I want the new car but do not fancy the burden of five years of monthly instalments and insurance. I want to get married but I am scared of the long term responsibilities and commitment. I want to tell the company that I am leaving but am concerned about the boss’s reaction. I want to become an engineer but am scared of failure at college.
  1. The second type is also stressful but often not as bad as number one. When we experience the approach (+) – approach (+) conflict we have to make a decision between two attractive alternatives, but we cannot have both. We have to choose one only. A Buick or a Lexus. The job close to home that pays less or the one in Alaska that pays a fortune. Two equally attractive people to date. Choosing one will ultimately eliminate the other.
  1. The third involves an avoidance (-)-avoidance (-) decision. Both alternatives are bad. I hate my work but without it I cannot survive. My friend owes me money but how do I approach him? Asking him is bad and not asking him is also bad. I’m still out of pocket. Telling my neighbour that his dog is keeping me awake at night has bad consequences for our relationship while not telling him devoids me of sleep. Exercising is strenuous; not exercising means that I will carry this extra weight forever and possibly never marry.

In fact, there are books written about the topic! Just go to any real or online bookstore and you will come across multiple titles like: ‘Just do it!’ and ‘Don’t let stress get you down’ and ‘’How to make decisions without stress’, ‘How to handle your stress’, etc.

There are even examples of this in history and in the Christian Bible, where a rich man asked Jesus how to get into Heaven. His answer was to sell all his stuff and give it to the poor. Then it describes how the man left in distress, not being able to make the choice. In history there are plenty of examples. You will find examples on page one. Do I declare war or not? Do I cross the Rubicon or not?

What further complicates this internal strife for ourselves is that the closer we get to deciding, the more the stress gets! In fact, you could indeed get all sorts of medical symptoms when it is ongoing and you live with it for too long.

Remedies and Recipes

So, what is the remedy and how can all of this help me persuading (negotiating) someone who is hesitant to take ‘the leap’?

In all the above cases it is certain that the moment after the decision is taken, most stress disappears, whether the decision was good or bad. Then our brain kicks in and justifies our decision anyway. Once you decide to take the new job the stress is less. Then it is reduced only to: ‘How do I tell my boss’. Even the stress with that decision will disappear once it is taken.

So the remedy for bringing bad news is clear: Do it quickly. Bad news is bad, regardless whether you tell it with a texting, email, over the phone or directly to someone’s face. It is still bad. Just do it. Tell the salesman quickly that you will not buy the house anymore. Tell the person you don’t love him/her as soon as you realize it. Text him/her, email or call. Your stress is over. Don’t delay, because if you do, it could drive you to the hospital!

If you try to convince or negotiate with someone who seems reluctant; first try and imagine the conflict he/she is in: If he/she is in a +/+ conflict you just have to load the ‘better’ choice with nice stuff and better prices.

If he/she is in a +/- conflict you have to take the fear away! They don’t want to commit! “You can bring it back any time”, “try it out first”.

If he/she is in a -/- you have to get him/her to cross the Rubicon. Once he/she is across he/she cannot turn back. Go and talk to your neighbor, your ex-husband, your angry client and it will take the stress away (o at least until next time).

Manie Spoelstra

 

 

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When a group becomes a scary Mob

We all find ourselves in crowds or groups of people at times. At sport events, work or social events. That is normal, but could the same group become a mob?

Mobs get crazy. They destroy property, throw stones at police, run over others (old or small) or dance naked in the street.

Don’t think you are immune! For example:

  • Recently we were inundated with news about mobs attacking foreigners in South Africa in what they call ‘xenophobic’ violence. Horrific pictures and footage could be seen in social media, television and the press. These acts were never executed by individuals but always by smaller or bigger groups. These mobs killed several and caused immense damage to shops and properties
  • A few years ago we witnessed the same behaviour when students became a mob as they rushed to get admitted to a Johannesburg University, leaving a number of people killed and injured.
  • A few weeks later a crowd (mob) started throwing stones at the ANC headquarters, injuring several reporters.
  • More recently pictures were sent through the entire world showing a ‘group’ (mob?) of SA Policemen opening fire on a Labour Union (mob?) at the Lonmin Mine at Marikana, killing 34!
  • Towards the end of last year English mobs rampaged London streets causing destruction where they went. This was preceded by mobs getting unruly in Wall Street due to causes that are still ‘vague’.
  • A few years ago mobs of English soccer fans caused havoc in Europe, resulting in the banning of games between England and European teams for quite some time.
  • Every week we hear about folks in townships barricading streets, setting tyres alight and throwing stones at police.

Is this kind of behaviour rare in civilized societies, but part of daily life in poor countries where there is overpopulation, lack of money, food, resources and limited services?

When do groups become mobs and why?

Would human selfishness cause some to get at a scarce resource at all costs, even if it means harm to others? Would “harm” here not only include depriving others of this resource, but even hurting them?

Is this just one indication that common decency and civilized behaviour is just a thin veneer over a more animal-like core of human nature that surfaces whenever it has the chance?

A mob is dangerous. A mob has no leader, has no logic or reason, no sense of right or wrong or morals. People who as individuals would not do bad things will certainly do them if they are in a mob where responsibility is diluted and spur of the moment actions happen. Social psychology textbooks refer to this ‘shift’ of responsibility as the ‘risky shift phenomenon’.

Mobs are not limited to hundreds or thousands of people in the street chanting slogans because of a political or religious reason. Some mob behaviour can be exhibited in smaller groups (such as a sports team or a group of soldiers in war, who think there is no law, and are encouraged by the rest of the ‘team’).

We also see mob behaviour in situations where for instance, sports fans go on a rampage and destroy property and even kill people. People who are often described as polite and cordial can group together and behave like a mob because of issues such as salaries, sport, politics or social and economic change.

What would you say if the rest of your team would say; “Lets make fun of ‘Blondie’ over there?”

  1. Say ‘yes’ and play along?
  2. Say ‘no’ and go home by yourself?
  3. Say ‘lets rather drink more’?
  4. Say ‘no, are you crazy’?
  5. Say ‘do you want to get in trouble, because I don’t’?
  6. Something else?

(If you considered response no. 1 (and perhaps 3) for only a second, you could be prone for joining the mob, like many of us would be).

We often make decisions (or conform to decisions) in company boardrooms, during hotel stays with your sports team, while in college or when with friends. The decisions may not appear to be as extreme while you make it, but could have severe implications. Examples are: to negotiate or not negotiate with the new outspoken union; to merge with another company or not; to vote for your groups’ choice of leader; to go on a men/ladies night-out; to invite a person to perform a strip tease for the team; etc.

Such decisions (which you would never have taken on your own) tend to be especially destructive when they are made without proper consideration, free speech or consultation (Such decisions are sometimes called ‘groupthink’).

In smaller or bigger ‘mobs’, the individuals tend to fear that the rest of the group will discriminate against them if they have opposite opinions to the rest.

Why do groups turn into mobs?

  • When a group feel a strong cohesiveness;
  • When they are isolated and someone has strong power over the group;
  • When they experience high stress and a lack of hope to find a better solution than the one proposed by the leader/group;
  • When an illusion exists of invulnerability and unanimity;
  • When a collective rationale of their actions is believed to exist;
  • When a stereotyping is presented of all ‘others’ who do not think the way they do;
  • When pressure is put on those amongst them to conform.

This then leads to a total failure to make proper and evaluated decisions.

So, how do we prevent a group from behaving like a mob?

  • Get nervous when you are in a group of more than six or seven and ‘everybody feels the same’!
  • Get the group to talk about the issue in more depth and encourage members to air their thoughts about ‘possible consequences’.
  • Ask others what alternatives there could be to their planned approach.
  • Suggest that someone plays ‘Devil’s Advocate’.

What should the police do once everything turns bad?

  • Rather than resort to weapons first, they could call their ‘dialogue police unit’, whose officers are trained to negotiate, mediate and resolve conflict in and amongst groups.
  • Empower the policemen to ‘keep the peace’ while avoiding the unnecessary use (or threat of) force against crowds.
  • Training in keeping public order should be updated to ensure that officers are more adequately skilled to act as neutral negotiators.
  • The police could, with great benefit, start a research unit to look into strategies of controlling crowds and mobs.
  • As a last resort they should have proper equipment to divide mobs into smaller groups, by the use of water, chemicals, isolation equipment, etc. so as to preserve life at all cost.

Manie Spoelstra

Bibliography:

*Scott, Dr Clifford; 2009, Crowd Psychology & Public Order Policing: An Overview of Scientific Theory and Evidence. Draft Paper, University of Liverpool, UK

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LIARS AND THEIR PATH OF DESTRUCTION

When lying becomes ‘normal’ and truth ‘abnormal’

  • Has someone’s lie ever hurt you?

Have you been lied to by a politician, a spouse, a child, an employee, a boss or a contractor?

How often do we read in newspaper that a politician claim: “I know nothing about it”, only to later concoct a new lie: “My staff never told me about this.”

So, when do people lie, how can we detect it and how do we cope with it, and or respond to it?

For a start, there are different types of liars: Once we have identified them, it could help us to know how to deal with them.

  • Compulsive Liars

A compulsive liar is defined as someone who lies out of habit.  They lie all the time. Lying is a normal reaction for them.  Compulsive liars bend the truth about everything, large and small.

For a compulsive liar, telling the truth make them feel guilty while lying feels right.  Compulsive liars often develop in early childhood, due to being placed in an environment where lying was necessary.  They simply lie out of habit – an automatic response, which is hard to break, and one that does affect relationships, amongst many others.

So, you seldom see the lie; what you can rather detect, though, is when they tell the truth! Any sign of being uncomfortable could in some cases be a sign of the truth rather than a lie!

Lying can become addictive and hard to stop. Lying has a way to lead to more lies, especially if they are found out! For the compulsive liar, lying feels safe and this fuels the desire to lie even more.

Unfortunately, compulsive lying is hard for the person involved to detect and it hurts those who are around it.  Compulsive lying, if not addressed, can easily ruin a relationship.

Compulsive lying can sometimes be dealt with through counseling or therapy.  But, like any addictive behavior, getting someone to admit they have a problem with lying is the difficult part.  That often requires life crises first.

  • Pathological Liars

A deliberate liar knows he is lying. A pathological liar may not.

Pathological lying has been defined as “falsification entirely disproportionate to any identifiable end in view. “It may be extensive and very complicated, and may manifest over a period of years or even a lifetime”. The individual may be aware they are lying, or may believe they are telling the truth, being unaware that they are relating fantasies.

The stories told tend toward presenting the liar favorably. For example, the person might be presented as being fantastically brave and knowing many famous people.

There may be brain and memory defects as well as more serious psychological defects present, causing someone to really not being able to discern between the true and the untrue.

  • ‘White Lies’

Often we tell lies which intend to help and not hurt. Sometimes it is done out of fear. These ‘good’ lies are told to defend or to avoid the consequences of telling the truth. They are often white lies that spare another’s feelings, reflect a pro-social attitude, and make civilized human contact possible.

Some lies even have good intentions, e.g. to protect someone from bad news (infidelity, cancer).

  • Detecting a lie:

It is sometimes immensely difficult to detect a lie. More so if you have no reason to suspect that a person is lying. We all know and have seen famous individuals testifying in court or responding to questions on TV broadcasts, only to find out later that they lied openly and blatantly!

Some investigators study various reactions of people suspecting of lying, such as:

  • Lack of logic in time sequence, facts and names
  • Sudden changes in head position
  • Breathing changes
  • Voice changes (pitch, stuttering)
  • Repetition of words and phrases
  • Too much info
  • Touching or covering of mouth/nose
  • Covering of vulnerable parts
  • Taking less space
  • Shuffling of feet
  • Conflicting body language/emotion
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Staring without blinking
  • Pointing too much

All researchers will still admit that it is still extremely difficult with our limited perceptual abilities.

It is complicated even more by the fact that the person could be someone who has no conscience. Pathological liars and psychopaths experience virtually no feelings of guilt, so that very few symptoms are displayed in emotions or body language.

  • Lie Detectors:

How accurate are lie detectors (polygraphs) in pinpointing a lie from the truth?

The use of lie detectors have become quite common in criminal and other serious cases, yet has generated considerable scientific and public controversy. Most psychologists and other scientists agree that there is little basis for the validity of polygraph tests. Courts, including the United States Supreme Court have repeatedly rejected the use of polygraph evidence because of its inherent unreliability. *

Polygraph testing continues to be used, often to screen personnel, but sometimes to try to assess the veracity of suspects and witnesses, and in corporations. Polygraph tests are also sometimes used by individuals seeking to convince others of their innocence and, in a narrow range of circumstances, by private agencies and corporations.

  • How to Negotiate with liars:

Like most serious negotiation cases, preparation is often a key to success or failure. So:

Do all your homework and research into the other party’s bona fides.

If there are reasons to doubt the data supplied, some of the following actions could be considered:

  • Set up a pre-negotiation agreement requiring both parties to come clean. Moreover, one side’s refusal to enter into a “good faith” agreement might be a good warning.
  • Look for potential signs of deception.
  • Ask the same question in different ways. Liars tend to dodge and weave their way around the truth assuming their statements will be misconstrued or not challenged.
  • Ask the opponent to come clean.
  • Ask questions to which you already know the answer.
  • Take notes during negotiations.
  • Get commitments in writing.
  • Use contingent agreements where you have some provision in the contract that provides specific protection should the representation turn out to be false.
  • Trust but verify.

Manie Spoelstra

 

* American Psychological Association; http://www.apa.org

 

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PERSONALITY: Those traits that could be crucial for success!

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by Manie Spoelstra

Personality traits of yourself, or of those around you, could be the cause of many problems or could help you towards success!

How does personality affect your negotiation ability, and how can you use knowledge of personality to improve, plan, or avoid conflicts and bad choices?

Major attention has recently been focused on five ‘big’ personality traits that seem to relate directly to success and failure, more so than many other characteristics.

These Five Big Personality* traits are now quite commonly used in psychology for describing and analyzing individual differences. These traits are:

  1. Extraversion, 2. Agreeableness,
  2. Neuroticism, 4. Conscientiousness and 5. Openness.

Recent research* has provided evidence that suggests that some of these personality traits may be directly related to your success with people and at work.

They could be powerful in predicting work success, mortality, and divorce rates. They have also been linked to academic success of students and tosuccessful romantic relationships!

So, while reading the following explanation and examples, you could rate yourself on a scale from high to low on each and use it as a topic for discussion or feedback.

1. Extraversion:

Are you high or low on this trait?

Extraversion–introversion is commonly found in many ‘tests’ of personality. These terms have been widely used in Psychology. Extraversion indicates outgoing, talkative, energetic behavior and introversion as the tendency to be more reserved and solitary.

Do you have some of both, or do you have either the one or the other? It seems that everyone has both an extraverted side and an introverted side, with one being more dominant than the other (which is your dominant one?).

In negotiation one would expect extraverted individuals to be more talkative and relying on their communication skills to persuade and connect with others.

The introverted types would be expected to be quieter, listening and trying to absorb and analyze the shared information.

In any case, people fluctuate in their behavior all the time, and even extreme introverts and extraverts do not always act according to their type.

2. Agreeableness:

Agreeableness is characterized by kindness and the tendency to be sympathetic, cooperative, warm and considerate. People who score high on this dimension tend to believe that most people are honest, decent, and trustworthy.

People scoring low on agreeableness are generally less concerned with others’ well being and have less empathy. Therefore, they are less likely to go out of their way to help others. Low agreeableness is often characterized by skepticism about other people’s motives, resulting in suspicion and unfriendliness.

In negotiation, they are also more likely to compete than to cooperate.

This crucial ‘negotiation’ trait could be the cause of many ‘competitive’ situations at work or at home. On the other hand, if someone scores high on this variable it could result in avoidance of conflict or an attempt to smooth over differences, compared to those who score low.

Related to agreeableness, are traits such as: trust, straightforwardness, altruism, compliance, modesty and warmth. 

  1. Neuroticism:

Neuroticism a trait characterized by anxiety, moodiness, worry, envy, and jealousy. Individuals who score high are more likely to experience feelings such as anxiety, anger, envy, guilt, and depression. They respond more poorly to stress, are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening, and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. They are often self-conscious and shy, and they may have trouble controlling urges.

One can imagine how risky those with a strong tendency towards ‘neuroticism’ can be if they do not get what they want or if negotiation becomes stressful.

4. Conscientiousness:

Conscientiousness is the tendency to be thorough, careful, or vigilant. Those that score high on this tendency, desire to do a tasks well. Conscientious people are efficient and organized as opposed to easy-going and disorderly. They exhibit a tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; they display planned rather than ‘off-the-cuff’ behavior; and they are generally organized and dependable.

They are most often neat and systematic, careful and thorough. As negotiators they are good in deliberation (the tendency to think carefully before acting).

Conscientious individuals are generally hard working and reliable. When taken to an extreme, they may also be “workaholics”, perfectionists, and persistent in their behavior (this may cause them to be somewhat rigid in negotiation).

People who score low on conscientiousness tend to be more ‘easygoing’, less goal-oriented, and less driven by success; they also are more likely to engage in ‘other activities outside work’.

  1. Openness:

Openness is characterized by an emphasis on transparency and free unrestricted access to knowledge and information as well as collaborative or cooperative management and decision-making rather than central authority.

Negotiators with a strong tendency to openness will tend to request total transparency in sharing data, which could lead to better understanding and trust. It could, though, cause these individuals to expose themselves to being manipulated by those who are less scrupulous.

  1. Implications:

The implications of having more or less of these qualities (or combination of it) could be crucial for your relationships, your work success and ability to communicate effectively. In some cases you could be trained or coached into handling some traits that are counter productive in being successful.

Knowledge of these traits could help us all and negotiators to:

  • Design good negotiation teams
  • Analyze opposing team and develop communication strategies
  • Utilize unique skills to fit someone into the best job
  • Understand the reason behind our failed relationships and take remedial action
  • Be coached and trained in lacking communication skills
  • Understand some reasons behind conflict and success

Manie Spoelstra

*P.J. Howard, & J. M. Howard, 2000, The Owner’s Manual for Personality at Work: How the Big Five Personality Traits Affect Your Performance.

Negotiation’s Dirty Tricks

 This is how they empty your pockets!

In the real world of survival, you and I are often trapped by techniques that push us into decisions that we later regret.

We, of course, believe that it is important to use all methods of persuasion and influence in an ethical way. A deal should ideally create something of value for both sides, and should be used with integrity.

Here are some of the ploys and tricks that are often used and how you can counter them: 

The Nibble

This is a favourite technique used in sales, in labour union deals, in company take-overs or at school!

The ‘trick’ is to add something on top after the deal is concluded

The car costs $10 000 but after you agree to buy it, you get some nasty surprises: 10% tax, 5% tag fees, $150 insurance p.m., 5% ‘dealer commission, an extra 0,5% interest on financing and others! Now the total amounts to more than $12 000!

Or they say: “By adding only $100 to your monthly payment you can get the luxury SUV!”

Even at school they use it! If your kid goes on a field trip, they quote a price, but that’s only the beginning of a long list of ‘add-ons’.

The principle is that, if you get someone to agree to something, you add items that are perceived to be trivial on top.

Psychologically we perceive the $2000 as nothing, compared to the $10 000, yet it is not a small amount of money if it stands alone!

How do we counter this ‘trick’?

You could respond with you ‘own dirty trick’, sometimes called: ‘The Flinch’.

The Flinch

The idea is that you have to make your move the moment after the salesperson quoted you the initial price and before anything is added (it is a moment when the salesperson is at his/her weakest, since he/she thought the sale is concluded). Then you respond:

“I’ll only pay $10 000 it if it includes everything that you or anyone could dream of adding!”

Normally a concession follows with the salesperson including some extras that would have been excluded.

As an alternative you could counter with the ‘hard-of-hearing flinch and by acting shocked:

“What! How much? $9 000! That’s a lot of money!” (You act as if you heard the price incorrectly and claim a new benchmark as the basis of the bargaining to follow).

You could expect to observe a stunned salesperson (at least temporarily)!

Deferring to higher authority

It is amazing how many times this ‘excuse’ is used, but it could also be a ploy for you not getting to the boss (who will give you a concession).

Let’s say you are shocked by the high price of work on your car and you say: “I’m not at all happy with the cost of repairs to my car! It’s far too high for the work you did”.

In most cases the reply will be: “You see, I only work here. I don’t have authority to change the bill.” (A neat deferral to higher authority).

Most of us are at a loss on how to respond.

Perhaps you can counter with the following:

Then who does have the authority?”

They could still defer even higher by: “It is the manufacturer’s policy in Tokyo!”

However, you could still insist to speak to the person in charge of the garage who, surely, does have the authority to do something or even to contact his principals.

The Bottom Line

In the Bottom Line ploy the principle is that no one likes a potential sale failing at the last minute or customers walking away from deals.

If a negotiator makes a proposal and the other side ‘fakes’ a ‘walk-away’, he/she could feel that an opportunity was lost. Much rather, he or she would make major concessions. (For instance in labour union negotiations, in mergers or when discussing something with your spouse).

Let’s say you would like to buy a new computer and the salesperson says: “It’s a winner isn’t it? It really does have all the bells and whistles.”

You could then make your ‘bottom-line move’: “I really appreciate all the time you have taken, but it’s not the one I want. I seem to need something less elaborate”. You then get up and start to move towards the door. About two paces away, you turn around and say: “By the way, what’s your lowest price?”

The sales person, having invested much time and energy, is deflated and envisions ending up empty-handed and, unless he/she is very careful, may end up losing a sale. Most often they will make a significant concession.

There is always important negotiation power in the ability to walk away from a deal. The problem is often that we become so committed to buying a new computer, car, game console or kitchen aid, that we end up paying more than necessary.

Good man, Bad man

In this technique the opposite party differ amongst themselves and the ‘good’ person asks you for a concession so as to please his/her partner.

If, for example, a sales person and the owner of a property are negotiating with you, the prospective buyer:

Owner: “I am sorry, but I don’t want to waste more time on this. This is a much sought after property. I just don’t think a reasonable offer is at hand.”

Salesperson: “Sir, perhaps if we change the offer slightly upwards, would you consider it?” Then, turning to you, he/she almost ‘pleads’: “We could do something, not so?”

You are tempted to say, “Yes”, and if you do, the owner changes his posture and says: “Well, in that case, let’s see what we can do?”

The best way to counter a situation like this is to simply tell the other party that you know what they are doing. A ploy perceived is not a ploy.

The hot potato

Sellers most often attempt to anchor the price first. In that way, their price becomes the foundation (anchor) of the bargaining game.

To be an effective tool, you should make the offer first and fast:

You (knowing that the price is much higher): “I am limited to a budget of $250 000.” In this way ownership of the problem is passed to the other side.

The anchor lies at $250 000. Now negotiation will revolve around $250 000 and not the price the seller had in mind.

The additional advantage is, if you move upwards from $250 000, you can always demand reciprocity from the seller.

The Decoy

This ‘trick’ involves asking for something you do not want and which the other party can’t give, and then attempt to ask for a trade-off, when they say they can’t do it.

Either side can use it.

You: “I need the delivery within 30 days”, knowing very well that 90 days is the minimum period needed to fulfil this order.

If the supplier still objects, you can respond by: “I’ll tell you what. If you can assure 90 days, I will be happy to accept it at a discount. Fair enough?”

The other party agrees in order not to lose the deal. The 30-day requirement was merely a decoy.

The Puppy Dog

This derives from the classic situation where children want a dog, while mom and dad are apprehensive.

The owner of the pet shop will say: “Take it home for the weekend and see how you like it.” He/she knows that after the weekend it will be nearly impossible to return the puppy.

It’s a way of getting the other party emotionally involved before the negotiation is finalized. Think of the estate agent taking a picture of you and your wife in front of a beautiful home and then handing you the photo to take home, or the photocopier that is placed in your office with no pressure on you to buy.

Counter this by not accepting the offer, or seeing to it that you do not become emotionally involved or allow yourself to feel obligated.

In Summary:

In the South all of you will be shopping for heating appliances and in the North, for lawnmowers and beach gear. Could be fun to try some of the above and it could also help you save some cash to pay for a great family dinner. Or, it could save you millions when you negotiate those life-changing deals.

If you need more of these as well as some other unique and different skills, do not hesitate to reach out at the email address provided above!

Manie Spoelstra

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Manie Spoelstra

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In Search of Meaning

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 by Manie Spoelstra

Are you motivated about 2014 or filled with dread?

  • The observations of Viktor Frankl

Frankl was a survivor of the holocaust and, while imprisoned in a camp himself, observed that many individuals survived the worst conditions thinkable as long as they felt ‘significant’ or meaningful to others and were ‘living with some form of believe that someone is waiting for them on the far horizon’.

Viktor Frankl * was convinced that we will stay alive and motivated longer if we feel that we are needed by somebody or someone.

He concluded that, without hope or meaning, many will perish although physically still in a better condition than others.

Frankl later became the father of a school in psychotherapy called ‘logotherapy’ and started a clinic in Austria where he treated people with depression and many other related conditions.

The goal of logotherapy (logos meaning ‘reason’) is to carry out a ‘uniqueness’ (existential) analysis of a person and, in so doing, help him discover meaning for his life. According to Frankl, meaning can be found through:

  • Creativity or giving something to the world through self- expression,
  • Experiencing the world by interacting with confidence with our environment and with others, and
  • Changing our attitude when we are faced with a situation or circumstance that we cannot change.

Frankl is credited with coining the term ‘Sunday neurosis’ to refer to the dejection that is felt at the end of the working week when a person realizes just how empty and meaningless his life is. This may lead to making irrational decisions of many sorts.

Frankl still has many followers today.

  • To be meaningful in 2014

The need to ‘have meaning’ has many applications. Certainly in human interaction, negotiation and communication. Apart from its value in treating depression, it could even have application in dealing with a lack of motivation at the onset of 2014.

Some of us have lots of hope and prospects for the coming year. Others have little or none.

So, let’s apply a person’s need for meaning to your dejected staff, child, mother or neighbor by asking them a few meaningful questions:

  1. Could you help me with my lawnmower? You know a lot about technical stuff;
  2. Could we meet tomorrow at Starbucks? I need you to give me some advice?
  3. The dog seems crazy about you. I’m sure he misses you a lot during the day?
  4. Hope you can be here tomorrow. Head office want you on the team that will launch our new website?
  5. We could not finish the meeting. We need your input!
  6. I am made a booking for us. I am not going to tell. Keep the 20th of April open!
  7. What would facebook be without your posts!?

Regardless of your reaction to these questions, they all attempt to instill some form of purpose.

To have someone need you or wait for you could be meaningful. We often hear about an aged person, on his/her deathbed, staying alive until a daughter arrives ‘who is on her way’.

We also read case studies of wealthy CEO’s of companies (or president’s of countries) only agreeing on take-overs once he/she believes he/she will still retain a meaningful position in the future. They are most often willing to concede on price as long as they could still have a meaningful position in the new organization.

So, you can help your friends, co-workers and family to get through tough times if you can instill meaning in the way that you frame your words, for example:

“By saying ‘yes’ to that contract (job, merger, trip, relationship) you could be making an important contribution to”

“She asked me to tell you that she will be waiting, she counts the days for you to come home after your jail term; in fact the dog sits at the gate, waiting for you.”

Who will see the customers if you are not there?”

  • Negative use of the need for ‘meaning’

If you want to cause even more depression and feelings of hopelessness, you could respond to a distressed person by saying things like:

  1. “Yes, I agree. I wonder what will be the easiest way to just end it all?”
  2. “Well, tomorrow you may feel better. Life is tough”
  3. “Snap out of it!”
  4. “Get your act together!”
  5. “Don’t tell me you messed up again!”

People search for a sense of identity, a feeling of being substantial.

  • Spiritual dimension in the search for meaning

People create their values in search of something that matters enough to live or die for, something that may even have ultimate and universal meaning such as for instance having contributed something valuable to humankind.

Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for. —Viktor Frankl

Manie Spoelstra

*Frankl, Viktor, E; Man’s Search for Meaning; Hermes; 2013

Loving an Abuser: The Stockholm Syndrome

Loving an Abuser

Are you being controlled and abused, yet you’ve started to accept it?

Are you now doing things that you always said: “Over my dead body”?

J M. Carver* recently described how bonds often form between ‘victim’ and abuser. His article also offers suggestions of how to deal with this problem.

We often wonder why many people in abusive relationships do not seem to be able to get out of it. They often try to ‘escape’ but just as often they go back for even more abuse. When the relationship finally ends, they offer comments such as “I know what he’s done to me, but I still love him”, “I don’t know why, but I want him back”, or: “This doesn’t make sense. He’s got a new girlfriend and he’s abusing her too…but I’m jealous!”

Friends and relatives are even more amazed and shocked when they hear these comments or witness their loved one returning to an abusive relationship. While the situation doesn’t make sense from a social standpoint, does it make sense from a psychological viewpoint? The answer is: “Yes!”

On August 23rd, 1973 two machine-gun carrying criminals entered a bank in Stockholm, Sweden. Blasting their guns, the two bank robbers held four hostages, three women and one man, for the next 131 hours. The hostages were strapped with dynamite and held in a bank vault until finally rescued on August 28th.

After their rescue, the hostages exhibited a shocking attitude considering they were threatened, abused, and feared for their lives for over five days. In their media interviews, it was clear that they supported their captors and actually feared law enforcement personnel who came to their rescue more than the captors!

The hostages had begun to feel the captors were actually protecting them from the police. One woman later became engaged to one of the criminals and another developed a legal defense fund to aid in their criminal defense fees. Clearly, the hostages had “bonded” emotionally with their captors.

After that event, this particular psychological condition in hostage situations became known as the “Stockholm Syndrome”. Due to the publicity, the emotional “bonding” with captors was a familiar story in psychology. It had been recognized many years before and was found in studies of other hostage, prisoner, or abusive situations such as:

Abused Children

Battered/Abused Women

Prisoners of War

Cult Members

Criminal Hostage Situations

Concentration Camp Prisoners

Controlling/Intimidating Relationships

The voters of a whole country who fear their leaders

In the final analysis, emotionally bonding with an abuser is actually a strategy for survival for victims of abuse and intimidation. The “Stockholm Syndrome” reaction in hostage and/or abuse situations is so well recognized at this time that police hostage negotiators no longer view it as unusual. In fact, it is often encouraged in crime situations as it improves the chances for survival of the hostages.

On the down side, it also assures that the hostages experiencing “Stockholm Syndrome” will not be very cooperative during rescue or criminal prosecution. Local law enforcement personnel have long recognized this syndrome with battered women who fail to press charges, bail their battering husband/boyfriend out of jail, and even physically attack police officers when they arrive to rescue them from a violent assault.

Stockholm Syndrome (SS) can also be found in family, romantic, and interpersonal relationships. The abuser may be a husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, father or mother, or any other role in which the abuser is in a position of control or authority.

Why do victims support, love, and even defend their abusers and controllers?

 

Stockholm Syndrome doesn’t occur in every hostage or abusive situation. In another bank robbery involving hostages, after terrorizing patrons and employees for many hours, a police sharpshooter shot and wounded the terrorizing bank robber. After he hit the floor, two women picked him up and physically held him up to the window for another shot. The length of time one is exposed to abuse/control and other factors are certainly involved.

It has been found that four conditions are present that serve as a foundation for the development of Stockholm Syndrome. These four situations can be found in severe abusive relationships:

1. The presence of a perceived threat to one’s physical or psychological survival and the belief that the abuser would carry out the threat.

2. The presence of a perceived small kindness from the abuser to the victim

3. Isolation from opinions of other than those of the abuser

4. The perceived inability to escape the situation

How do we (or a loved one) get out of a ‘Stockholm relationship’?

 

Your loved one, the “victim” of the Loser/Abuser, has probably been given a choice: “If you leave me, I’ll kill you”

Remember, the more you pressure the “victim” of the Loser/Abuser, the more you prove their point. Your loved one is being told the family is trying to ruin their wonderful relationship.

Your contacts with your loved one, no matter how routine and loving, may be a threat to the abuser.

Maintain contact, remind your loved one that you are always there to help, and to quietly remind the controller that family and loved ones are nearby and haven’t disappeared.

It’s important that we keep a channel open if at all possible. The goal is to maintain contact while your loved one is involved in the controlling/abusive relationship. Remember, the goal is contact, not pressure.

Don’t feel the victim’s behavior is against the family or friends. It may be a form of survival or a way of lowering stress.

The victim knows they are being treated badly and/or controlled by their partner. Frequent reminders of this will only make them want less contact. Victims may slightly hint they may be considering leaving. Simply offer support. They may be exploring what support is available and be gathering information at this point, not yet ready for an exit.

We can get messages to people in two ways: face-to-face and the grapevine. Face-to-face seldom happens in Loser situations as controllers and abusers monitor and control contacts with others. However, the grapevine is still open. When we use the grapevine, we send a message to our loved one through another person.

As relatives or friends of a victim involved with a controller or abuser, our normal reaction is to consider dramatic action. We become angry and resentful at times. A rule of thumb is that any aggression toward the controller/abuser will result in additional difficulties for your loved one. A father may say: “If he’s choosing that woman over his family, he can drop out of college and flip hamburgers!” Withdrawing financial support only makes your loved one more dependent upon the controller/abuser.

Final Thoughts

 

You may be the victim of a controlling and abusive partner, seeking an understanding of your feelings and attitudes. You may have a son, daughter, or friend currently involved with a controlling and abusive partner, looking for ways to understand and help.

If a loved one is involved with a Loser, a controlling and abusing partner, the long-term outcome is difficult to determine due to the many factors involved. If their relationship is in the “dating” phase, they may end the relationship on their own. If the relationship has continued for over a year, they may require support and an exit plan before ending the relationship. Marriage and children further complicate their ability to leave the situation. When the victim decides to end the unhappy relationship, it’s important that they view loved ones as supportive, loving, and understanding; not as a source of pressure, guilt, or aggression.

Bibliography:

Dr Joseph M Carver, PhD; Love and Stockholm Syndrome: The Mystery of Loving an Abuser CounsellingResource.com 2013

Threats in Negotiation (North Korea)

North Korea is threatening the world and South Korea with nuclear war:

What are their motives?

1. It could be to force the USA and others to negotiate with them about the lifting of sanctions and other concessions that they need

2. It could indicate that they are feeling the bite of sanctions and isolation and are getting desperate

3. It could be a real threat to ‘force’ the world into ‘submission’

4. It could be due to some internal political power struggle. This act focusses attention elsewhere

5. It could be due to strong internal political influences, e.g. the military that want more to be spent for military expenditure and other

How Effective are such Threats?

1. A threat is only effective if the actor can execute his/her threat

2. A threat could achieve the opposite if the actor’s ‘bluff’ is called and the actor cannot execute (e.g., if you threaten to go to court and the opponent says: “You’re welcome, I’m waiting for the summons”, or: “If you say that again I’ll divorce you!”) it is counter-productive

3. The best threat is one where the opposite party is in a 50/50 doubt whether you will or will not execute

4. A threat that you can execute (but possibly will never) is often the best threat (E.g. “I’ll speak to your CEO about this, unless you deliver the goods before friday”)

So, How should the USA and UN react to North Korea’s threat?

1. They can never take it lightly. One can only react ‘as if’ the will execute unless there are talks.

2. They should make an attempt to continue talks as far as possible

3. They should/could base the negotiations on ‘rewards if they comply’ versus ‘punishment if they do not comply’

4. They should intensify their information gathering as to the internal struggles and military capabilities of North Korea

5. They should improve their defence systems (South Korea, Japan, USA, etc)

6. They could play ‘political’ games by seemingly increasing their military readiness so as to force North Korea to do the same and ‘bankrupt’ them financially (almost what the USA did to Russia during the cold war era

7. They should intensify their communication to South Korea as to the military capabilities of the North Korea’s adversaries.

Manie Spoelstra

(The above is my own opinion and do not rely on any sources)

“Hit Me Harder”

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“Hit me harder, please!”

What makes you weaker and what makes you stronger?

To what extend should you protect your loved ones or your children against the hardships of life, and, while we are raising the issue; how safe should you make the workplace for your employees?

What about yourself. Are you perhaps getting weaker due to lack of change?

You can cover your child in an antiseptic glass dome and fetch your workers at home in an air-conditioned centurion tank. Then you pad their desks with cotton wool and remove all sharp objects (like pens and paper clips) from the environment. You can get a computer to talk to all customers and hide your staff from any discomfort (like unhappy co-workers or difficult assignments).

Or, you can do nothing.

Which would be best for them?

A fragile life

Nicholas Taleb* recently published a prophetic book called “Antifragile” that already had some effect on how some of us view negative life events (and education, business, governing, medicine, etc).  He explains the huge downside of a ‘fragile’ world and believes that we should be extremely conscious of the stressors that we normally protect ourselves and other people from, but, which, in fact, makes you stronger (antifragile).

Some life experiences make you stronger and some weakens you; in the same way that some germs strengthens you and some weakens your body.

Biologically, you may weaken a human being if you keep her/him in a sterile bubble, but by exposing her/him to some germs/viruses (within limits), you may strengthen his/her resistance against infections at school and at work. Making exposure decisions is crucial!

For example: If you overprotect a child you may weaken his/her resistance against the difficulties of life.  By allowing your child to be exposed to some difficulties, you may enable him/her to grow and become wiser, skilful and stronger!

If you go and see the headmaster, teacher or other parents every time your child experiences problems at school, what are you doing to your own child?

If you face up to the conflicts at home and at work, do you learn from it or do you ‘never want to do it again’?

Winning and Losing            

If you loose a match, do you quit or learn and become better next time.

A team and individual often learn much more from losing than from winning. Winning can, in fact, be bad for you. By winning and performing exceptionally you can develop  (in hindsight) that you are unbeatable and stop practicing or analysing your opponents (fragile).

Some become stronger, because perhaps they have learned that losing is as much part of life that winning (antifragile). You cannot always win, but you can learn from losing.

If you have an accident, court case, power failure, threatening letter from the government, do you hide where no one can find you and live off bread and wild fruit, or do you find ways and means to be ‘one step ahead’ of the electrical company, government or funny laws?

Fragile killers

Why do we read, ever so often, of someone going crazy; shooting and killing others so as to overcome their difficulties?

Have they ever been exposed to enough conflict and disappointments before?  Have they had a chance to develop their ability to cope with opposing views and emotions? Have they had many rejects of the other sex before and developed the realisation that there are many alternatives. Or have their parents protected them from anyone that gave them as much as an ugly stare?

Do you keep your kids away from the hot stove as it will burn them, or do you allow them learn so well that they never forget?

So, instead of avoiding conflict, failure, being sworn at, you could actually become stronger and learn from it.

Of course you have to protect kids and people against fire and water and allergies that could kill them, but where do we draw the line? Of course, you can be over-exposed to all sorts of germs and hardships, which, in turn could cause you to develop all sorts of medical and psychological ailments.

Post-Traumatic Growth

Taleb (P 41) talks about ‘post-traumatic growth’ instead of ‘post traumatic disorder’. In fact today (19 March 2013) there was a call-in program on a local radio station. People were asked to talk about post-traumatic stress and the problems they experienced. Lots off callers were telling terrible stories (and it made good copy), yet no one talked about post-traumatic growth!

Many people actually become stronger from bad events like bankruptcies, divorce, death in the family and other sad events!

We tend to focus on the negative; the ‘disorder’ but often, as our grandparents used to say: “It builds character”. Taleb uses the example of a racehorse that often loses against the weaker opponents but win against the stronger ones (P43). The horse became antifragile.

We constantly hear about antifragile viruses that develop new strains after we have succeeded in killing the ‘old strains’.

Those of you whose kids play video games will surely have come across a ‘boss’ in the form of Hydra, who keeps on growing new heads as they shoot off the old ones. That is in essence what antifragile means.

Fragile Predictions

Many of us fail to realise man’s ability to withstand and even learn and grow from adversity. Twenty years ago we can still remember how fragile intellectuals predicted that half of the population of the world will be annihilated by Aids by 2010. It is now three years past that date and the world’s population have not decreased! In fact the opposite has happened.

Taleb calls this tendency (to grow stronger when mishandled by life): “antifragility”.  Religions are often antifragile. The more you criticize Christianity or Islam, the stronger it gets!

Fragile Governments and Big Business

Governments and Corporations that become too powerful often hate criticism. They do not want to listen and stop growing. They do not understand that they become weaker by making laws against the free flow of information and the ability of newspapers to criticize them and say what they want. That could be the beginning of their own demise!

“Perhaps we have benefitted more from those who have tried to harm us than those who tried to help us!” (P53)

Develop your Workers and Everybody else

One can postulate that those employees who work with customer complaints and gripes learn more about the business than some managers who shut themselves in an ‘ivory tower’ behind a secretary and many security mechanisms.

Those who train students by simply reading from a book do not develop their students as much as those who actively encourage criticism and constant feedback.

Taleb is of the opinion that we harm our kids by giving them medication for the slightest mood swing or headache?  By putting kids on antidepressants and other drugs for any slight uncomfortable feeling we are creating fragile kids who will possibly create more fragile marriages and more fragile kids in return!

There are thousands of applications of the above principles: Lets briefly list a few:

  • No competition, no development of new and innovative products
  • Too strong government: laws that aren’t properly debated
  • No independent court system. Bad judgements
  • Married life: No conflict, no ability to withstand change
  • Sport: No losing and strain, no improved performance
  • No Exercise: Body becomes flabby
  • Child rearing: Kids cannot cope by themselves
  • Negotiation:  No debate and degree of conflict, no good deals
  • Skills: No development if no practice
  • Medical: No resistance without exposure
  • Love: No relationship that can withstand a problem unless they were exposed to hurdles before.

Conclusion

A recent article in the local newspaper told the story about a lady who, at the age of 102 explained her recipe for old age: “Lamb chops for breakfast, for lunch and for dinner”, she said to the surprise of the reporter.

Perhaps that explains fragility and being antinfragile. Her body developed an ability to dissolve the lamb chops and even put it to good use. It helped her to be antifragile to ‘unhealthy’ food. If some of us fragile ones would suddenly, at the age of 50, start having lamb chops three times a day, we would possibly die from a heart attack within a few months!

Manie Spoelstra

Bibliography:

Taleb; N, 2012; Antifragile; Allan Lane, London

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When Individuals become Mobs

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by

Manie Spoelstra

 

We all find ourselves in crowds or groups of people at times. At sport events, work or social events. That is normal, but could the same group become a mob?

Mobs get crazy. They destroy property, throw stones at police, run over others (old or small) or dance naked in the street.

Don’t think you are immune! For example:

  • After a school in Virginia, USA, decided to sell their Apple laptops at $50 a piece (normal price would be about $1000) more than 5000 people turned up and as humans exhibited their worst behaviour. They became a mob and violently trampled and hurt each other to get into the queue. Many had to be taken to hospital.
  • Earlier this year we witnessed the same behaviour when students became a mob as they rushed to get admitted to a Johannesburg University, leaving a number of people killed and injured.
  • A few weeks later a crowd (mob) started throwing stones at the ANC headquarters, injuring several reporters.
  • More recently pictures were sent through the entire world showing a ‘group’ (mob?) of SA Policemen opening fire on a Labour Union (mob?) at the Lonmin Mine at Marikana, killing 34!
  • Towards the end of last year English mobs rampaged London streets causing destruction where they went. This was preceded by mobs getting unruly in Wall Street due to causes that are still ‘vague’.
  • A few years ago mobs of English soccer fans caused havoc in Europe, resulting in the banning of games between England and European teams for quite some time.
  • Every week we hear about folks in townships barricading streets, setting tyres alight and throwing stones at police.

Is this kind of behaviour rare in civilized societies, but part of daily life in poor countries where there is overpopulation, lack of money, food, resources and limited services?

When do groups become mobs and why?

Would human selfishness cause some to get at a scarce resource at all costs, even if it means harm to others? Would “harm” here not only include depriving others of this resource, but even hurting them?

Is this just one indication that common decency and civilized behaviour is just a thin veneer over a more animal-like core of human nature that surfaces whenever it has the chance?

A mob is dangerous. A mob has no leader, has no logic or reason, no sense of right or wrong or morals. People who as individuals would not do bad things will certainly do them if they are in a mob where responsibility is diluted and spur of the moment actions happen. Social psychology textbooks refer to this ‘shift’ of responsibility as the ‘risky shift phenomenon’.

Mobs are not limited to hundreds or thousands of people in the street chanting slogans because of a political or religious reason. Some mob behaviour can be exhibited in smaller groups (such as a sports team or a group of soldiers in war, who think there is no law, and are encouraged by the rest of the ‘team’).

We also see mob behaviour in situations where for instance, sports fans go on a rampage and destroy property and even kill people. People who are often described as polite and cordial can group together and behave like a mob because of issues such as salaries, sport, politics or social and economic change.

What would you say if the rest of your team would say; “Lets make fun of ‘Blondie’ over there?”

  1. Say ‘yes’ and play along?
  2. Say ‘no’ and go home by yourself?
  3. Say ‘lets rather drink more’?
  4. Say ‘no, are you crazy’?
  5. Say ‘do you want to get in trouble, because I don’t’?
  6. Something else?

(If you considered response no. 1 (and perhaps 3) for only a second, you could be prone for joining the mob, like many of us would be).

We often make decisions (or conform to decisions) in company boardrooms, during hotel stays with your sports team, while in college or when with friends. The decisions may not appear to be as extreme while you make it, but could have severe implications.  Examples are: to negotiate or not negotiate with the new outspoken union; to merge with another company or not; to vote for your groups’ choice of leader; to go on a men/ladies night-out; to invite a person to perform a strip tease for the team; etc.

Such decisions (which you would never have taken on your own) tend to be especially destructive when they are made without proper consideration, free speech or consultation (Such decisions are sometimes called ‘groupthink’).

In smaller or bigger ‘mobs’, the individuals tend to fear that the rest of the group will discriminate against them if they have opposite opinions to the rest.

Why do groups turn into mobs?

  • When a group feel a strong cohesiveness;
  • When they are isolated and someone has strong power over the group;
  • When they experience high stress and a lack of hope to find a better solution than the one proposed by the leader/group;
  • When an illusion exists of invulnerability and unanimity;
  • When a collective rationale of their actions is believed to exist;
  • When a stereotyping is presented of all ‘others’ who do not think the way they do;
  • When pressure is put on those amongst them to conform.

This then leads to a total failure to make proper and evaluated decisions.

So, how do we prevent a group from behaving like a mob?

  • o   Get nervous when you are in a group of more than six or seven and ‘everybody feels the same’!
  • o   Get the group to talk about the issue in more depth and encourage members to air their thoughts about ‘possible consequences’.
  • Ask others what alternatives there could be to their planned approach.
  • Suggest that someone plays ‘Devil’s Advocate’.

What should the police do once everything turns bad?

  • Rather than resort to weapons first, they could call their ‘dialogue police unit’, whose officers are trained to negotiate, mediate and resolve conflict in and amongst groups.
  • Empower the policemen to ‘keep the peace’ while avoiding the unnecessary use (or threat of) force against crowds.
  • Training in keeping public order should be updated to ensure that officers are more adequately skilled to act as neutral negotiators.
  • The police could, with great benefit, start a research unit to look into strategies of controlling crowds and mobs.
  • As a last resort they should have proper equipment to divide mobs into smaller groups, by the use of water, chemicals, isolation equipment, etc. so as to preserve life at all cost.

Manie Spoelstra

Bibliography:

*Scott, Dr Clifford; 2009, Crowd Psychology & Public Order Policing: An Overview of Scientific Theory and Evidence. Draft Paper, University of Liverpool, UK