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The Silent Partner

So you get in a business or personal relationship, and the partner does something you don’t like, and what do you do? The relationship is so new, you are so excited, you worship them so much, you let it slide.

When something else happens, you are uncomfortable, but you let it be. You second-guess yourself, you carry on with your commitment to the relationship, to them. You give it your best, you give it all you’ve got.

And a third thing happens. Then a fourth. And with diminishing feelings, diminishing commitment, you carry on, until you start building resentment. You serve, but its not with love. Its with anger and resentment. Whenever you serve, you serve with a curse. What did I do to deserve to be in this relationship? What am I doing, suffering like this? I’d be better off alone.

It’s a logical conclusion.

Except for one thing: when someone crossed a boundary, you didn’t say anything, until that boundary became a cliff and you watched your partner walk right over it. And you did nothing about it.

And here’s the best part: they had no clue.

The relationship is dead, and your partner is at the bottom of a ravine, bewildered and weeping at the hurt.

Its neither reasonable, nor possible, for you to expect them to know what is going on with you. Especially when you seem to be fine, or claim you are fine. Unless you married a mind reader, they probably can’t. Read your mind.

Withholding information never helps anything. It is tantamount to lying, with equally deleterious effects. You didn’t tell your partner because you are afraid of confrontation, and afraid of the partner being upset. Even so, you owe it to them to at least speak your truth before its too late. Trust is not a matter of speaking when things are going well. It’s a matter of communication and redressal. That is what builds trust. Its not a static thing; trust is built or destroyed every day.

resentment-destroys-relationshipsEveryone fucks up. What is right for them might not be right for you.

Do yourself a favor, speak up. Don’t be a silent (and resentful) partner. The person you chose to be your partner isn’t a bad person. If you brought it to their attention, they would have the opportunity to change course so as not to hurt you. If you brought it to their attention and they didn’t do anything about it, you are justified in walking away. And you and they can choose to stay, or leave. But do them the courtesy of the opportunity of redressal.

Silence is not always golden.

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The President has good taste

o I met the President. He’s actually an erudite, very sweet man.

People asked me, what will you do after you receive the award? I say, I’ll hold my hand out for a second award. They told me in advance I was going to get the award (you know, to make sure I was in town, prepare logistics etcetera) with the caveat that I not tell anyone. Do you know how HARD it was to keep THAT secret, the motherlode of all secrets, for all that time? I ended up cracking a little and telling people I had good news, and they’d ask eagerly, what good news (even some assumptions around children and pregnancy), I’d say, I can’t say. That earned me a few choice expletives.

SO, I say, I’ll hold out my hand for a second award, for NOT TELLING!!

The ceremony was imposing, which you can see here. Just scroll down, and you’ll see the video. Make you proud. It made me proud.

Oh, why did I get it? For being AWESOME, dude! For promoting the cause of women, through everything I do: standup comedy, business school professor, somatic practitioner, triathlete.

The Nari Shakti award is the highest and most prestigious award given to women by the President of India. And I am the first comedian EVER to receive it. EVER.

Thank you to Minister Maneka Gandhi and her office, the Ministry of Women and Child Development, for initiating and instituting this award.

And thank you, President Mukherjee. You have EXCELLENT taste.

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The Power of No

No is perhaps the most feared – and misunderstood word in communication. The reason its feared, is its viewed as rejection, and a judgment on your advances being incorrect or inappropriate.

So great is this fear, that people often accede with a half-hearted ‘yes’ than issue a ‘no’ lest the receiver of the no’s feelings be hurt. What happens immediately from this yes, is that it is not truthful, and hence does not really have the backing of the issuer behind me.

This is a good sign - its there for a reason. Usually to keep you from harm

This is a good sign – its there for a reason. Usually to keep you from harm

Consider this circumstance in the corporate environment: your boss gives you a demanding assignment in an overly aggressive timeline. You don’t think you can do it reasonably within that timeline, but you don’t want to sound incompetent so you say yes. Not a yes with reservations, not a yes with caveats, but a yes. The receiver of that yes imagines you can finish the task, and leaves you to it. Or your boss suggests a methodology that you don’t think will work, but since you can’t challenge your boss with misgivings due to a difference in your Power Distance Index (PDI), you say yes.

Either way, you will end up doing one of two things: over promise and under deliver (I have personally been guilty of this), leading to not delivering on time, compromising your image, or cut corners around quality, again, compromising your professional image. A yes didn’t help you. Or your heart won’t be in it. And you are doing the motions of a task, without quite doing the task.

I don’t trust a person’s yes if no doesn’t exist for them. If you are incapable of saying no, your yes isn’t a yes. It’s a default yes, its where you live, and you know no other world. Your dissent lives inside you, and you pretend to the world that you are with a plan, when you are not. This marks as deception. First to yourself, then to your work and interpersonal relationships.

Quite a few people I counsel have a terrible time saying no. Their body starts shaking from the prospect of saying no. When prompted, a lot of us recite a long list of people they can’t say no to: their boss, their husband, elders in their family. This builds resentment because you start doing things you don’t wish to. Tasks that you don’t agree with, or are even dangerous or hurtful.

What deference cost an airline

Malcolm Gladwell in his outstanding book Outliers provides an excellent example of a study on airline investigations when these researchers came upon a curious pattern: they found that Korean Air had a higher incidence of crashes in the 1990s compared to other airlines. A detailed investigation revealed that one of the significant causes was the Power Distance Index (PDI). The the power differential between the senior pilot and the junior pilot was so great that when the junior pilot, who was not flying the plane, pointed out a hazard (like there was ice on the wings), the senior pilot would deride him, asking if he knew more than the senior. This has been recorded on the black boxes of planes that went down. The junior tried to communicate a no – tried to tell the senior pilot not to take off because there was danger – and the senior pilot did not listen. And the junior pilot shut up. At the expense of 228 souls on board, including the two pilots.

Consider the no of your mother – when you run onto the street as a child, your mother says no. If you try and counter, with arguments, screaming, even tantrums such as throwing yourself upon the ground and making a royal scene, your mother says no. Even if she has to take you by the collar and heft you away.

Say no where its needed

Say no where its needed

The investigators around the Korean air crashes prescribed the following procedure in delivering a no – the pilot that is not flying the plane, will communicate perceived hazards once verbally, and if rejected, will repeat his warning once. Thereupon the supporting pilot has the authorization to physically take control of the plane away from the flying pilot.

Do you say no when you disagree? Do you stand your ground if you firmly believe the suggested procedure should not be followed? Conversely, if the no is not accepted properly in a firm, employees feel less valued, stop applying themselves, and stop contributing and pulling their weight as they ought to.

A no, given and received properly, is immensely empowering – both to the issuer of the no and the receiver of the no. A no is one of the most powerful tools in a negotiation toolbox.

A no is not the stop or the end. It is the beginning of a negotiation – for involved parties to understand each other better, respect each other’s wishes, and come to a solution that makes everyone happy. Its not my way or the highway – although sometimes it has to be – but in most circumstances a no is the beginning of a very fruitful and rewarding discussion.

A no provides choice. It’s a portal to better ways – if this doesn’t work, what does? What do you suggest? A successful corporation takes careful note of its counsel. When an employee says no in interpersonal relationships, she may be drawing a boundary around sexual harassment. You ignore a no at your own peril.

The person who is giving a no is saying – you are approaching a boundary or have crossed a boundary. This boundary can be anything from the mission of your company of efficiency or goodwill, or it could be a boundary of propriety. This person is giving you an opportunity to do things better. There are consequences if that no is not honored. Corporations pay for not respecting a no in surprisingly myriad of ways: with high employee turnover, lower productivity, increased production costs, even litigation in terms of sexual harassment.

Volkwagen: the case of the missing no

Consider the case of Volkswagen – the CEO of the firm, the engineers, linesmen, the entire production team, went against the primary stated mission of Volkswagen in cheating in the diesel emissions test – that of safety. Volkswagen had an obligation to its customers, to its shareholders. I am sure there must have been at least one employee in the entire firm who didn’t agree with this cheating policy. But they didn’t speak up. In addition to a loss of credibility, it cost jobs, the reputation of the firm, and close to a 40% loss in value of market share, impacting the shareholders, never mind the resonating impact on the environment and global air quality. For Volkwagen, a no was missing that could have saved its life.

On the personal front, a no is a path to happiness. Knowing that you have a choice –for what is freedom or democracy but the ability to make a choice? Saying no is honoring your own self. And everyone who truly cares for you will honor that no, and will work with you in finding a solution that makes you happy.

In terms of somatic therapy, I just did a session with a client who’d been through Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). This woman was morbidly afraid of saying no. My obseration during the session was that she would go through tremendous pain, and will not let on that she was suffering. It didn’t even register on her face! I suspected she was asked, as a child, to lie still, and not make a fuss while she went through excruciating pain. My somatic reading of her was she was ‘frozen’ in not allowing herself to react, acknowledge pain, or take up space. She had also been excessively sexually active, which is also a symptom of CSA. Since her first encounter with a man at such a young age was sexual, she grew up to assume that that’s all that men wanted from her. During the session, when I spoke to her about saying no, she just kept weeping silently.Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 3.47.00 PM

In addressing her frozen state somatically, I physically crushed her rib cage and lungs. And right there – you should have seen how her lungs inflated –for the first time in decades. She lay there, and her rib cage grew and grew and grew to such a height, I was amazed. She was breathing again.

Subsequent to one session with her, where I gave her permission to, and encouraged her to say no, the results were startling. She came back and reported that she had been with a man, and did something she had never done before. She said no to him. She said, I like hanging out with you, but I do not wish to engage sexually. I am not in the space to do so. And his response, I asked? ‘He said, of course that is perfectly fine. I honor your no, in fact, if you need help, and are afraid of crossing your boundaries, I will keep your boundaries for you, and not let you cross them.’ And this little girl knew for the first time what the honor of a perfect gentleman looks like. How did you feel about it, I asked? Its weird, she said. It feels weird to say no. Of course, it’s a new muscle. But I was proud of myself too. And there was joy.

I am always grateful when someone says no to me. The easiest thing in the world is to not say anything, or simply walk away. The person standing before me and saying no is really saying, ‘I care so much for you, I am risking confrontation and hurting your feelings to tell you you are about to do something I don’t agree with, likely will harm you, me, or both. I want you in my life, and I want trust between us.’ When we say no, we give ourselves and others the permission to follow joy, and actualize our personal and professional missions.

Throughout history, mankind’s ability to say no, which usually started from a single individual’s will to say no, has changed the course of our nation’s lives. Gandhi said no. Malcolm X said no. Rosa Parks said no. Even mother Theresa’s mission of charity began with her refusing the accept the squalor of medicine conditions available to the poor. A no is a powerful tool against oppression, injustice, or, plain stupidity.

Do yourself a favor, give yourself permission to say no.

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Volkwagen Dented and Painted

What One Lie Cost a Corporation

VW

VW

So, look. Diesel is better than gasoline in terms of mileage (a standard vehicle on diesel fuel can travel 30% further than its petrol counterpart) and emissions. Except for NOx emissions. And it’s a real challenge to bring the emissions within acceptable limits.

Other top companies who sell diesel vehicles are BMW, Audi, Chevrolet, Mercedes Benz. Another big user of diesel are heavy-duty trucks.

In 1998, several heavy duty diesel engine makers, such as Caterpillar and Cummins Engine Company found a way to bypass the stringent emissions standard by installing ‘defeat devices’ for passing the test, but disabled the emission control system during driving in real conditions. Caught, the US Justice Department required them to pay $83.4 M in civil penalties.

17 years later, in 2015, VW found itself in the same conundrum: we are unable to beat the emissions standard cheaply, so what do we do?

In a management déjà vu, VW opted to install software that recognized test conditions, and automatically turned the pollution control on, and when out of the test, having passed with flying colors, turned the pollution controls back on. The emissions standard was passed, EPA was happy, and no one was the wiser for it. For years.

Emisisons Test

Emisisons Test

Until Daniel Carter of the West Virginia Tech got hold of the VW Jetta and the VW Passat. In a small study funded by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) in late 2012 and completed in May 2013, they conducted field emissions tests for these two cars and did a double-take. Something must be wrong with what we did, they thought, because look: VW’s Jetta was emitting 15 to 35 times as much nitrogen oxide as the allowable limit, and the VW Passat, 5 to 20 times as much. Similar tests conducted by the US EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) replicated their findings.

So what happened here? Humans are the micro building blocks on which systems, corporations, cities, and nations are built. Some individual in VW said, I don’t know the answer to this test, so let’s cheat. Others, including the VW CEO, Martin Winkerton, said, that’s a good idea.

There was any number of options VW could have espoused. Other companies solved this problem. This answer is currently available to mankind. I’m not saying steal other engineer’s solutions – that would mean cheating off of another’s paper. They could have hired someone to provide that solution. Even if it wasn’t, they could have invested in R&D to come up with safer solutions in the future. They could have opted for biodiesel as a fuel: a life-cycle emission test by the US Department of Energy (DOE) found the tailpipe PM10 emissions of biodiesel are 68% lower than conventional biodiesel, and life-cycle particulate emissions are 32% lower than conventional diesel fuel4. They could have done what I have been taught to do by my father when I don’t know during a test: write ‘I don’t know’ on the test, and ask the teacher what the answer is, so you know next time. I would proudly write ‘I don’t know’, and yes, get 0 marks. I was fine with that.

I suspect the argument VW would make is, we have people’s jobs to protect. Now, how on earth are you going to protect jobs when you are: endangering lives with pollution from your 11 million vehicles sold worldwide that tremendously harm the lungs, create smog, and break the law? Volkswagen effectively said, we know there is a law to protect people, and we as a company place our profits before safety. We choose to cheat, and lie. That is what I’d expect from a 5 year old who has not been given the lesson of honesty and integrity yet.

My father would say, the truth will always out. And it did. And look at the fallout – this one lie cost VW 1/3 of its market capitalization: VW experienced a 43% drop in share value, approximately $ 30.69 Bn (VW’s last year’s profit was $ 12 Bn); VW plans to set aside $ 7.3 Bn to cover the cost of the scandal, the US could impose an $18 Bn fine on VW. Add to that the loss of sales, employee turnover, the crippling blow to VW, considered #67 on Forbes ‘World’s Most Valuable Brands’, and the US Department of Justice is contemplating criminal charges, and we are looking at a blow that VW might not recover from. Everything Das Auto’s German engineering and claims of safety stood for, is out the window.

Do you, VW, really stand for business at any cost?

The three biggest words in a corporation have to be integrity, transparency, and accountability, in that order. You have to mean what you say, and say what you mean on a human level. Otherwise everything else will just be lies, with the billions of dollars of corporations behind you. You will receive this answer from all who believe in goodness, wellness and truth: to the power of NOx.