April 21st, 2006

ozarque figure

Touch language; example dialogue...

Serendipity.... Last night I went through some of my books looking for a dialogue that I thought might help serve as a demonstration of the use of touch language to get through a workplace communication problem, and I found one; this morning dteleki posted a comment suggesting that I post precisely that dialogue. So, here it is, excerpted from The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense at Work, pp. 77-79, lightly edited for space reasons.

Scenario Nine

The men around the table were not at ease. Wary, they sat upright in their chairs, instead of leaning back relaxed as was their habit. Their eyes were wary, too, glancing sideways at the client who was the reason for the hasty meeting, and then straight ahead, carefully blank, at nothing at all.

The client's name was Edward Kleeg, and he was absolutely furious. Nobody liked Kleeg, even when he was in a good mood. He was clumsy and coarse; he was given to telling bad jokes; he liked to tell long rambling anecdotes about his personal life and seemed unaware that they were excruciatingly boring. It was fortunate that he had inherited money and had sense enough to hire good people to look after his affairs. Kleeg was a flaming pain in the neck under the best of circumstances, and these were emphatically not the best of circumstances; his anger at Metamega Corporation was entirely justified. True, Metamega couldn't have foreseen the paper shortage that was holding up his product, but there was no excuse for not having warned Kleeg. Because nobody had wanted to deal with him, they'd been two weeks later giving him the word than they should have been. In a case like this, you turned the matter over to Paul Nelson and you tried to stay well back out of the line of fire.

"...stupid inCOMpetence!" Kleeg was yelling. "If I could get my hands on the idiot responsible for this MESS, I'd TEAR HIS DAMNED HEAD off!"

Nelson chuckled, and leaned back in his chair with his hands clasped behind his head. "That'd be a great feeling, wouldn't it?" he asked.

"Damn right!" Kleeg bellowed. "You people have put both feet in it THIS time! And I have had it up to HERE" -- he slammed both of his fists into his chest -- "with you!" And then he roared into a seemingly endless tirade about the errors Metamega had made and the way those errors should be punished. Through it all, Paul Nelson just sat there, listening to Kleeg, saying only "mmmm....." and "mmmmhmmm..." and -- over and over -- "Got it!" Until gradually, little by little, Edward Kleeg began to wind down, and with Nelson's last "mmhmmm" he subsided, out of breath.

Paul sat up then, and he leaned toward Kleeg with his elbows on the table. "Mr. Kleeg," he said solemnly, holding Kleeg's eyes with his own, "what really impresses me is the grasp you have of this situation. You are totally in touch with the problem -- warts, cracks, bumps, rough edges, and all. And that makes me feel confident that we can smooth this over."

"I guess I do get a little carried away," said Kleeg.

"You do," Paul agreed amiably. "You get all bent out of shape."

Edward Kleeg sighed, and looked embarrassed. "I'm sorry," he said -- to the amazement of the spectators. They hadn't been aware that the words "I'm sorry" were in Kleeg's vocabulary.

Paul grinned at him. "Don't be," he said. "We did put both feet in it, just like you said. We should have let you know sooner that there was going to be slippage in the delivery cycle. But mistakes get made, Mr. Kleeg, even in the best of businesses. We put our backs into our work here -- we mean for everything to go as smooth as silk. But sometimes we fall short of our goals. This time, for example. We'd like a chance to make it up to you."

"Well.... " The man was frowning. "How do I know you'll handle it any better next time?"

Paul chewed on his lower lip and frowned too; he leaned back in his chair again, kicking way back so that it was balanced precariously on two legs. The others hated it when he did that. For one thing, it was inappropriate for a business environment. For another, you couldn't keep your mind on anything except wondering when Nelson was going to crash to the floor. "You don't know, Mr. Kleeg," he said bluntly. "You can't know. But what's your gut feeling?"

"Mmmmm?" Kleeg's eyes were on the teetering chair.

Nelson straightened up, the chair legs hit the floor with a thud, and the other man jumped, startled back to full attention. "What's your gut feeling?" Nelson repeated, more sharply this time.

"Well.... " Ed Kleeg smiled at him. "I'll give you another chance, I guess. Hell... anybody could get careless once."

And Paul smiled back. "Sure they could," he said comfortably. "But you've got us on our toes now, Mr. Kleeg. Trust me. Everything's going to be all right."

Note: The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense at Work is Prentice Hall Press 2000. It's a second edition of an earlier Prentice Hall book (Success With the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense), with some substantial updating plus a complete new chapter on "Staying Out of Court and Out of Trouble." I wanted it called Success With the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense: Second Edition; Prentice Hall Press overruled me on that, but did identify it that way on the copyright page.
ozarque figure

Troublesome; being evil; and evil thoughts...

"All right -- and this is very interesting -- just what evil thoughts does Troublesome think?"

We've established that Troublesome is a contemplative, which helps a tad, but I still haven't gotten to posting on the topic of what contemplation (in my worldview, and used as a cover term for a variety of mental actions) is supposed to accomplish in the real world. I can answer the specific question above, however, by just restricting it to the fictional universe in the Ozark Trilogy.

All that Troublesome has to do in order to be evil is devote her full attention to contemplation on this one thought: "Let there be disharmony and imbalance and dissonance."

If she were to get bored with that one, here are two more possibilities:

"Let there be more suffering and more misery."

"May all things go badly, and may evil be returned for evil."

And that's more than enough. It makes me nervous just to type that sort of thing.