I’m from Texas originally. Growing up, I didn’t hear, “That’s not going to work” but rather, “That dog won’t hunt.” In Texas, you wouldn’t plead with someone to, “Just make a decision would you?“, you’d say, “Just fish or cut bait.” I can still hear my momma (yes, all Texas kids have “mommas” way past adulthood) saying, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” whenever someone spoke unkindly or harshly. (I thought catching a fly might not make you so happy either but who was I to question momma!)
After the International Olympic Committee announced that Tokyo had won the bid to host the 2020 summer games, I heard an NPR piece noting that Tokyo had used “soft power tools” to secure the bid. “Soft power tools” is a term coined by Harvard’s Joseph Nye. It refers to the ability to influence another person through persuasion or attraction, rather than through threat of force or payoffs.
I’ve wondered if the sayings I heard so often growing up weren’t simply a softer way of saying something that might otherwise be heard as abrasive, a “soft power tool” if you will.
Although the term is widely used in international affairs by analysts and statesmen, in our efforts to use Conflict as Catalyst© we might employ a few soft power tools. For example,
- Rather than saying, “I’ll take you to court and get a judge to order you to do x” when feeling threatened, (use of force) perhaps it might be more productive to say, “Can I share with you why it’s important to me for you to do x?”
- Rather than saying, “I’ll give you more of the retirement funds if you give me more time with the kids,” (payoff) it might be ultimately more satisfying to use a soft power tool and address the need to be involved and close to one’s children post-divorce.
- Rather than telling your aging father that he has to deal with his estate plan now or you’ll seek to have him declared incompetent (use of force, albeit one with a high standard with the court), it might be more productive to talk with your dad about how he dealt with his own parents’ aging issues and confide to him your fears around his dying without identifying his wishes through a will (persuasion).
Sounds a little like catching more flies with honey than vinegar to me!
Wishing you wisdom,