Saturday, October 28, 2006

Book Review: Beyond Reason

Book review: Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate, by Roger Fisher (coauthor of Getting to Yes) and Daniel Shapiro (associate director of the Harvard Negotiation Project).

The best way to resolve problems -- whether they're formal negotiations, or problem-solving related to corporate life or personal conflicts -- is to look at the facts, stay objective and dispassionate, and keep your feelings out of the way. Right?

Well, no. It sounds nice, and plenty of people will be quick to tell you that emotions have no place in business, but the fact is that emotions are a basic physiological response, like yanking your hand away from a scalding pot. Pretending you don't have any... that's like pretending you don't have a foot. Emotions can affect your body, your thinking, and your actions.

As with so many other issues, it's not what emotions you've got, but what you do with them that counts.

Fisher and Shapiro draw attention to common triggers of emotional upset and suggest ways to turn that attention into an asset. Reduce the likelihood that the situation will explode; instead, use your emotions (and those of your adversary) to create partnership, collaboration, and respect.

Oh -- and conflict resolution.

Talk about useful: Not only is the book easy to read, well documented, based on research, illustrated with real-life examples, and structured on a progressive list of principles and easy-to-execute suggestions, it's got a cool "Analytical Table of Contents" at the back, so you can locate and review procedures in a snap. (I love this feature.) There's no formal index (my only serious disappointment), but there's a lovely annotated bibliography that not only lists works consulted, but describes and evaluates them.

Emotions can mire discussions in a La Brea Tar Pit of messy decline, but they can also elevate discussions and create bonds of mutual purpose. The authors describe how to prevent the first scenario and stabilize the second. They describe five core concerns that stimulate many emotions: Appreciation, Affiliation, Autonomy, Status and Role; they offer ways to handle strong emotions; they suggest ways to prepare for (and thus avert) disaster.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Restaurant Recommendation: Madison's

After Friday's trip to Hermiston, all I was suited for this weekend was sleep. But I had brunch with a friend this morning -- how did I ever miss Madison's? Holy cow, what a fabulous meal! I actually had to choose between my favorites (they had them all): French toast, Eggs Benedict, corned beef hash and chicken fried steak. I decided on French toast, and it was amazing, with cinnamon apples and densely whipped cream. Kathleen had the chicken fried steak, and it was delicious. Even the hash browns were extraordinary, seasoned with rosemary (I think) and curry (Kat thinks). I think I'm going to head down there more often!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Portland Story Theater Season Opens

Anita Bryant said a day without orange juice was like a day without sunshine. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we can do without either -- but don't ever get between us and our coffee.

Portland Story Theater opened its 2006-07 season last night with Who am I and Where is My Coffee?. The original stories, based on life events of the tellers, provide a memorable evening of gentle humor, adventure, and even moments of horror -- although not the kind you'd traditionally expect in October. While earlier productions have featured a quartet, the show's core trio of Lynne Duddy, Lawrence Howard and Rick Huddle tightly sustain the solid string of tales.

In a city overflowing with coffee shops, you wouldn't think finding a regular hangout would involve high drama in a grocery store aisle, but that's what Rick Huddle delivers in "The Fix." Part travelogue, part love story, not one false note, Huddle describes his search for an oasis of belonging -- one of those warm, grounded places where "a regular" can get "his usual." What he finds is both transitory and timeless.

Self-proclaimed "Drama Queen" Lynne Duddy is surprised by the powerful consequences of an 18-month-old cup of coffee she never got. Crater Lake was always a symbol of serenity for me. No more. It's a miracle there aren't two craters there now, after the scorched-earth reaction to a vacation gone terribly wrong. But Duddy also finds -- in the midst of identity theft -- that the world is conspiring to shower her with blessings.

Lawrence Howard's "Night Blues" may not convey the mystic power of John Masefield's lonely sea and the sky, but it rocks in a river dreaminess all its own. Boys on boats have a long and respected pedigree in storytelling, and Howard's contribution to the field speaks of adolescence, honor, and playfulness, and a job well done. "I Dream of Jeannie" also draws on on-the-job camaraderie, but also on isolation, and those situations when you wisely draw the line and walk away.

Who am I and Where is My Coffee? runs through October 28. Future performances are already scheduled for February and April (so far away!). Get season tickets. It's delicious work worth savoring.