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Opinions - everyone's got one 🤔

This week JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon claimed that the bank would last longer than the Chinese Communist Party (both of which are 100 years old). An unfortunate claim, given that JP Morgan has just won approval to become the first full foreign owner of a securities brokerage in China.

It’s very easy to inadvertently upset people by saying something the other party considers to be the ‘wrong thing’ – we’ve all done it. These comments however are sometimes expressed as intentional (or unintentional) negative slights with reference to stigmatised or culturally marginalised groups – these are otherwise known as ‘micro aggressions’ which in turn could be as a result of unconscious bias.

This got me thinking about a fascinating discussion I had earlier this week about micro expressions and how they relate to Emotional Intelligence. EI is largely concerned with how we and the other person/side feels and how we subsequently manage these emotions. Micro aggressions are more about the triggering of the ‘existing’ accumulation of unbalanced thoughts and ideals promoted by our own historical experiences from different and varied stimuli. These can of course be challenged by EI.

For me, Jamie Dimon’s remark was more a clumsy throw away comment rather than a micro aggression (that’s not to say that the Chinese Communist party isn’t sensitive on certain subject matter).

What I do know is that a speedy, meaningful, apology in this situation would probably be the best way to diffuse what could be a tense conflict situation. Too often in commercial conflict, people say controversial things fuelled by emotion. If the other side takes exception, and the offending party continues to defend their view – there is significantly less chance of reaching agreement as integrity quickly evaporates. Whilst we can’t remove emotions from our negotiations (we are human after all); we can manage them. Before engaging in sensitive discussions, return to the mantra of asking yourself the following three questions to help you to do this:

Should this comment be said?

Should this comment be said by me?

Should this comment be said by me now?

Of course, in a pragmatic sense, when we have differing opinions – we can always trade our opinions on the outcome (have a bet). These may take the form of discussions around quality targets, delivery times, financial results etc. Given I suspect, the deeply held beliefs of both parties here and the fact that JP Morgan and the Chinese Communist Party have already been operating for a century, that this is maybe a bit of a moot point. No doubt the individuals involved will be long gone before it’s time for the victor to collect their winnings!

Sam Macbeth, 25th November 2021

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