Monday, July 27, 2009

Everything is negotiable

I was one of those who believed that not everything is negotiable. The longer I stay in India I would say that perception is changing. Wait long enough and things change too. The fluidity of the Indian system allows room for negotiation. School admission can be negotiated, real estate can be negotiated, job interviews can be negotiated, fruits and vegetables can be negotiated, price of drugs at the local pharmacy can be negotiated, domestic help can be negotiated, people can be persuaded, and sometimes I have been told even the weather can be negotiated. I have a friend who keeps fast if she doesn't want it to rain that day and it has always worked. Go figure!!!

All you need is that right contact or that right group and viola your job is done. Or as I have been subconsciously applying (I swear) use emotional logic to connect with people at the level they understand your point of view. Sounds manipulative, perhaps, but its as white as a white lie.

Its interesting how this phenomenon works. Sort of reminds of the book Tipping Point. Of course I am not just applying this to the Indian system, it works elsewhere too. You just need to have that Indian emotional logic in you, stay here long enough and its yours!!

I remember when I applied to a University in US for a post grad course and they refused to take in my application because I had a similar degree from India. They told me something about how it wouldn't be fair to others who never had that degree before. At the time I had arrived in the US, newly married and with a H4 visa that does not allow me to work there. I used my Indian emotional spiel about how does the US government expect a stay-at-home H4 visa wife to do anything constructive with her life? You don't let us work, you don't let us study, then what do you want us to do here, I ranted..I did get the admission after a series of tests and interviews and I am sure the emotional attyachaar sorry logic (torture) played its part.

I also remember an interview I had with a very large (trust me a very large one) company where a situation was posed in front of me. What would you do if before you are about to launch a product, a bug comes up and creates problems for the launch? In my youthful naivety I looked at the guy interviewing me and said I would be honest and give my customers full heads up because I believe that honesty hones long lasting relationships. The interviewer of course shifted uncomfortably in his chair and said - at our company, we would release another sensational news to diversify the attention from the bug. Seeing my horrified expression he recommended me to another group and I was hired. Emotional Logic? Will never find out..but I believe it played a part.

And recently of course our real estate deal. It took us 3 long years and many visits to a community we had been eyeing to get what we wanted. The first year I remember the question the marketing executive asked us. What company do you work for and what is your position there? Having recently arrived from the I don't care who you are and what you do country of U..S...A, my husband and I stared at him visibly upset at this sizing up. You see he explained we only encourage CEOs and executives to apply as this is a very premium property. It took three years and the downfall of the US and world economy to qualify us for this same community. We are looking for people just like you sir raved the marketing executive, his tone milder and his interest in us deepened. Seedhi ungli se ghee nahi nikalta hai (you can't remove Ghee easily with a straight finger, you gotto make it crooked to get anything) an old saying in India is so apporpriate for such situations. In this case recession played the logical part of an emotional purchase, our very first home in India. I call it emotional logic, wouldn't you?

4 comments:

  1. Love the "fasting" approach! Bhook Hartal or Pacifying the Gods?

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  2. Nice writing. Emotional Intelligence as I would call it. Persistence and never be afraid to receive a "NO". What worst can happen in any situation - ask, persist, ask, persist and dont take NO for an answer, Yea? Fasting? wow, only in India can you see a persistent fasting negotiater. I call fasting emotional athiachar :).

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  3. hey sima, was directed to your blog by archana. interesting topic.
    in india, we certainly learn to negotiate at our mother's knee. literally. my 2 year old did something naughty, and i sternly told him "nik, go to the corner". (he has a specified Time Out corner).he was watching TV then, so he sweetly offered "ok, mama, this corner?" - and went and stood in the corner where the TV was.

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  4. @Archana- I swear the fasting story is true. It shows the extent of negotiation one does even with the rain gods!! Only in India!!

    @Jane- welcome!! See they start young. I lived in the US for 11 years but I never felt I could negotiate so much because of the systems there, but in India I am amazed at how things can change if only you ask and ask and as Archana says persist.

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