Risk Insider: Grace Crickette

Mental Jiu-Jitsu and the Art of Listening

By: | November 4, 2014

Grace Crickette, a leader in enterprise risk management, is special administrator, Finance and Administration for San Francisco State University. She can be reached at [email protected]

Topics: ERM | Risk Insider

This is the third chapter in Grace Crickette’s series of posts focused on how to gracefully bring together traditional risk management, change management techniques and enterprise risk management concepts by using phrases and tactics to develop strategies devised by Sun Tzu, a Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher.


rainbow peace sign copyBefore we continue with Chapter III, I want to do a deeper dive into the art of listening. I know few and cherish greatly, those who have mastered the art of listening, because they learn more, irritate others less, and are invaluable to those of us who have such active minds that our ears are swallowed up by our heads.

Importance of Knowledge, Wisdom, and Understanding

A theme that is embedded in virtually every other theme of the Art of War — especially in regard to knowing self and opposition — is the importance of knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding are borne from asking questions and listening.

One of my colleagues told me that she was concerned about remaining silent during meetings, “I don’t want my silence to be perceived as weakness.” I can completely relate to her statement, as I often find myself feeling that I must respond, even if I’m not invited to speak, for fear that decisions will be made without my input. While I have not mastered the art of listening, I have developed a technique that gets me to focus, to be quite and to listen effectively, without giving up my position (power).

For those martial arts experts out there — please let me take some liberties … I have adapted Jiu-Jitsu to aid me in developing a self-defense system that focuses on grappling and especially “ground fighting.” My mental Jiu-Jitsu promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using proper technique.

“Let them talk and whatever you do, don’t interrupt them. Unless they ask a question of us, there is no reason for us to speak.”

A number of years ago, I was headed to a meeting with one of my colleagues. As we rode along in the taxi, we talked about how we were dreading what was before us. We knew that we were going to be outnumbered and that our host was going to be on the offensive. As we went along, I proposed that we practice mental Jiu-Jitsu …”what?”

“Let them talk and whatever you do, don’t interrupt them. Unless they ask a question of us, there is no reason for us to speak.”

“But what if they’re wrong … what if they are attacking us?”

“I’m telling you, if they don’t ask a question, we don’t need to respond. I’m going to sit there with my arms open, so that my body language is just the opposite of how I’m feeling internally. It is going to hurt; they are going to throw some body blows …”

So we went to the meeting and we practiced mental Jiu-Jitsu. They attacked us and our ideas for at least 10 minutes straight without ever asking a question … and then there was silence. I waited, and waited till it was uncomfortable, and then I spoke … “I understand you have concerns, but this is what we are going to do …” The adversary had exhausted themselves and we were able to get the important initiative moving forward.

Maybe it is not a coincidence that “Carlos Gracie” is known as the founder and creator of modern Jiu-Jitsu.

Key Takeaway: Know your weaknesses and develop strategies to overcome them. Unless someone is asking you a question, you have no responsibility to speak.

Remember — it’s not Risk Management, it’s Change Management!

Read all of Grace Crickette’s Risk Insider articles.

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