Michael Willard, writer, painter, columnist, entrepreneur
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Chapter Sixteen

And In Conclusion, Comity is King

In the future, let's do things differently. Okay?
Let's also be nice.
When I worked for the U.S. Senate some years ago, I could always tell a lot about a senator and his leadership abilities by the way he or she treated the Capitol Building elevator operators, kids really, who were working part-time or summer jobs.

A few had this master/servant relationship with the operators, hardly acknowledging them when they stepped on and rarely if ever saying "thank you" when the appropriate floor was reached. On the other hand, there were those like my boss, Sen. Robert Byrd, who went out of their way to be kind to the hired help, no matter at what level. Gracious is probably the correct word.

In business you can be tough and often you have to be tough. You go into battle fully armored and loaded with heavy cannon. You know, as noted earlier, there is really no such thing as initially wanting a level playing field; each side wants to gain an advantage. The fact that you walk away, hopefully, with both sides smiling is the result of tough negotiation, and in the end, suitable compromise. This is where comity comes in.

Over the years, I have found that I win more by smiling and listening than by ranting and shutting out conversation from the other side of the table. If one is to raise a voice, it should be a rarity, and the purpose should not be one of anger but one of theatrics. In other words, to make a salient point that doesn't seem to be registering on the other side by other more benevolent methods. You should use such about as often as one would use an exclamation point. If you go through this book for punctuation, you will find errors and gremlins that have crept in. However, chances are, in 53,000 words, you would find only a couple of exclamation points. They are only rarely necessary-the same as a slight temper flare up for dramatic purposes.

I had good training for this. I had a patient papa. But I learned what "niceness" I have from a fellow named Bob Turner who I haven't seen or heard from in about 40 years. Turner had a desk in front of mine at the Tampa Times. He covered the city beat, and had for some time. He was a veteran, and I was the rookie. Turner was not the typical afternoon newspaper reporter.

To work on a PM you had to be aggressive, often getting stories between a 7:30 a.m. starting time and an 11:30 a.m. deadline, a four-hour time slot. But Turner didn't talk tough out the side of his mouth like a Damon Runyon caricature. He was the picture of the Southern gentleman. He treated the secretaries as well as he treated their bosses. He did the same with waiters at a local restaurant we frequented. When I was 22-years-old, I promised myself I would be a Bob Turner, and, over the years, it is something I have strived for-not necessarily or always reaching that standard. But I have tried, and it has gotten me further in business, in my view, than if I had, in essence, charged the pitcher every time he tossed a bean ball at me.

I leave you with the above thought. Thank you for joining me on my journey. I hope you have learned a little. I have learned a lot simply by putting it on paper as The Silverback Diaries.

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