Unintended Consequences: How Communications Technology is Killing Our Children’s Future Reply

Young adultsBy Chris Simmons

Digital natives, the term used for Millennials and the follow-on generations, are at grave risk from the very technology they’ve so thoroughly embraced.

New research finds that this reliance on emails, texts, and similar impersonal tools has removed the non-verbal component  from how these generations communicate. However, as readers of this blog are aware, however, the bulk of every single human interaction is nonverbal.

Devoid of all the subtle nuances  that comprise effective communications, digital natives are left with nothing but emotionless words. Given decades of research demonstrating that at least 60% of every message is nonverbal, digital natives are at risk to experiencing lives of institutionalized miscommunication.

This news alone is startling, but more devastating is the second key finding of this latest study. Absent the emotional (i.e., nonverbal) component of their cyber interactions, the digitals‘ brains are being rewired to process communications in a reason-based fashion. Thus, communication is reduced to mathematical equations wherein “word+word+word=irrefutable fact.”

Sadly, the rest of the world does not think and act based exclusively on logic and reason. Emotion is, and always will be, at the heart of every decision made by non-digital natives. This puts natives in a significant disadvantage whenever they interact face-to-face. Inexperienced at reading body language and the other theatrics of language, their failure rate in analyzing and interpreting others’ actions or negotiating favorable outcomes is stunning.

Predictably, this discomfort and unfamiliarity with F2F communications leads some digitals to retreat back into their comfort zone of technology-based tools. This response, however, can send the digital into a communications death spiral and increasingly deep personal and professional isolation.

Fortunately, the digitals can be saved, but only if older generations intervene. Non-digital natives need to teach the younger generations about nonverbal communication, the emotional roots of being human, behavioral cues, statement analysis, and so forth. Its not to late to save them – but their personal and professional futures require our immediate assistance.

The “X-Y” Theory of Motivation Reply

By Chris Simmons

American psychologist Douglas McGregor detailed the X-Y theory in his 1960 book, The Human Side of Enterprise.” While some recent studies question the inflexibility of his work, X-Y is still widely used in addressing organizational motivations and culture. McGregor suggests management styles are a simple choice between authoritarian or participatory approaches. Furthermore, Theory X (dictatorial) managers will generally experience poor results while their Theory Y (engaged) counterparts see better individual and organizational performance because of the opportunities to grow and develop.

Theory X Assumptions (Authoritarian Management)

  • The average person inherently dislikes work and will avoid it if possible.
  • Because most people dislike work, they must be coerced into striving towards an organizational goal.
  • The average person avoids responsibility, has little or no ambition, desires security over all other things, and prefers to be task-directed.

Theory Y Assumptions (Participatory Management)

  • Work is satisfying.
  • Physical and mental exertion at work is as natural as play or rest.
  • Coercion is not the only way to motivate people to work. When committed to a cause, people willingly use self-direction and self-control to achieve a goal.
  • One’s commitment is tied to the value of the perceived reward for achievement.
  • People seek and accept responsibility and will do the job based on their perception of the job’s priority.
  • The ability to solve organizational problems using ingenuity, creativity, and imagination is widely – not narrowly – found among the general populace.
  • The average person’s intellectual potential is only partially realized.

For all those currently suffering under a Theory X boss, read this offering from businessballs.com on surviving an authoritarian manager

Did You Get Married and Divorced For The Same Reasons? 1

By Aaron Karmin, PsychCentral.com

Why is it that we fall in love with our dream-mate and then spend the next forty years yelling, fighting and screaming as if we had married our worst enemy? It makes no sense. It makes even less sense to get a divorce and marry someone just like the first one.

All humans acquire expectations, both positive and negative in childhood. These expectations encourage us to think, feel, act, and make choices in certain ways. However, expectations do not exist in a vacuum, they exist in a context. And the context that shapes our expectations is built around our past.

Our past doesn’t necessarily predict our future, but what is familiar is comfortable and can offer security. For example, a woman who was criticized by her father and blamed by her brother will not be comfortable with a partner who treats with empathy or support. When she dates a controlling and hostile guy, her friends will say: “He’s not for you,” but she will defend him saying: “He’s really a good person down deep. It’ll work out, you’ll see.”

Another example is the woman who was “abandoned” by her father as a child. She is not “comfortable” with men who are stable and predictable. She will gravitate towards men who will mirror her father’s example and abandon her. If she accidentally marries a man who is unlikely to abandon her, she will provoke him until he can’t stand it any more and stomps out the door. Mission accomplished.

If this woman finds herself dating a man who treats her with respect, she will feel “uncomfortable” and soon end it. She will not question the nature of her “discomfort,” nor seek to relieve it. She will keep dating until she meets someone that she feels “comfortable with.”

Still another example is the woman who was her father’s sparring partner. She will be comfortable with men who fight with her. She will be uncomfortable with men who try to calm her down, to please her, or treat her as an equal. She will scorn such people as “too passive,” or “too boring.” She will search for someone more “exciting” to turn her on. In time, she will find him and they will make miserable music together.

This process is not rational or logical. We ask ourselves, “What does she see in him?” If we ask her, she will come up with some cover story like, “He is so strong, so sure of himself.” The paradox is that we often separate from our partner for the same reasons that we were first attracted to them:

First Attraction: “He was so strong and manly.”
Grounds For Divorce: “He was a brute”

First Attraction: “She was so cute and helpless; she needed me.”
Grounds For Divorce: “She was so dependent on me, I couldn’t breathe.”

First Attraction: “I loved his sense of humor.”
Grounds For Divorce: “He never took me seriously”

First Attraction: “She was sharp as a tack.”
Grounds For Divorce: “She cut me to ribbons with that mouth of hers”

First Attraction: “He was so ambitious and successful.”
Grounds For Divorce: “He never came home from work.”

First Attraction: “She was so pretty.”
Grounds For Divorce: “She was always getting looks from other men”

First Attraction: “I loved her independence!”
Grounds For Divorce: “She wouldn’t do a thing I told her.”

First Attraction: “He was a take-charge guy.”
Grounds For Divorce: “He was a control freak.”

First Attraction: “He was so easy going.”
Grounds For Divorce: “He never made a decision”

First Attraction: “He was so attentive.”
Grounds For Divorce: “He never let me out of his sight.”

First Attraction: “He was so passionate.”
Grounds For Divorce: He always yelled at me.”

First Attraction: “He couldn’t keep his hands off me.”
Grounds For Divorce: “He would push and smack me

For The Love of Our Brothers: Saving Marcus Luttrell Reply

By Chris Simmons

Trailer for the forthcoming movie, Lone Survivor

Three of the four SEALs we infiltrated into the Himalayas yesterday were already dead or wounded before we even knew they were in trouble.

Known as Task Force 328, we launched Operation “Red Wing” against the infamous Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. The SEAL Team 10 members were on a Reconnaissance and Surveillance (R&S) mission. Their mission was not to kill Shah, but to covertly find and monitor him until he could be captured or killed by other assets. Regrettably, the mission went horribly wrong.

Late on June 27, 2005, two of our twin-engine MH-47 helicopters performed several “false insertions.” This maneuver confused Taliban forces as to the true location of the SEAL’s drop-off point at Sawtalo Sar. Over 2800 meters tall, the peak is in the eastern Afghanistanprovince of Kunar. It overlooks the mouth of the Wakhan Corridor — a narrow finger of territory between Tajikistan and Pakistan.

The R&S team consisted of Navy Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, Petty Officer Second Class Danny P. Dietz, Petty Officer Second Class Matthew G. Axelson and Navy Corpsman (“medic”) Second Class Marcus Luttrell.

Within hours of their arrival, the team was discovered by local goat herders. Although they were deep in “Taliban Country,” the SEALS had no proof the herders were anything more than they appeared. Murphy ordered them released. It proved to be a fateful decision.

Tipped off by the “goat herders,” an estimated 50 Taliban fighters surrounded the SEALs and attacked with assault rifles, light machine guns, Rocket Propelled Grenades, and light mortars.

The SEALs tried using their radio and a satellite phone to contact those of us in the Joint Operations Center (JOC). Geography appears to have crippled their “comms.” The team could only establish and maintain communication with us long enough to say they were under heavy attack.

A rescue mission was immediately launched, comprised solely of volunteers:  eight Navy SEALs and eight Army Special Operations aviators. The crew of the MH-47 quickly found the SEAL’s position and with Gatling guns blazing, descended. As “Turbine 33” descended to a height of 100 feet, a Taliban fighter stepped out of the tree line with a Rocket Propelled Grenade. He fired the RPG directly into the chopper’s rear engine. Needing both engines to stay aloft in the thin air of the Himalayas, Turbine 33 dropped like a rock. The crash killed all aboard.

Meanwhile, Marcus Luttrell was the R&S team’s sole survivor. Knocked out by a separate RPG blast, he regained consciousness to find himself with several broken bones and other serious wounds.

Ghalib, a local Pashtun man, found Luttrell and offered sanctuary in his home. Under tribal law, one is sworn to protect the life of anyone who crosses the threshold of your home. Outraged by Ghalib’s act, the Taliban surrounded his home and demanded he turn over the American. He bravely defied their demands and the Taliban, unwilling to violate tribal law, withdrew after several days.

Shortly thereafter, American forces rescued Luttrell and recovered the bodies of the 19 personnel killed during the mission. The memorial service at Task Force headquarters lasted three hours, marked by personal tributes and anecdotes from 19 brothers-in-arms. Not a dry eye could be found.

The callsign Turbine 33 was retired, never again to be used by a US military aircraft.

Some people say that war changes you. I believe a more accurate assessment is that war sharpens and amplifies who you already are. Bad men devolve into Satan incarnate. Good men become immortal. Their heroic deeds becomes the stuff of legends, but so too their motivation, because they made their sacrifice not for God and Country, but for the noblest of all emotions — love. Shakespeare said it best:  We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…”

Small Town SmackDown: Payback Can Be a Bear…. Reply

By Chris Simmons

Several years ago, a quaint little village in Virginia held its annual “Fall Festival.” Populated by amazing artisans, tours of historic homes, and abundant junk food, it is a fun event for young and old alike. On that particular October weekend, bitterly-contested state and national elections were in their closing weeks. Throughout the strongly-Democratic hamlet, political signs were as abundant as the gently falling leaves.

A major Republican Party official and her entourage arrived and launched into some old-fashioned politicking at the heavily attended fair. Within minutes, members of the festival’s organizing committee surrounded them and instructed them to leave. “We don’t allow politics to distract from our festival,” they were told.

“How can you say that?” one local entourage member asked. “Your town is awash with blue Democratic Party campaign signs” the staffer added. Then, pointing to a nearby crowd, another Republican activist added – “Right there are several Democratic candidates for the state Senate and House of Delegates doing exactly what we’re doing.”

“We hadn’t noticed they were here,” a festival organizer said with a broad smirk. “Now please leave,” she again directed.

The senior Republican representative graciously complemented the organizers on the beauty of their village, expressed her hope for a hugely successful event, and announced that they would leave as requested.

Livid at the disrespect just inflicted, several members of the entourage repeatedly glanced back as they proceed up the hill to the parking lot. “Look, they’re going back to the fair!  They didn’t tell the Democrats to leave! They lied to us!!” wailed one incensed supporter.

“It will be okay,” their Republican leader said reassuringly. After the activists were packed back into their vehicle, their principal turned to them and again smiled. “Think of this as a teaching point,” she said. “I sit on the committee that decides which towns receive state grants for their festivals, as well as the size of those grants. This town will never see another dime from Richmond [the state capitol].”

During the years that followed, the hamlet received annual notices that its grant requests had been denied. Apparently, there is no longer enough funding for all the worthy applicants.

Two distinct lessons can be drawn from this scenario:

  1. Hypocrisy and deceit is often “treated” by the hidden hand of discreet retaliation.
  2. We frequently create our own enemies.

The Spy Who Turned Me 1

A Former CIA Case Officer on the Most Effective Levers for Persuading Someone to Become a Traitor.

By Jason Matthews, The Wall Street Journal

During my thirty-plus years working abroad for the CIA, the unspoken truth among case officers like me was that you’d have to be nuts, as the citizen of another country, to be a spy for a foreign intelligence service. In recruiting an agent or “asset,” we were asking him to ignore the instinct of self-preservation, to break the laws of his own country—to become a traitor. And we were asking him to trust that no leak or mole would ever expose him.

Today, there are still secrets that need stealing, and the consequences of detection remain dangerous. Moscow’s recent expulsion of an alleged CIA officer was dramatic, but such moves are among the lesser costs of espionage gone awry.

How, then, does a case officer persuade someone to become a traitor? There is no definitive handbook. The process is as complex as human relationships. If possible, a friendship should develop between the case officer and the prospective agent; bonds of trust must be established. But beneath the surface, there is the CIA officer’s constant and often uncharitable assessment of the target’s aspirations, fears and desires. You must know what motivates the potential recruit so that you can better exploit his vulnerabilities and, in the end, put him in the right frame of mind for your “pitch.”

In making this assessment, the CIA relies on four basic human motivations, described by the acronym MICE: money, ideology, conscience and ego. Some agencies in the U.S. intelligence community, perhaps not realizing that MICE is already a plural word, insist on adding an S to the end for sex. But sexual entrapment is not a reliable recruitment technique. A blackmailed agent tends to be resentful, brooding, prone to disloyalty and the fabrication of intelligence. Other countries, most infamously Russia, have used sexual entrapment in intelligence operations without compunction.

The relationship with an agent motivated by money is straightforward: “We give you cash, and you steal secrets.” Consider the case of the aircraft mechanic in a North African country who, in 1974, reported that six new export models of the Soviet MiG 23 fighter had been delivered to his military air base. He was willing to photograph every detail of the planes and proposed being paid per frame, as long as the images were of value.

One night, under a brilliant African moon, he crawled all over the plane, snapping photos. For a final rear-facing shot, he shinnied out onto the shark’s nose of the aircraft—and suddenly slid backward off the front. He looked up to discover that he had bent down the hollow nose needle at a twenty-degree angle. Unable to straighten the thing out—and worried that his payment would be jeopardized—he proceeded down the flight line in a panic and bent the five needles on the remaining fighters to match the first. He got his money, but his access was lost, along with his usefulness.

The agent motivated by ideology—or, as often as not, by the traumatic loss of ideology—may develop slowly, sometimes over years. This agent no longer believes in her government. She has been abused by the system and hates the superiors who have ruined her career. Lots of regimes around the world, past and present, take away hope and institutionalize despair: Stalin in the 1950s, the mullahs in Tehran in 2013. A Soviet military officer named Dmitri Polyakov, posted to New York in the 1960s, was refused permission by an implacable Moscow to take his fatally ill son to a U.S. doctor. His ideology faded, his heart hardened and he started to work with the CIA. He is still considered one of the agency’s best assets ever.

The agent motivated by conscience bears watching. He may be messianic and looking for ways to atone for his sins, or for the sins of his system—or for all the Evil in the World. The ticking of remorseful conscience may come with age, with too much war or betrayal, or with having driven a tank in Tiananmen Square. Or it may come with enlightenment. Perhaps an Iranian nuclear scientist—rational, humanistic, a man of erudition—will realize one day what it would mean for the Islamic Republic to have nuclear weapons and will emerge from the subterranean centrifuge halls of the Iranian desert with secrets in hand.

The agent motivated by ego is a blessing and a curse. Properly stroked, he can be responsive, motivated and focused. But once the stroking starts, you cannot stop: He will be needy, moody, demanding. Ego is one of the most powerful human motivators, and it encompasses sex, as the Russians knew very well in running their sexual ambushes against targets inside and outside Russia over the years.

A case officer also looks for prospects among individuals who seem to be in search of an ego, their spirits stamped flat by purges, cultural revolutions or protracted tax investigations (a favorite tactic of today’s Kremlin). In the late 70s, one agent with abysmal self-esteem and a nervous disposition was told (falsely) by his case officer that his intel tidbits had been reported to the White House to rave reviews. His shriveled ego flowered: He now had people who counted on him and admired him! That’s all it took for the meek little man to ignore his fears and begin bringing out classified documents—all in the belief that he was personally spying for Jimmy Carter, God help him.

The spy game is a perfect subject for examining the human condition. Its practitioners traffic in trust and betrayal, hope and fear, love and hatred. And even now, our intelligence needs multiply—in the rush to understand how Russia will use natural gas to extend its reach, or how soon Iran will have a nuke, or how Beijing plans to achieve hegemony in the Pacific. Case officers around the world continue their work, trying to persuade people to become traitors and deploying tools as old as the trade itself.

–Mr. Matthews is a retired officer of the CIA’s former Operations Directorate (now the National Clandestine Service). His first novel, “Red Sparrow,” will be published June 4.

Not a Good Day to Die Reply

By Chris Simmons

Death came calling that warm spring evening in the form of an indicted war criminal and his entourage of 15 bodyguards.

In Bosnia as a peace-keeper, I was the Collections Chief for NATO’s intelligence battalion. I ran the alliance’s “Human Intelligence” efforts, gathering information from over 200 “sources” living throughout Bosnia and Croatia. Our collection requirements were diverse: refugee issues, Persons Indicted For War Crimes (PIFWCs) (i.e., war criminals), demilitarization of the former combatants, corruption, terrorism, etc.

Running successful espionage operations required an aggressive, hands-on approach. As a result, I was frequently in the field with my collectors helping them improve their “tradecraft,” that is, their “source” handling skills. On this particular day, my colleagues and I had just finished an extraordinarily fruitful day with our collectors in Tuzla, a 6,000-year old town in northeast Bosnia. To celebrate, we decided to go off base and have dinner in the city. As “shallow-cover” collectors, we drove unmarked civilian vehicles rather than the “Humvees” used by the rest of the peace-keepers. Military convoys were easy for the “bad guys” to spot and avoid, whereas we blended in with all the other commercial vehicles on the road.

The restaurant’s parking lot was empty when we arrived, so we spread the vehicles out to minimize attention. Everyone in our group was openly armed as we walked in. Additionally, several carried MP5-SDs (German sub-machineguns with silencers) in their innocently-appearing backpacks and carry bags.

We were early into our meal when the Specter of Death arrived. A well-known PIFWC and his bodyguards pulled into the parking lot. Recognizing him on sight, everyone drew their weapons, but kept them hidden under the table while we quickly assessed options. They had a slight edge in manpower, but we had the element of surprise – they couldn’t see us through the restaurant’s tinted windows. On the downside, our additional ammunition was outside in our vehicles.

Surrounded by a phalanx of bodyguards, our PIFWC remained near his vehicles while a small “advance team” approached the restaurant. Once they were through the second set of doors, we’d be face-to-face and the situation would explode. “Everybody stay cool. I’ve got this,” yelled Nick as he jumped to his feet. A Brit with extensive service in Northern Ireland, Nick was the #2 man at our Tuzla company. “You,” he commanded one of the waiters, “When I signal, you open the second set of doors and greet them.” The server did as ordered.

Weapon holstered and elbows tight by his side, Nick held his hands mid-chest with his fingers spread. Approaching from their blind side, he calmly announced “Everybody relax, we’re here to have a nice relaxing dinner just like you.” Having drawn their attention away from the rest of us, the advance team now realized they were grossly outnumbered and – with the outer doors now closed – out of contact with the rest of their group. Voice calm and reassuring, Nick continued moving slowly towards them without breaking eye contact. “Let’s call a truce for tonight. Nobody gets shot and your boss doesn’t get arrested…at least not tonight,” Nick quipped with a slight smirk. The gallows humor provoked nervous laughter from the bodyguards. “Agreed,” replied their lead man.

Calmly placing a hand on his upper arm, Nick “asked” his bodyguard counterpart “How about you go back outside and tell your boss we’ve made a deal. It’s good for tonight only and if anyone asks, none of us were ever here.” Nick’s skillful handling of the situation prompted a most welcome but unexpectedly humorous response: “As your colleagues from down under would say, no worries mate!” Turning to the remaining bodyguards, their chief told two to stay with their new found friend while one accompanied him back outside.

The two briefed the PIFWC and the rest of the protective detail. Visibly apprehensive, they become collectively calmer as reality set in. The truce was their only way out. The forces were too evenly matched for a gunfight and even if some of them survived, they knew we would never allow the PIFWC to leave the parking lot alive. Conversely, if they turned around and left, that would break the truce and trigger an immediate nationwide manhunt. Outplayed, they entered the restaurant, each man nodding as they passed our table. We nodded back and watched as they sat down at a table on the other side of the restaurant. Still terrified, the staff temporarily closed the eatery to other diners.

Ninety minutes later, our meal finished, we rose to leave. As we did, Nick strode over to their table, made eye contact with the PIFWC and then his entire detail. He calmly thanked them for accepting our invitation to a temporary truce. “There’ll be no trouble tonight,” he reassured them, before turning and walking out with the rest of us.

The meeting of my intelligence collectors and a heavily-guarded PIFWC was akin to putting together a King Cobra and a mongoose. The survival of one required the death of the other. So it was for us, collectively, that warm spring evening in Tuzla.

Nick saved everyone’s lives that day by following the 1st Rule of Human Nature:  Self-Interest Trumps Everything. Our PIFWC’s self-interest – and that of his guards – focused on two complimentary goals: avoid death (immediate need) and preclude capture/arrest (long-term need). Our immediate self-interest was identical to the “bad guys:” survive tonight. Our long-term interest, however, was to see our PIFWC arrested at some point in the near future and we were absolutely confident we would accomplish that goal.

However, understanding human nature wasn’t enough to keep everyone alive. Nick’s masterful use of body gestures, personal space, and vocals (i.e., tone, pitch, voice speed & word choice) pushed the PIFWC’s assemblage to agree to a solution they were already pre-disposed to accept. Additionally, we knew the mind’s tendency towards self-deception would work to our favor. Our PIFWC certainly thought that if NATO was willing to call a truce that night, it was possible the alliance might be amenable to an arrangement that would let him avoided a war crimes trial. The key fallacy with this self-deception was that we weren’t NATO personified. We were simply a team of collectors who – while willing to die if needed — wanted to live to see another sunrise.

Thankfully, for one brief shining moment during that tension-filled evening, everyone’s immediate self-interest was fulfilled. Shortly thereafter, our PIFWC was captured and flown to The Hague for trial.