When thumb twiddling makes sense

As anti-intuitive as it may seem, there are times when sitting back and twiddling your thumbs is the best course of action. At least for a little while. That’s certainly true when working to affect change at an airport.

Government works slowly much of the time. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In many cases it is beneficial to have a slow, plodding system in place. Especially when that system is working against the best interest of the public. On the other hand, when you are working hard to make legitimate progress on an issue, it can be frustrating to interact with that massive machine we call government. Nothing happens fast. Nothing good, in any case.

Whether you are lobbying your state legislator for the reversal of a rule as onerous as California’s astoundingly myopic Assembly Bill 48, which virtually assures the sudden unemployment of many flight instructors across the state; or you are merely attempting to negotiate a more equitable hangar rate with your local airport manager – there are times when your best course of action is to sit back and wait for a bit.

Like the rest of us, government officials don’t like to be pushed. While a certain amount of pressure is desirable in order to make your perspective understood, too much pressure can cause an entirely different outcome – solid resistance.

There are various methods of getting your issue in front of the right person in order to urge them to take action. Which method is right for any given situation is a somewhat subjective determination, and there may be multiple ways to achieve your goals or to attract the attention you need in order to be successful. But there comes a point in almost every negotiation process when waiting – literally sitting around and doing nothing – is the best course of action.

This is the calm time that allows the people on the government side of the negotiation to evaluate their options, to consider the validity of your point, and to determine what the fallout might be if they take action – as well as the potential ramifications should they choose to do nothing.

As frustrating as this facet of the negotiation process is, it is wise to get comfortable with it and recognize the necessity of allowing the people you’re negotiating with to take the time to see the wisdom of your ways. It’s just possible that the payoff for your patience will be victory.

Of course there is nothing that prevents you from playing, “What If” and laying the groundwork for the next phase of your campaign should the outcome of this quiet time be less in your favor than you think is warranted. But if you take that route, do it quietly, with no implied threats or recriminations. Play nice, and you just might win.

Remember, even the Super Bowl takes a half-time break. And those fellows are some of the most competitive, driven players on the planet. If they can take a breather to regroup and re-evaluate the situation, so can we.

In the end, success is all about how you choose to play the game.

And as long as the topic of California’s Assembly Bill 48 is in play, read the plea for support from the California Pilot’s Association here. They are not yet to the thumb twiddling portion of the negotiations. Your assistance in the effort to repeal this impediment to flight instruction would be much appreciated, wherever you live and fly.

Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. You can reach him at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.

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