The Empty Boat

If a man is crossing a river
And an empty boat collides with his own skiff,
Even though he be a bad-tempered man
He will not become very angry.
But if he sees a man in the boat,
He will shout at him to steer clear.
If the shout is not heard, he will shout again,
And yet again, and begin cursing.
And all because there is somebody in the boat.
Yet if the boat were empty,
He would not be shouting, and not angry.

Thomas Merton
The Way of Chuang Tzu

At first most people view this story from the perspective of the man crossing the river. They will wonder how to avoid becoming upset and venting their anger.

Beyond this verse, we learn that it is the empty boat that offers the lesson. By emulating the empty boat, no one will oppose or harm us.

How do we become empty? Learn to flow with your surroundings. Do not steer to a specific destination. Move and change with the current of what is happening in the moment.

Emptiness provides tranquility, stopping the mind from latching onto thoughts, judgments, and desires. It allows us to see and meet people where they are.

Before your next negotiation, become empty. Listen without an agenda. Discuss without a motive. Pay attention to what is happening in the moment. Respond openly and honestly. How can you not win?

And remember, if your negotiating partner becomes angry, it will not affect you.

You are not there.