Friday, April 14, 2006

Break-up Busting 101: Choose Your Battles

Part of effective communication in any relationship with anyone, especially your life partner, is knowing how to choose your battles and how (or IF) to fight them.

When I first published this series of newsletters, I did what marketers call a “split test” to find out whether my newsletter and book readers had any marked preference for either of the terms “divorce” or “break-up” by referring to the series of letters as either “Break-Up Busting 101” or “Divorce Busting 101.” After a couple days of the test, I received a letter from an associate of someone who was already using the phrase “Divorce Busting” and had trademarked it. The situation opened the door for creating and sharing a very important lesson in halting a break-up and normalizing relations with your partner, and I’d like to share that lesson with you now. Following is the very terse, anonymous e-mail from a reader who had only been signed up for a couple of days:

Regarding: Divorce Busting 101

I repeat:Are you aware that Divorce Busting is a registered trademark owned by Michele Weiner-Davis? Are you aware that its use, unless authorized by Michele Weiner-Davis, is illegal?

As I said, unsigned, entirely anonymous. I replied:

As the title of a book or any other product, I'm sure it is, but as far as I know, you can't call the subject of an e-mail a trademark, especially when it's a free newsletter. It's not being used as a trademark, brand, or anything else, and the term has been around since before the movie "Ghostbusters" was new. If you feel we need to discuss this, I'd be happy to, but I'm not in violation of any law that I'm aware of since I'm not selling anything with that term in the title, nor is it my desire or intention to infringe on anybody's copyright. As for your "repeating," this is the first copy of this e-mail I've seen; I never ignore questions of any nature from anyone.

David Cunningham

I’m expecting to hear back from them, whoever they are, probably this morning, both because they seem agitated and because I invited them to discuss it. Why? (Hang with me here, because there is a HUGE lesson that will benefit EVERY relationship!)

An author’s stock in trade is what’s called “intellectual property,” the product of their brain, and most of us try to respect each other’s products, “turf” etc., even when we’re competing. Things just go easier that way for all of us; if we spend all our time and effort suing each other, we don’t create any new product, and any profit we may have made ends up going to our attorneys instead of our families. So, I did a little homework….

Michelle Weiner-Davis has built up a sizable following using the term "Divorce Busting" to describe her program. A Google search came up with over 52,000 hits, many of which did refer to her site. There were some that did not, and in the course of going through the Google listings, several pay-per-click ads (those little sidebar listings some search engines refer to as “sponsored listings” that appear in the margins) also appeared that pointed to places l like that appeared to be non-affiliated sites offering competing products, not hers.

This told me that while I’ve heard terms like “Divorce Busting,” “Drunk Busting,” “Gang Busting,” “Union Busting,” “Boredom Busting,” etc., all my life, and from her picture, this author appears younger than me, she does have quite an interest in having that phrase associated with her before anything else. Hence, whether my use of it is illegal or not, she or somebody in her staff may indeed want to pick a fight over it. Now begins the lesson…

I have no interest in the term. It was cute, to the point, and I was using it in split testing against another copy of the same newsletter to see if readers were more likely to read something using the word “break-up” or “divorce” in the subject line; a sample of only about 300 people even saw the letter using the word “Divorce” and it’s of no consequence to me. After four days of using it, the stats for both words came out to be about a third of those who received it read it, which is about average for the last couple of months.

Since my readers don’t care whether I talk about “break-up” or “divorce,” there’s no reason for me to care. So why put the other author through the expense of having her legal staff start sending me nasty letters and so forth when I can just make life easy for both of us by ending the split testing and sending everybody the same letter?

The same exercise should be completed every time your partner comes to you with something to discuss, especially when they are upset. Before you jump into a defensive or combative posture, which never does anyone any good, listen to what they have to say, invite them to discuss it with you instead of fighting about it, and look for a peaceful and equitable solution. There is ALWAYS a peaceful and equitable solution to be found as long as both partners are capable of being reasonable and working together to find it, and in male-female relationships, it’s even easier than you might think. Why?

Because as we discussed yesterday, women are driven to negotiate, not dictate. They thrive on discussion. While they respond positively to being lead (it’s attractive), they don’t want to be bullied around or ignored. They want to negotiate, but they want you to be man enough to lead the negotiation once they’ve brought the need to negotiate to your attention.

That means you have to recognize their request, and acknowledge it by inviting them to enter the negotiation instead of being a jerk and cutting them off with “I don’t care, do what you want,” or telling them to get out of your face. Then you listen, develop options, and when there is agreement, make a formal declaration that things will be done as the two of you have agreed to do it. It’s that simple, and you cannot imagine how well your partner will respond to it when you do it.

As for this situation, I’m going to see if the people who broadcast my newsletter can somehow change the subject line in the e-mails in the archive; unfortunately, the title from the “divorce” version ended up being the one shown in the archive because of the order in which I posted them. If they cannot or will not, for the sake of consistency and out of respect for a colleague with whom I might want to have an affiliate relationship some day, you may see repeats of the four issues with the word “divorce” in the subject retransmitted with a subject line similar to this one, using “break-up busting” instead. Please accept my apology for any inconvenience this may cause and simply delete them if and when the four of them show up.

(As a post script, they did indeed write back, explaining that the other author's publishing company was extremely aggressive in defending even casual use of copyrighted and trademarked phrases. While they never disclosed their full identity, their intimate knowledge of past events and current policy was strong evidence that they were indeed a legal representative for the publishing company, and when I told them that the use of the phrase was not important to me and that I would be happy to discontinue using it and make reasonable effort to remove it from any archives, which was ultimately unsuccessful, they were satisfied and very polite, instead of igniting a legal battle that would have won me nothing and cost me a lot to win it. Hence, it turned out to be a VERY good choice.)

The future begins with this moment, every moment of your life. Whatever action you take in this moment will ripple through the future and shape it to some degree, because events that are forgiven are seldom forgotten. The choice of what goes rippling through your future at any given moment is yours. Do you want it to be a fight, carrying the message of “I’m a jerk who chose a fight over a negotiation” or “I’m a smart, attractive guy who can lead my family through a situation to a peaceful resolution”? I should think that would be a no-brainer.

Relationships are like democracy; you must understand how they work in order to function within them and protect them, both from internal forces that can erode or implode them and external forces that would conquer and destroy them. The choice before you today is whether you continue trod along in the dark or whether you make a very small investment in your future and happiness, not to mention that of your family as well. We’re talking about less than the cost of a good meal for two in a decent restaurant, and the return is guaranteed if you do nothing more than use the information. It’s an instantly downloadable e-book called “How to Be Attractive to the Woman You Love,” and it’s waiting for you at Go ahead and do it now, because life’s too short to spend it stumbling around in the dark looking for answers that you can’t see.

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