George One really important learning experience that helped me better understand the Tao happened when I worked with Lynda Reese. After we got to know each other, we co-authored a major project report.
Michael So how did you meet this Lynda Reese, if you don't mind my asking?
George Well, I had just moved here to coordinate two product development teams that were having all kinds of trouble meeting deadlines and budgets. I was the 33-year old, designated hotshot, and everyone the least bit insecure kept clear of me. Then one day in July I got this call from Cleveland.

It was Lynda Reese, and she was in our management training program there, being rotated through marketing, sales, and product development. She had heard about me, and since she was planning to steer her career toward product development, she thought we might have some common interests to discuss.
Michael What did you say to her?
George Well, I told her I was very busy because we had this national meeting in San Francisco. So she suggested meeting me in San Francisco. I said OK and invited her to kind of an open session we had planned on the morning of the last day.

I hardly gave it a second thought except that it seemed pretty unusual that a woman, or any trainee, would call with a request like that. Usually they just do what they're told, which does not include trips to the national meetings.
Michael Lynda doesn't sound at all hesitant to say where she's coming from.
George Not at all! At the San Francisco meeting, the session ended and people were standing around talking, when this woman, about 30 years old, introduced herself as Lynda Reese and asked if I had time for a cup of coffee. So we went to the hotel lobby to sit and talk.

Lynda explained that she was very interested in the computer aspects of large project scheduling. A professor she had in graduate school suggested a session on the human aspects of such systems for the National Computer Conference in New York. She was trying to organize this session and wondered if I was interested. It sounded like a good idea, so I agreed to take part.
Michael None of what you say sounds very unusual.
George But the whole thing started me thinking about the problems women face in the business world. You see, I strongly believed in equality and affirmative action.

But, I had never worked with a woman except having them as secretaries. After Lynda contacted me, I realized that people like me were partly responsible for sex discrimination because we didn't want to get closely involved with women in a work situation.
Michael Why not?
George Because it complicates things, or at least it has the potential to complicate. One way to keep things simple is never to put yourself in awkward situations that might produce misunderstandings. That action -- not my thinking, because I'm a liberal on paper -- but the actions I took were sexually discriminating.
Michael That's better than going around looking for excitement. If you came on to her sexually, that would have been worse.
George Oh, I agree. But my point is that by avoiding the possibility of getting to know her any better, like over dinner, we both lose out professionally.

When two men go to dinner, they discuss business and get to know each other pretty well. No one thinks anything about that. But we have this dual standard for men and women. Repeated a thousand times each day, reactions like that add up to sexual discrimination.
Michael So what do you do about it?
George Well, it's funny, because we did end up in New York with a group of people from our panel and had a drink after the meeting. Then, as we were saying good-bye just before I left for the airport, Lynda reached out and touched my arm and thanked me for coming up for the session.

There was something about the touch that was warmer than the usual handshake. The word I would use to describe it is friendly, but words don't really describe the feeling content.
Michael How could you describe it then?
George Well, it amazed me that so much meaning could be communicated in such a simple way. I understood immediately that Lynda liked me and appreciated my contributions at the meeting. There weren't any hidden implications or ambiguities about sexual involvement either. But those are the kinds of things that are awkward and inappropriate when put into words.
Michael I agree. Some things don't come across very well when you try to explain them.
George Something else I learned was the value of a more feminine expression. Touching is not a masculine thing to do, and if we restrict ourselves to masculine expression, we miss out on that power to communicate. The feminine part has a certain spirit to it that fits so well with the masculine:

The valley spirit never dies;
Her gateway is the root of heaven and earth.

It is like a veil barely seen.
Use it; it will never fail.
Michael Always there but not as visible as the masculine mountains.
George But it's so important to use -- not just for women but for men too. Before I met Lynda I never really understood that.

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