Thursday, December 20, 2007

Appropriate Force


Almost daily, I will observe someone using an inappropriate amount of force. Sometimes, it is one of my daughters as they learn a new activity or skill, but often it is an adult who doesn’t understand the relationship between force and success or has yet to learn the proper amount of force for the job at hand.

A good way to view the proper amount of force is to visualize what happens when hammering a nail. Someone experienced with a hammer and a nail will start with a few taps to get the nail started in the right direction, continue with a few pounds that are forceful enough to drive the nail, but not so hard the nail bends along its shaft, and then finish with a few taps to bring the nail flush with the board so as not to damage the board. Hammering a nail with appropriate force for each step is a skill that can be learned fairly quickly, but it is a skill that must be learned. First time hammerers rarely get the nail hammered correctly. Another mechanical example is the force needed to tighten a bolt. Too loose and the bolt will not stay in place; too tight and either the threads will be striped or the bolt will get stuck.

Inexperienced salespeople often have difficulty selling a product because they struggle to discern the right amount of pressure to apply to a potential buyer. Motivated newbie’s will tend to oversell and end up repelling a potential buyer while timid newbie’s will tend to undersell and miss some good opportunities.

The word “torture” gives the impression of a one size fits all method of extracting information. This is unfortunate because experienced interrogators need a wide range of rewards and punishments as a way to bribe and threaten an enemy combatant in order to extract the greatest possible useful information. The methods used will depend on various factors including the timeline for needing the information because some threats are more urgent than others, the personality of the enemy combatant, and the history of the enemy combatant.

Many forms of government sanctioned punishment have been discontinued due to mistakes, worse case scenarios, and abuse. Interrogating enemy combatants could also result in mistakes, worse case scenarios, and abuse, but all three can be minimized by allowing very experienced interrogators to use the appropriate force necessary to extract useful information.

No comments: