The Subtle Art in Business: Expand and Contract

Business has more subtleties than we can ever imagine. The subtle art of business is perceived through the visceral. It is not just by the rational or intellectual mind. It is also through inward feeling or instinct. This may be counter-intuitive to what we know. In research for instance, we tend to rely on data-driven metrics that are quantifiable. And it is just right to do so. However, business goes beyond the theoretical concepts that we were taught.


This is the reason why we have a lot of learned scholars with advanced degrees that cannot even apply in business what they have learned. That is not to say that we do away with quantitative metrics. Nothing could be further from the truth. We just need to find the right balance between data-driven metrics and business instincts which also relates to sound people skills.

Since after all, the visceral concept in business is about being sensitive with people. Business is about striking a deal with another with either a person or groups of individuals in order to advance. And by doing so, we should be able to expand and contract. Expand and contract are concepts that applies in martial arts but can also apply in business. In my experiences in dealing with different sorts of character in business, I found that the human nature aspect in business kicks in more often than not.



When this happens, the logical or rational mind should take a backseat because you are practically dealing with the irrationality of others. And usually, the ones who hold the advantage in negotiation are the ones who can afford to be irrational. To state my example, I met this Indian businessman who owns a digital advertising company. We corresponded through email and scheduled a meeting online.

This Indian guy suggested the meeting. I did not expect how for lack of a better SEO, “uncordial” the guy was. Just imagine, we are 16 hours apart in time zone. It was 8am in his office in California and it was 12 midnight in the Philippines and it was past my bedtime already. Despite of it, I came prepared and appeared in google meet with my unruffled office polo shirt and jogging pants. He did not even bother to open his video which I found it inappropriate. Nevertheless, I let it go and proceeded to business. During the course of our meeting, the guy suddenly opted to leave the online platform.

At first, I thought it was some technical matters on his end. But my goodness, his office was in a first world country and mine was in a third world. So I tried numerous times to enter through the link. I couldn’t or better yet, he wouldn’t because I know when you rejected someone from the g-meet and it was not just a technical issue. But more of a character issue. Realizing it, I did not waste my time rationalizing the situation. Although my initial reaction was to rationalize with him and become desperate, I thought doing so would just give him the upper hand.

needy and desperate

Instead, what I did next was something that defies conventional wisdom in business especially in sales which is to be more aggressive. I went to sleep. That’s right. No matter how good the deal you lost or how it hinges upon your life and reputation, you cannot control something that is beyond your control. We need to expand instead of contract, because by expanding, we allow some space where the other person can move and get drawn to our energy instead of contracting. We are only pushing them away and appear desperate to seek something that they have that we don’t.


Understand: people can sense weakness. What happened during the next few days after letting the situation go and allowing myself to feel happy and complete despite the deal breaker. The Indian guy contacted me again through email and wanted to resume the deal. This is the visceral aspect of business.