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It was New Year's night. An aged man was standing at a window. He raised his mournful eyes towards the deep blue sky, where the stars were floating like white lilies on the surface of a clear calm lake. When he cast them on the earth, where few more hopeless people than himself now moved towards their certain goal—the tomb. He had already passed sixty of the stages leading to it, and he had brought from his journey nothing but errors and remorse. Now his health was poor, his mind vacant, his heart sorrowful, and his old age short of comforts.
The days of his youth appeared like dreams before him, and he recalled the serious moment when his father placed him at the entrance of the two roads--one leading to a peaceful,sunny place, covered with flowers, fruits and resounding with soft, sweet songs;the other leading to a deep , dark cave, which was endless, where poison flowed instead of water and where devils and poisonous snakes hissed and crawled.
He looked towards the sky and cried painfully," O, youth, return! O, my father,place me once more at the entrance to life, and I'll choose the better way!" But both his father and the days of his youth had passed away.
He saw the lights flowing away in the darkness. These were the days of his wasted life;he saw a star fall from the sky and disappeared, and this was the symbol of himself. His remorse, which was like a sharp arrow, struck deeply into his heart. Then he remembered his friends in his childhood, who entered life together with him. But they had made their way to success and were now honored and happy on this New Year's night.
The clock in the high church tower struck and the sound made him remember his parents' early love for him. They had taught him and prayed to God for his good. But he chose the wrong way. With shame and grief he dared no longer to look towards the heaven where his father lived. His darkened eyes were full of tears, and with a despairing effort, he burst out a cry:" Come back, my early days! Come back!"
And his youth did return,for all this was only a dream, which he had on New Year's night. He was still young though his faults were real; he had not yet entered the deep, dark cave, and he was still free to walk on the road which leads to the peaceful and sunny land.
Those who still linger on the entrance of life, hesitating to choose the bright road, remember that when years are passed and your feet stumble on the dark mountains, you will cry bitterly, but in vain. "O youth, return! Oh give me back my early days!"
The increase in international business and in foreign investment has created a need for executives with knowledge of foreign languages and skills in cross-cultural communication.
Americans, however, have not been well trained in either area and, consequently, have not enjoyed the same level of success in negotiation in an international arena as have their foreign counterparts.
Negotiating is the process of communicating back and forth for the purpose of reaching an agreement. It involves persuasion and compromise, but in order to participate in either one, the negotiators must understand the ways in which people are persuaded and how compromise is reached within the culture of the negotiation.
In many international business negotiations abroad, Americans are perceived as wealthy and impersonal.
It often appears to the foreign negotiator that the American represents a large multi-million-dollar corporation that can afford to pay the price without bargaining further.
The American negotiator's role becomes that of an impersonal purveyor of information and cash.
In studies of American negotiators abroad, several traits have been identified that may serve to confirm this stereotypical perception, while undermining the negotiator's position. Two traits in particular that cause cross-cultural misunderstanding are directness and impatience on the part of the American negotiator.
Furthermore, American negotiators often insist on realizing short-term goals. Foreign negotiators, on the other hand, may value the relationship established between negotiators and may be willing to invest time in it for long-term benefits.
In order to solidify the relationship, they may opt for indirect interactions without regard for the time involved in getting to know the other negotiator.
Clearly, perceptions and differences in values affect the outcomes of negotiations and the success of negotiators.
For Americans to play a more effective role in international business negotiations, they must put forth more effort to improve cross-cultural understanding.
My morning routine varies little from day to day. I walk the dog, eat breakfast at the kitchen counter with Katie and Matt, then settle in for a day at the computer. And because I work mostly from home, I have learned that little forays into the outside world are imperative for psychological well-being. So before I begin attempting to put sentences together, I stroll over to a quirky little coffee shop in my neighborhood, chat with the folks behind the counter, and get a large coffee to go. No sugar. No cream.
The coffee shop is on the other side of the historic Chesapeake & Ohio Canal from my house. In season, a mule-drawn barge is docked there, and tourists line up to take a slow boat, if not to [en]China, at least into the 19th century. The men who work the boat wear what canal workers might have worn back then-broad-brimmed straw hats and suspenders that pull their scratchy-looking pants high above their boots.
One warm day last fall, I was on my morning outing when I turned the corner to see one of the men sitting alone on the boat, bathed in early-morning light. He was playing a tiny accordion, the kind such canal men squeezed as they floated down the inland waterways of a westward-expanding America. The sound was both melancholy and sweet. It was as if he were alone in the universe. The scene stopped me in my tracks. What I witnessed could only be described as a perfect moment. Ten seconds at most. But months later I still remember just standing there, watching, listening, taking it all in.
We all have such moments put before us. Little surprises. Whether we're wise enough to see them is another thing.
I thought of the accordion man Sunday afternoon while reading the biographies of those killed in the Columbia tragedy. Mission specialist Laurel Clark, talking from the shuttle a few days before it was to land, said she was delighted by the simple unexpected wonders of space. Like a sunset. “There's a flash; the whole payload bay turns this rosy pink,” she said. “It only lasts about 15 second and then it's gone. It's very ethereal and extremely beautiful.” A moment not lost on her.
In The Hour Meryl Streep and Ed Harris recall a moment they shared years before at a beach house on Cape Cod. It was nothing more than him watching her walk out into the early-morning light. But for that moment, everything was right with their world, everything was possible, everything aligned. They agreed it was the happiest they had ever been.
And in last month's issue of her magazine, Oprah Winfrey confessed to a “moment” she had last summer. It was a walk down a Santa Barbara lane, a hummingbird and the smell of orange blossoms. She said it was one of those rare times she could say she was truly happy.
I once had a friend who had an odd habit that never ceased to amuse me, maybe because I never quite knew when she was going to spring it on me. It could be while sitting quietly at the end of a dock on Schroon Lake in the Adirondacks. Or it could come in the middle of a particularly lively dinner with old friends. Out of the blue, she'd say, “Stop! I want to remember this moment.”
I realize now, after her death, what wise advice that is.