Why can’t we be friends?

10 04 2014

“If we know that our own men are in a condition to attack, but are unaware that the enemy is not open to attack, we have gone only halfway towards victory.” ~Sun Tzu

While scholars of Sun Tzu argue over what this means, I’m going to use my own interpretation for today’s leadership kumbaya.  In business, you can get all fired up for a confrontation.  You don’t like the way that so-and-so said something to you, and you’re going to have it out with them the next time you see them.  So-and-so is unaware of the offense, and hence “not open to attack” (i.e not looking for a fight).  You might start a “war” (in which both sides lose something) without a need for one.

Without assessing the situation before you attack, you risk creating a problem when there wasn’t one in the first place.  To that end, when you hear something that may or may not be intended as an affront, I’ve recently learned a great strategy:  Ask them to repeat what they just said in a different way.  Don’t wait, and have to have the he-said/she-said conversation about what was actually said yesterday.  Stop them right there, and ask them to clarify.  I’ve found that doing so the last 3 times I heard a potential slight avoided a lot of drama and angst, and allowed the speaker to clarify what they meant – which was not at all as offensive as it was taken the first time I heard it.  Bad news does not get better with age.  When you feel that you’ve been slighted, you probably weren’t, but isn’t it better to know right away however they meant it?

If it WAS a backhanded compliment or other slight, calling someone out as it’s happening, and watching them back-pedal away from it, because they were called out will, if nothing else, make them think twice before saying something “snarky” next time.

Speaking of Halfway…

buzzard

Rubes cartoons used with permission. www.rubescartoons.com

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