WHEN playing with people’s emotion you have to be careful. Study the enemy before hand. Some fish are best left at the bottom of the pond.
The leaders of the city of Tyre, capital of ancient Phoenicia, felt confident they could withstand Alexander the Great, who had conquered the orient but had not attacked their city, which stood well protected on the water.
They sent ambassadors to Alexander saying that although they would recognize him as emperor they would not allow him or his forces to enter Tyre. This of course enraged him and he immediately mounted a siege. For four months the city withstood him and finally, he decided that the struggle was not worth it and he would come to terms with Tyrians. But they, feeling that they had already baited Alexander and got a way with it and confident that, they could withstand him, refused to negotiate, in fact, they killed his messengers.
This pushed Alexander over the edge. Now, it did not matter to him how long the siege lasted or how large an army it needed, he had the resources and would do whatever it took. He remounted his assault too strenuously that he captured Tyre within days, burned it to the ground and sold its people into slavery.
You can bait the powerful and get them to commit and divide their forces as sun pin did, but test the water first. Find the gap in their strength. If there is no gap – if they are impossibly strong – you have nothing to gain and everything to lose by provoking them. Choose carefully whom you bait and never stir up the sharks.
Finally, there are times when a well timed burst of anger can do you good, but your anger must be manufactured and under your control. Then, you can determine exactly how and on whom it will fall.
Never stir up reactions that will work against you in the long run. And use your thunder – bolt rarely, to make them more intimidating and meaningful. Whether purposefully stage or not, if your outbursts come too often, they will lose.
Angry people usually end up looking ridiculous; for their response seems out of proportion to what occasioned it. They have taken things too seriously, exaggerating the hurt or insult that has been done to them. They are so sensitive to slight that it becomes comical, how much they take personally. More comical is their belief that their outbursts signify power.
The truth is the opposite. Petulance is not power, it is a sign of helplessness. People may temporarily be crowned by your tantrums, but in the end, they lose respect for you. They also, realize they can easily undermine a person with so little self-control.
The answer, however, is not to repress our angry or emotional responses.
For repression drains us of energy and pushes us into strange behaviour. Instead, we have to change our perspective. We have to realize that nothing in the social realm and in the game of power is personal.
The pond of fish. The waters are clear and calm and the fish are well below the surface. Stir the waters and they emerge. Stir it some more and they get angry, rising to the surface, biting whatever comes near – including a freshly baited hook.
In authority, if your opponent is of a hot temper, try to irritate him. If he is arrogant, try to encourage his egotism. One who is skill at making the enemy move, does so, by creating a situation according to which the enemy will act, he entices the enemy with something he is certain to take. He keeps the enemy on the move by holding the bait and then attacks him with picked troops (Sun-Tzu, fourth century B.C).
In the face of a hot – headed enemy, finally, an excellent response is no response.
Follow the Talleyrand tactic. Nothing is as infuriating as a man who keeps his cool while others are losing theirs. If it will work to your advantage to unsettle people, effect the aristocratic, bared pose, neither mocking nor triumphant but simply indifferent. This will light their fuse. Then, they embarrass themselves with a temper tantrum; you will have aimed several victories, one of these being that in the face of their childishness you have maintained your dignity and composure.
This shift of perspective will let you play the game of power with more clarity and energy. Instead of over reacting and becoming ensnared in people’s emotions, you will turn their loss of control to your advantage. You keep your head while they are losing theirs.
This is the essence of the law. When the waters are still, your opponents have the time and space to plot actions, that they will initiate and control. So stir the waters, force the fish to the surface, get them to act before they are ready, steal the initiative. The best way to do this is to play on uncontrollable emotions, pride, variety, love, hate. Once the water is stirred up, the little fish cannot help but rise to the bait. The angrier they become the less control they have and finally, they are caught in the whirlpool you have made and they drown.
A sovereign should never launch an army out of anger, a leader should never start a war out of wrath.
The powerful cannot thrive without options. Once you train yourself not to take matters personally and to control your emotional responses, you will have place yourself in a position of tremendous power. Anger only cuts off our options and the powerful cannot thrive without option.
During an important battle in the war of the three kingdoms, in the third century A.D. advisers to the commander Ts’ao Ts’ao discovered documents showing that certain of his generals had conspired with the enemy, and urged him to arrest and execute them. Instead, he ordered the documents burned and the matter forgotten. At this critical moment in the battle to get upset or demand justice would have reverberated against him.
An angry action would have called attention to the generals’ disloyalty, which would have harmed the troops’ morale. Justice could wait, he would deal with the generals in time. Ts’oa Ts’oa kept his head and made the right decision.
Everyone is caught up in a chain of event that predates the present moment. Our anger often stems from problems of childhood, from the problems of our parents which stem from their own childhood, on and on. Our anger also, has root in many interactions with others, the accumulated disappointments and heartaches that we have suffered. An individual will often appear as the instigator of our anger, but, it is much more complicated, goes far beyond what that individual did to us.
If a person explodes with anger at you (and it seems out of proportion to what you did to them, you must remind yourself, that, it is not exclusively directed at you, do not be so vain. The cause is much larger, goes way back in time, involves dozens of prior hurts and is actually not worth the bother to understand. Instead of seeing it as a personal grudge, look at the emotional outburst as a disguised move, an attempt to control or punish you, cloaked in the form of hurt feelings and danger.
This is the problem with the angry response. At first, it may strike fear and terror, but, only in some and as the days pass and the storm clears, other responses emerge – embarrassment and uneasiness about the shouter’s capacity for going out of control and resentment of what has been said. Losing your temper, you always make unfair and exaggerated accusations. A few such tirades and people are counting the days until you are gone.
To show your frustration is to show that you have lost your power to shape events. The powerful never reveal this kind of weakness.
Peace and joy.