You can see I have been on a trend lately. Most recently we reviewed this quote:
“Rarely is it advisable to meet prejudices and passions head on. Instead, it is best to conform to them in order to gain time to combat them. One must know how to sail with a contrary wind and to tack until one meets a wind in the right direction.” – Fortune de Felice, 1778
Today’s quote and the quote from Fortune de Felice are both used in the book Getting Past No by William Ury. A group of us worked together and used the concepts from Getting Past No to discuss negotiating with difficult people. William Ury draws upon these quotes (and some other quotes too), to help set the stage for some of the strategies he asks us to consider following when faced with finding a mutually satisfactory solution with someone who is difficult.
BOTH of these quotes can be used to advise us in dealing with difficult colleagues. At least that is how I am asking you to consider them. I am certainly NOT advising you on the art of war. I get it, you probably do have some days when you feel like you need to saddle up your trusty stead, put on your armor and ride into battle. I just hope that those days are few and far between.
The truth in “The best general is the one who never fights” is NOT to back down from a challenge or to avoid a conflict. This is not about running away from a difficult situation. The truth in BOTH of these quotes is the truth of finding a strategy that will help turn an adversary into a partner. It is the truth of using patience and compassion to help your difficult person become less difficult. It is the truth of really listening to your difficult person and allowing them to vent without yelling or arguing back at them. It is about finding one or two things that you can agree upon and then using those areas of agreement to move forward. In fact, this truth might just take more effort than engaging in battle with your difficult person.
Let’s call that the art of peace at work.