Make friends to destroy enemies

Books certainly teach us great lessons and here is one lesson I really like from Getting To Yes With Yourself by William Ury.

On one occasion in the White House when Lincoln was speaking sympathetically of the plight of the South, a Yankee patriot took him to task. “Mr. President,” she decried, “how dare you speak kindly of our enemies when you ought to he thinking of destroying them?” Lincoln paused and addressed the angry patriot: “Madam,” he asked, “do I not destroy my enemies when I turn them into my friends”

On this William commented that:

Taking a lesson from Lincoln, we might look around and ask ourselves if there are any “enemies” in our lives whom we can “destroy” by turning them into our friends.

I believe the lesson speaks for itself.

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Listen before you speak

Nowadays I’m learning to listen to people’s story before speaking. Instead of jumping straight to judge people’s behaviour, I want to try and understand clearly the motivations behind their behaviour. And I’m not doing very well. It’s really difficult and to succeed at it I need to practice a lot.

Unfortunately we live in a world that encourages us to judge people without understanding their full story. The number one culprit that promotes this behaviour is the media. We get given information everyday which in most cases tells us only one side of the story or doesn’t furnish us with the history that led to the story and we believe.

Next time you decide to say something judgemental about someone because of their behaviour. Pause for a second and ask yourself, what’s behind this behaviour? Maybe, just maybe that will help you to suspend your judgement and listen to the person.

Which “A” do you go to – Accommodate, Attack or Avoid

In The Power of a Positive NO, William Ury writes about what makes it difficult for most of us to say no to people. It’s the tension between exercising our power and managing the relationship. So while saying No allows us to exercise our power, it may damage the relationship. We typically respond to this tension one of three ways or use a combination of them. Ury calls them The Three-A Trap.

The first A is for Accommodate where we prioritise a relationship at the expense of our own needs and interests. We say Yes when we really want to say No because we don’t want to hurt or offend the person. This is an unhealthy position which in the short term may bring us peace but in the longer term can result in a lot of subdued pain for the person who should be saying No.

The next A is for Attack. In this case we actually say No, but say it poorly. This may happen because we are angry at the other person’s behaviour and we lash out with a No that hurts the person. This can also come from a person who has been accommodating for so long and they become so angry that they lash out with a very angry No.

The last A is to Avoid. We say nothing. We keep silent. We pretend as if nothing is wrong. We do this because we are afraid of offending the other person, so we will rather avoid the issue.

Here are two interesting quotes that capture the effects of “Accommodate” and “Avoid”.

A No uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a Yes uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble – Mahatma Gandhi

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter – Martin Luther King


If you think about these three As, which one do you go to when you mean to say NO?

Rebooting The Power of  a Positive NO by William Ury

I just finished reading a book by William Ury called, Getting To Yes With Yourself, I reviewed that book here. While reading it, I remembered the book I read that introduced me to his reading, The Power of a Positive NO, which I also reviewed here. Now I have decided to read that book again. You may be wondering why. Recently I read two articles, one emphasised the importance of going deep, while the other looked at how to save money by re-using things we already own instead of of buying new stuff. In the area of reading both articles encouraged us to read some of our old books again and be mindful of learning something from them. That’s exactly what I want to do with the book I’m re-reading.

More importantly I want to curate one key idea from the book that I can apply to my life and where possible teach others. So once I finish the book I will share my one idea with you.

Respect them even if – A radical idea!

You’ve probably heard the statement, respect is earned”. Well, it was a statement I agreed with and attempted to live by for a very long time, many people swear by that statement too. But what does it really mean? Simply, if you respect me, I will respect you, if you disrespect me, I will disrespect you. At least that’s how people I have discussed it with interpret it. But then I met William Ury, not in person, but through his books.

William introduced me to a new perspective of the whole respect thing, which is, you give respect because you are a respectable person and not necessarily because the other person respects you. I first read about it in Williams book titled, The Power of a Positive NO. You can read my review of the book here. But in another of his book’s titled, Getting To Yes With Yourself, (you can also read a review of that book here) he expands on the concept. In fact he denotes a whole chapter to it. I like how he titled the chapter, Respect Them Even If. 

While I can’t go into them in detail, here are bullet points of the ideas we can use to ” respect them even if”.

  • Put yourself in their shoes
  • Expand your circle of respect
  • Respect them even if they reject you
  • From exclusion to inclusion

Respecting people who disrespect you is hard and seems almost impossible at times, but William shows us through his ideas that it is possible. It will take us changing the way we think and a lot of practice and learning.

I definitely want to learn this way of thinking about respect and live it too. What about you?