Giving angry people a way out

July 1, 2017

Some time back ago a group of irate landowners approached me. It seems they’re having problems with another landowner. One of them blared out, ‘we need to teach this fellow a lesson!’ This was followed by another shouting at the top of his voice, ‘he knows not the word respect! Then another fellow took off his shoe and banged it on the table (which is quite normal in the Kampung) and he too said something to the effect, he doesn’t respect our ways.

When these beetroot people turned to me and asked whether I was with them….I told them all to only ask me that question again when they have calmed down. I went on to warn them, if you all push this fellow to one corner. Then you will leave him no other choice but to fight you all tooth and nail….and you will end up facing off with the likes of the battleship Bismarck…this fellow will run wild and take long shots. Because that is what desperate people do and he might even get so lucky and sink some of us…after all what does he have to lose….he knows he will ultimately go right down and since there is no possibility of a truce or such a thing as a break out….in a perverse sort of way, it even makes perfect sense for this fellow to adopt such a scorch earth strategy. I went on to add. Eventually he will be neutralized, that is a mathematical reality as combined together we have more land than him….but not before inflicting much damage that we can ill afford at this time.

I went on to impress on these old men – there are more urgent battles to fight such as the freaky weather…roller coaster price of commodities not to mention the deteriorating economy.

I then turned to those with cooler heads and tried my best to reason with them….from my understanding of the dispute….you are all not innocent. Both sides are to blame for this impasse….maybe the best way to move forward is to give him a face facing out of this mess…..I then turned to the others, took off my sunglasses, narrowed my eyes and flared my nostrils and told them all…there is no such thing as emotion and ego in the art of war…not for professionals at least. For amateurs yes…certainly…but for professionals that will always be a luxury….winning is very easy, it is simply the application of force directed to a hard point – like perhaps asking how much energy does it take to make a nail bend…any bloody fool can pull that off if he is prepared to pay the price. But turning your enemy around so that he able to return back to the fold without having to lose too much face requires the highest study of strategy and warcraft…That was when I pressed home the point…..there is something missing from this strategy…a face facing way out for this troublesome fellow.

I went on to share with these old men – I know that you are all too proud to come to terms with the awful reality that many of you are just as responsible for this mess as this fellow….I even know that many of you will never issue an apology. But if you are all willing to compromise a little and reach an agreement – what was once done would never be repeated again….I may be inclined to visit this fellow and give him a few durians to begin peace talks.

They all looked down and remained silent.


‘I am often reminded. Reasonable folk rarely ever wake up one morning and turn into nasty monsters. Usually when that happens – I can almost guarantee you. They have been pushed against the wall and since they have exhausted all options to resolve the conflict, there is nothing else to lose…so they lash out. Now whether these people like it or not – I will call a spade a spade. To put it in another way. The blame has to be partially borne by the party who pushed them to this hopeless corner…if these people are cool headed and wise and less emotionally charged.

They would understand the wisdom of provisioning a face saving way for these angry people to come back to the fold instead of settling for the second best option of merely winning on points alone.

As although the situation looks very bad indeed..the story is hardly over and it’s still very much the first act in the show. So there is still a lot of room for improvisation to craft a happy ending. There after all still the second act. The finale. That is to say how will it all end…happily or like a Greek tragedy. And it is this second act that the serious men will focus all their attention and efforts on. Or rather they should. As for the fool. All he or she really cares for is to win….so the outcome of the second act can only end in tragedy and sadness. They don’t care. But for the strategist, he will put in every effort to turn the lousy first act around and still manage to win for it all to end happily ever after.

As the highest acme of Warcraft is not to pulverize your enemy into dust…rather it should be to bring them back into the fold.

Study and research this strategy of provisioning a way out in desperate times…as it applies very often to business conflicts, office politics and family disputes.’

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