Mental Martial Arts
The great martial artist masters never go looking for a fight. Their greatness allows them to know how to end a fight before it begins. They are able to control their emotions, actions, and physical talent to avoid being drawn into a situation where no real winner would emerge.
As leaders, we have the opportunity to put on our black belt and show our own martial arts skills . . . MENTAL MARTIAL ARTS. It begins when we show an almost "Zen-like" nature when faced with a conflict. What is the response to an irate employee, customer, or even a spouse? Do you heighten their irritation and respond in a negative manner? Or do you rise above it, and allow your calmness to defuse their anger? The leader able to do the latter has mastered the true art of leadership by mastering themselves. You gain the respect of those around you when you are not drawn into conflict.
Yet, in all their efforts, even the greatest martial artist as well as the greatest leader may have no choice. An assailant yielding a verbal weapon attacks them from behind. This is where the mastery and beauty of their skill and its striking power are displayed by turning the force of the assailant's blow back on to them. How is this accomplished in mental martial arts? WITH A QUESTION!
If your assailant comes at you with a barrage of unsubstantiated claims such as, "This company is always taking advantage of its employees!" simply reverse the direction of the attack with the question, "HOW DO YOU KNOW?" Those four simple words will direct the responsibility of the statement back to the assailant. If they answer with another verbal attack, simply ask again with a calm voice, "Well, how do you know that?" If you can continue to ask until your attacker figuratively falls to the ground, then you have received your black belt in the mental martial arts and quite possibly the opponent will become the ally. The choice to lower ourselves to the conflict or to rise above it and win the respect of those around us rests within every person desiring to be a leader.
Other Great Mental Moves to Remember:
- Keep the problem in front of you. Just as martial artists would not want to allow one of the attackers to get behind them and end up surrounded, you too can keep the problem in front of you by focusing on it.
- Stay calm. Fear, panic, and anger are all negative emotions. Staying calm during a dispute will allow you to think clearly and help the other person stay calm as well.
- Stay friendly. Why not? It is difficult for someone to "attack" a friend. Your smile, handshake, nodding head and humor can have an effect that will "disarm" your attacker and defuse their anger.
- Be solution oriented. The mental martial artists should be seeking to resolve the conflict without anyone becoming hurt. Use your energy to find a solution rather than a clever way to prove you are right.
Most of us remember hearing Aesop's Fable as a child and it's worthy of remembering. It tells the story of an argument between the sun and the wind fighting over which was stronger. The wind said, "Do you see that old man down there? I can make him take his coat off quicker than you can." So the sun went behind a cloud and the wind blew until it was almost a tornado. But the harder it blew, the tighter the man wrapped his coat around him. Finally, the wind gave up and the sun came out from behind the cloud and smiled warmly on the old man. Presently, he mopped his brow and pulled off his coat. The sun told the wind that gentleness, warmth and friendliness are always stronger than force and fury.
In the book, This Is Earl Nightingale, he tells the story of a labor dispute where truckers went on strike for higher wages. Instead of publicly excoriating them, the president of the company praised them. He took an ad in the paper complimenting them on the peaceful way they had put down their tools against what they considered a just grievance.
Finding the pickets idle, he bought them a couple dozen baseballs, bats, and gloves and invited them to play ball on the company grounds. For those who preferred bowling, he rented a bowling alley. This friendliness on the part of the president did what friendliness always does: it begot friendliness. So the strikers borrowed brooms, shovels and rubbish carts and began picking up, cleaning up and generally taking care of the place. Did you ever hear of strikers tidying up the company grounds? Such an event had never been heard of in the long and bitter
history of American labor differences. The strike ended with a compromise settlement withing a week. It ended without any ill feelings or rancor. The strike was settled, and new respect and admiration were created on both sides.
Just like in Aesop's fable, the more force that you apply, the more you insist on being right and getting your own way, the less chance you have of winning. Warmth and kindness along with a willingness to compromise and see the other person's point of view is the true path to positive persuasion and getting what you want in life.