Sun Tzu, the legendary Chinese Military tactician said “To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.”
I was reminded of this famous quote when I read a review of Robert Lindsay’s new play, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, in which Lindsay talked about his political past.
For people of my generation, Lindsay came to prominence in his breakthrough role as a hapless Marxist in the TV sitcom Citizen Smith. A much better show in my view than the frankly terrible My Family, which ran for an astonishing 11 years!!!
Anyway, Lindsay was notoriously left wing and was said to have a chip firmly on his shoulder performing lots of political theatre. He was doing the play Becket on stage when Margaret Thatcher was in the audience. After the show she sent word that she would like to take Lindsay out for dinner. Lindsay said no. He was not a big fan and refused to meet her, let alone eat with her.
Lindsay told this story to his father who was a fervent Derbyshire Trade Unionist, who asked him why he had said no.
Lindsay said because of her politics. His father said “well that doesn’t affect your appetite does it?”, and added, “What the bloody hell have you done? You could have got to know her, find out what she is really like!”
Lindsay realized then what a wise man his father was.
The real problem with conflict is often that we fail to give any time to the other side’s point of view or avoid the other party and hope that either they go away or change to our view by the power of our persuasive argument.
Time that could be spent positively or constructively, being creative and looking for solutions that allow both sides to be satisfied, is spent in anger, defence and revenge. Scheming replaces creative thought.
Of course in order to create solutions that both parties can live with relies on us engaging with our opponents.
Otherwise your greatest enemy could just be yourself.