As a student of both my Dad, and Sun Tzu, the following advice has proven useful to me over the years.
The English translation I prefer is:
“The best victory is when the opponent surrenders of its own accord before there are any actual hostilities… It is best to win without fighting.”
Being prepared for what is ahead, and framing your perceived position to be one of strength, can often yield a successful outcome without the need for a more involved, high-risk, confrontation.
One of the stories my Dad told me gives a great example of this…
Dad was behind a car at a traffic light and noticed the driver seemed very nervous and kept glancing in the rear view mirror. It was a long light, so he had time to run the plate to check for any abnormalities.
Sure enough, the driver had reason to be nervous, as he had just stolen a shiny new sports-car, and the marked police car behind him seemed to have figured this out.
For whatever reason, Dad ended up in a lot of car chases in the 33 years as a cop and started carrying a helmet to keep from getting banged up as much.
When the car came back stolen, he reached over, grabbed his helmet, put it on, and tightened the chin strap.
Expecting the guy was going to run as soon as the light turned green, he caught the driver looking back at his now-crash-helmeted self and gave a huge grin indicating he was ready for an epic car chase.
As soon as the light turned green, the driver went through the light and pulled over before Dad even turned on the lights and siren.
When Dad got to the window and asked him why he pulled over, the driver says…
“Sir, this car isn’t mine, and honestly I was gonna make a run for it… But when I saw you strap on a helmet, I knew you meant business.”
Posture and preparation can often provide a shortcut to the desired outcome without the struggle and risk of conflict.