It’s been a while since The Art Of War by Sun Tzu was written, but the wisdom found inside are still truths today that you can apply to all aspects of life. If you have not read it yet, I highly recommend that you do. Until then, you can read reviews of it and articles on how the lessons apply to various areas of your life such as business and negotiation. But, the reason you need to read it for yourself is because the ideas inside can help you outside of the scope of business and negotiation.
For instance, if you want to improve your relationships and stop the conflict in them, The Art Of War can help you, and we will talk about how some of his strategic rules can do that in this article. I’m going to paraphrase a lot of what Sun Tzu says and change some words that he uses like ‘enemy’ and ‘battle’, which is not what relationships should be about – even the most negative relationships we have. So, let’s take a look at his advice that can help you with both intimate and non-intimate relationships.
Know Yourself And Your Partner
In The Art Of War by Sun Tzu, he made it clear that if you know yourself and your enemy, you don’t need to worry about having a hundred battles. He says that if you only know yourself, you will suffer a defeat for every victory you have. And, if you don’t know yourself nor your enemy, you will lose every battle you take on with them. This applies to your relationships in a big way!
You need to know both yourself and the other person if you want to stop fighting and start finding peace in your relationship. When you have awareness around yourself and your needs, you will be able to communicate better with other people about who you are and what you want, and they will have more of an understanding about where you are coming from. That will help them see your point of view clearer and stop a lot of the resistance that comes from not understanding each other.
When you take the time to understand other people, you start to understand their strengths and weaknesses. You understand their needs and how they view the world. You understand their belief systems. And you can work with that knowledge to come to a resolution that makes everyone happy.
But, when you have no self-awareness or awareness of other people’s feelings, beliefs, and thoughts, you will make choices based on instinct and reaction. You can’t make beneficial choices that benefit your relationship because you don’t know what will benefit your relationship. You don’t understand what you need or what they need, so you struggle and resist and fight and never find the peace that you want.
I’ve known a lot of people who operate from a lack of awareness in their relationships and are always in a constant state of struggle. Some of these people have been struggling for decades because they are simply unwilling to take the time to get to know themselves and other people.
If you find yourself struggling in your relationships, then self-awareness and general awareness of other people’s thoughts, feelings, and struggles, are two things you should be working on starting today. Speaking from experience, you will instantly find less struggle in your relationships and more peace.
Don’t Let Fights Go On And On And On
Sun Tzu said that your objective should be victory, not battling it out for a long period of time. This advice can help you be viewed as a person who moves towards peace, not struggle, and it can help you gain the respect of the people around you.
Think about how this applies to your relationships and how beneficial it will be for your relationships. If your main objective is to fight, then you are going to be viewed as someone who wants to stir up trouble and create problems. Nobody holds someone like that in high regard. Nobody wants to be in a relationship with someone like that.
A reputation for being volatile and problematic could put a lot of strain between you and people you are in a relationship with. People will start to avoid you. People will try to get rid of you from their life. In short, you will face a lot of struggle when it comes to your relationships and finding the peace you want.
But, if you are the type of person who focuses on stopping a struggle as quickly as possible, then you will actively do what it takes to end the fighting and find peace. That kind of attitude will draw people towards you in life. They will want to be around someone like you who wants to end the struggle and keep things peaceful in the relationship.
In short, always aim to end conflict quickly. Don’t pretend like it didn’t happen. Deal with it. Come to a successful resolution of it. And then leave it behind as you move forward in your relationships without that struggle still hanging over your heads.
Don’t Try To Break People Down
Sun Tzu said that you should avoid destroying other countries. If you can end a fight without actually fighting, that is ‘supreme excellence’.
Too many people try to destroy other people in their life. They try to bring them down, make them feel bad, make them feel unworthy, and attack them at every level in order to come out superior. This doesn’t result in a peaceful resolution. It results in one person feeling inferior, which is guaranteed to cause problems in the future.
I know one man who was beaten down by his boss so bad that he spent two decades feeling like crap and hating his boss. He felt like he was worthless, and he resented his boss for being such a prick who made him feel worthless. Eventually, though, his self-pity turned into anger and he started plotting against his boss. He spent all of his time trying to figure out how to destroy him and it made him a very bitter and unhappy man. He did things that made his boss miserable and made him miserable as well. Eventually, both of them ended up going on stress leave and are now suffering from long-term disabilities. That’s the impact that breaking other people down has. You may weaken them in the moment, but eventually, it will come back to haunt you. Furthermore, it just makes everyone miserable and resentful, which is likely to cause more conflict in the future.
Wouldn’t you rather just end the conflict now and avoid more of the same in the future? The best thing you can do to achieve that is to stop a fight without breaking other people. Use the first point and know yourself and the people you are in a relationship with, and then use that information to end the conflict quickly without trying to destroy someone else in the process. Be the bigger person if you have to and show other people what a strong person is really capable of doing.
Understand Other People’s Moods And Ability To Listen
Sun Tzu said that the spirit is keenest in the morning and in the evening a person just wants to return to their camp. He talks about studying moods and using it to your advantage. He talks about attacking when the enemy’s spirit is sluggish and more inclined to return than fight.
Understanding when to approach a tough subject and when not to approach it is important in avoiding fights and resolving issues quickly. If someone just wants to get home, then they are going to be much more willing to find a resolution than if they are full of energy and ready to put up a lot of resistance.
This leads back to developing awareness. With practice, you will be able to tell when someone is going to be resistant to any ideas you have and when they will be open to seeing your side of things and finding resolutions in a peaceful way. You will also know how to talk to someone when they are in a high-stress situation without making things worse. You will be able to speak to them in a way that calms them down, gains their respect, and helps you and they come to a resolution.
How can you start? If you need to talk about something with someone, assess their mood. Are they full of energy? Are they ready to fight everything you say or will they listen? Are they feeling peaceful? Are they being resistant to what is going on around them? If you sense a lot of resistance or negative emotion, don’t approach a tough subject. Wait until their energy has calmed and they will be more willing to listen to you and your side of things.
Prepare Yourself And Approach Issues When You Are Not Expected
Have you ever noticed that a boss will usually fire someone at the end of the day on a Friday? This is because the employee will be unprepared and not expect the news, and he or she will be unable to draw up their arguments and fight back. Instead, they will be weak, caught off guard, and just want to get out of there and get home.
Sun Tzu said that you should attack your enemy where they are weak and where you are not expected. This just makes sense. It throws someone off balance and doesn’t allow them to prepare to fight back, which will result in you having an upper hand in the situation as you have planned what you will say, how you will handle resistance, and how you will quickly end any conflict that arises.
This isn’t about beating people down. It’s about finding a time when you are not going to be met with a lot of resistance and developing a plan that ensures you walk away meeting the goals that you wanted to meet. Especially in volatile relationships where no time seems to be a good time to discuss things. In fact, it works great for mending broken relationships where there is too much resistance to meet and discuss issues calmly.
A friend of mine has a great example of how this can work to mend broken relationships. Her father and her mother’s father did not get along for most of her childhood. She remembers spending holidays with her mother’s side of the family without her father and then she would spend time with her parents and her father’s side of the family. One day her grandfather rushed into their home unexpectedly and cornered her father. Her father was unprepared and was forced to listen as her grandfather listed all the reasons why they should end their feud and find peace. His biggest reason was about her being a child and giving her a strong sense of family. Normally her father would have yelled and threatened her grandfather. But, her father was caught off guard, had no backup argument, and just wanted to get out of the situation, so he agreed to end the feud and start spending holidays together as a family. After that, time healed their relationship and they ended up being very close until her grandfather’s death.
If you need to approach a really tough subject with someone who is unwilling to listen to you, catch them off guard. As they work through the surprise and try to figure out what to say and do, you can list off a well-prepared list of reasons as to why you need to talk and find peace, and in their struggle, they will be more willing to agree so that they can get out of the situation. Once they agree, they will feel obligated to move forward with you and you will have an easier time finding a resolution.
Gather Information To Help You Make Better Choices In Your Relationships
The last bit of advice from The Art Of War by Sun Tzu that is very applicable to relationships is his advice on spies. This is not about spying on people to manipulate them. It’s about understanding where other people are coming from. As Sun Tzu said, you cannot find out information from a spirit or any other means. It can only be obtained by other people.
For instance, a friend of mine sensed that his boss was not being straight with him. He contacted another employee who would know what was happening and told him that he knew something was going on. The other employee let him know that his boss was thinking about replacing him for a few different reasons. He used that information to help him improve his work performance and impress his boss, and he ended up not only staying on as an employee but getting a promotion.
It’s important to know that you don’t always want to share information with other people for this reason. They may be a ‘spy’ for someone who wants to use the information against you. Use your better judgment when sharing plans you have. Don’t mistrust people as a rule, but make sure you safeguard plans that could be used for someone else’s gain and your loss.
Read The Art Of War by Sun Tzu For Yourself
These are just some of the points that I found from The Art Of War that I think are important for relationships, but you may find other points while reading his words that can help you experience better relationships, no matter what kind they are. In the end, I believe this is one of those things everyone should read sooner than later in their life.