“Knowing People”

About 1800 years ago, there was a famous Chinese strategist named Zhuge Liang. For those of you who have read my stuff before, you know I like this guy a lot, and not just because he beats the hell out of people with a feather fan in the Dynasty Warriors video game series (huge plus, though). The man’s name became synonymous with “genius” and many would try to emulate his thought process, but they lacked the skill (and feather fan) to do so.

I certainly won’t be trying here, but I was reading “Mastering the Art of War,” which is basically a group of letters and essays he wrote on various topics of war and politics. I’ve only read it once and I’ve been meaning to sit down and go through it in just a couple of sittings this time, but early in the book, there is something that I just felt I wanted to write about.  You see, near the beginning of the book is a section called “Knowing People,” which gives you a brilliant analysis of how to tell what a person’s character is.

Nothing is harder to see into than people’s natures. Though good and bad are different, their conditions and appearances are not always uniform. There are some people who are nice enough but steal. Some people are outwardly respectful while inwardly making fools of everyone. Some people are brave on the outside but cowardly on the inside. Some people do their best but are not loyal.

Hard though it may be to know people, there are ways.

First is to question them concerning right and wrong, to observe their ideas.

Second is to exhaust all their arguments, to see how they change.

Third is to consult with them about strategy, to see how perceptive they are.

Fourth is to announce that there is trouble, to see how brave they are.

Fifth is to get them drunk, to observe their nature.

Sixth is to present them with the prospect of gain, to see how modest they are.

Seventh is to give them a task to do within a specific time, to see how trustworthy they are.

Now, take those seven ways to know a person and apply them to a politician and be horrified.

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