Definition: Show them you are not to be taken lightly. Sacrifice someone close to them to convince them of your intent
The ancient Chinese called this strategy ‘Point to the Mulberry, Berate the Pagoda’. It means that you demonstrate the lengths you will go to in the face of failure or deceit of one’s subordinates. There is an old story that the Chinese strategist Sun Tzu was presented at court and the emperor said ‘if you can make an army of my concubines I’ll believe that your skills are indeed formidable’. However, once presented the concubines could not be brought to order adequately so Sun Tzu ordered that several of them be publicly executed after which the remainder paid very close attention to his instructions. The emperor though sad to lose the concubines was convinced that Sun was the right man to get things done. On occasion one has to demonstrate to others that you will not be trifled with and that your orders must be obeyed.
Another way to use this strategy is by using oneself as the example for instance in training leaders the adage is that one must ‘lead from the front’ and the strength of this is that one’s subordinates see that you don’t ask them to do anything that you wouldn’t, or haven’t done yourself.
My father taught me when I was young that if you are faced with having to fight several opponents that you should if you can call out the biggest and toughest looking and if you can beat him his comrades will think twice about taking you on. Of course the strategy needs that you pick your target well. Part of the strategy is to make it impossible for your target to back down without appearing to be a coward. I have used this more than once and whilst I risked a lot it was a case of being between a rock and a hard place and taking the lesser of two evils. If it went badly then either way I’d get a beating, thankfully I was lucky on both occasions and managed to escape reasonably unscathed.
If you can set the example by showing one opponent what he will suffer by beating someone else you can take a significant psychological advantage.
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