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Be friendly with your enemy: the "gentleman warrior approach"

There are some situations in life where you know you have an enemy, or an opponent you want to beat.

And they know it, too.

You still sometimes have the power to choose your mindset and approach to the fight/competition.

Some people choose the antagonizing and hating road.
Some others choose a more "gentleman" approach.

The mindset is:

Yes, we're enemies and we want to beat each other. And I'll do be darn best to beat you. But we can still be courteous while we compete.

It's a bit like the mindset of "tough on ideas, but kind on people, which in this case becomes "tough in the game/fight, but kind on the opponent outside of the game/fight".

Call it the "gentleman warrior approach".

It can take some emotional maturity to achieve this mindset and approach as most people can easily get swept away by the competitive spirit.

Let's see some applications in real life:

The Attitude of Antagonizing

Franzese: I became a major target of law enforcement (exactly what you want to avoid), I was indicted 5 times, beat every case (that's a huge red flag: your enemy is doggedly trying to take you down). Rudy told me "Franzese, if I convict you on this, you're gonna get double what your father got, I'm gonna give you 100 years. I said "Rudy, bring it on, I beat you 4 times, let's go for round 5.
(now wise Franzese speaking) Guys, that's the dumbest thing you could ever do. You don't antagonize them (the FBI), they don't need any more incentives to come after you.

Exactly right, that type of attitude gives them incentives to come after you harder, and to punish you harder if they can catch you.
Furthermore, if convicted, you also provide them a valid reason to treat you like a devilish enemy -very different from a "gentleman's enemy"-.

That's an attitude that some criminals and mobsters have against the police.
And it only makes their life -as well as the police's life- harder.

Flaunting how you're "beating" them will also make your enemy more dogged in your pursuit.
See John Gotti or Al Capone.
They both might have stayed free far longer, if they had avoided the spotlight and the attitude of "I beat them and I rub it in".

The Effects of Antagonizing

From that same video:

Franzese: I've witnessed some things that were kind of unpleasant, every once in a while the agents would get out of hand (goes on to tell a story of an FBI agent who ruins his family dinner, ends up drawing a gun)

Before the rights of detainees were extended, beatings of detainees were also common -of lower-level mobsters mostly, as cops were also probably worried of assaulting higher-power mobsters-.

The Gentleman Warrior Attitude

Now compare with mobster Joseph Massino, who instead took a far more friendly with law enforcement:

"Get used to my face, because you're going to see a lot of it for a long time", Pat Marshall, the agent who had been hunting Massino, forwarned when he was brought to FBI headquarters (Pat starts off with a competitive frame).
Marshall recognizes that he was confronting an imperturbable foe. "He took my warning with a grain of salt and said calmly no problem, do what you got to do" (ignores the competitive frame, installs a gentleman's frame to competition)

In some other stories in the book I'm reading "Five Families", Massino called the FBI agents by name, and was always courteous.
In one instance, he even defended an FBI agent who was being encircled and then gave him back the electronic surveillance device Massino had uncovered.

The Gentleman Warrior Effects

Being courteous towards your enemy might not prevent you from losing.

In our case study here, the law will still take its course.

But it won't hurt for sure, and it might as easily soften your loss, and shorten your sentence.

Plus, it will likely make the process, and the possible conviction, far easier on you.
From the same book:

Picked up at his Howard Beach home, Massino politely asked to be cuffed outside, not in the presence of his wife and teenaged daughters.
"Because he was always the gentleman and cordial with us", Marshall granted him that favor.

The Gentleman Warrior In War

The same two approaches can be found in wars.

The gentleman's approach to war is to fight and kill and do everything to win.
But towards other fighters, not towards the civilian population.
And if you capture the enemy fighter, torture and mass-slaughtering are off the table.

When the gentleman's warrior frame is lost, that's where it can get far uglier, and when civilians also become targets (V2 on London, Dresden bombing, Japan refusing to treat POWs humanly, & nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

Kellvo, Matthew Whitewood and 7 other users have reacted to this post.
KellvoMatthew WhitewoodMusicforthejuanMist1102Cheangnaathh12@gmail.comKavalierBelGrigorio
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Awesome! I really like this one, it provides more reason collaborative frames are often superior to competitive ones, even in the most uncommon of situations for "joes" like us (such as finding yourself as a mobster against the police).

The Attitude of Antagonizing

Lucio: "Exactly right, that type of attitude gives them incentives to come after you harder, and to punish you harder if they can catch you."

This reminds me of this note from the 48 Laws of Power:

In this case, Kondraty Ryleyev's antagonistic attitude cost him his life when the Russian czar, Nicholas I, would have let him live it wasn't for his offensive remark. It's a case of "Always Say Less Than Necessary" in the video, but would have been a great opportunity to speak if he would have done so to reframe for collaboration.

I think there are lots to learn from this thread.
Both from the mobster/police competitive relationship and Ali's Russian czar example.

It's a bit like the mindset of "tough on ideas, but kind on people, which in this case becomes "tough in the game/fight, but kind on the opponent outside of the game/fight".

This sounds like in the business world where people say

Just business, nothing personal

Whatever happens between competitors and in the boardrooms, we are not going to take this personally outside the office.
We could even be friends.

I think some of the CEOs of the tech companies are both rivals and friends at the same time.
Reminds me of the rivalry between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
After Jobs died, Gates said,

"I respect Steve, we got to work together. We spurred each other on, even as competitors. None of [what he said] bothers me at all."

I think some founders though tend to get more attached to their businesses.
So they take it personally if someone tries to get them out of their business.
This is understandable because they probably have put lots of work and sacrifice to get the business going along in the early days.
Furthermore, the business may overlap with their life purpose and values.

Looking More Powerful

I also feel that your enemies can view you as more powerful when you take this calm and gentlemen approach to them.

For example, compare

Pat Marshall: Get used to my face, because you're going to see a lot of it for a long time

Massino: No problem, do what you got to do


Massino: Bring it on pal

The less antagonistic, calm phrase comes across as more powerful.
Especially when said slowly, calmly and firmly.

Lucio Buffalmano, Musicforthejuan and Bel have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoMusicforthejuanBel

Of course I agree with this great post. However, there is one trick: our own perceptions. So it's important to move from hatred to neutral to friendly in our own head and heart. Then, we can be friendly.

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Lucio BuffalmanoMaya88Johannes Dosenberg

Matthew: The less antagonistic, calm phrase comes across as more powerful.

True, it's more the cold-blooded style and the "been there, done that". And those types lower in emotions and higher in rational thinking tend to be better planners and schemers to win the war.

Mist1102, and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
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Another excerpt from a book I'm reading:

Book: "Loving [being friendly with] your enemy is not natural — it's supernatural...In August 1983, Russell Stendal was held hostage by guerrillas in a Colombian jungle for almost five months. But Stendal had an uncommon response. In a letter, he wrote, 'I am in danger only of losing my life; they are in danger of losing their souls.' He was so kind to his captors that he truly befriended them. One day the commander told him, 'We can't kill you face-to-face; we like you. So we will have to kill you in your sleep.' Naturally, Stendal couldn't sleep for the following ten days and nights. The guards came to him in the night with guns but couldn't bring themselves to kill him. Eventually, Stendal was released, and when he said good-bye, his captors actually had tears in their eyes."

In my opinion, this is a textbook example of the gentleman warrior approach — and an even better example than the case study of Kondraty Ryleyev and the Russian czar, Nicholas I, above.

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Lucio BuffalmanoKellvoMatthew WhitewoodJohannes Dosenberg

That's an awesome story Ali, thank you for sharing that!

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Matthew Whitewood
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?