Now I like to think of myself as a fairly decent kind of guy. I have a moral code and a set of principles which I apply to my daily life. But the more I think about my principles, the more I realize what a dangerous set of things they really are.
Principles are often the root cause of many disputes. The fiercest battles I have had in life, falling out with business colleagues, loved ones and friends have all been over ‘principles’.
As George Bernard Shaw put it, back in the late 19th. century about the English: “An Englishman does everything on principle: he fights you on patriotic principles; he robs you on business principles; he enslaves you on imperial principles.” (taken from the play ‘A Man of destiny’)
This statement may be a bit extreme but honestly, think about the last really serious argument you had and ask yourself ‘was it your pride or principles that you were defending or something else?’ Principles are dangerous because they cloud our judgment and make us believe that only our way of thinking is the only possible one.
In this time of international business and cultural diversity, one cannot expect everyone we meet and work with to share ‘our’ principles. The best we can hope for is that they understand them, even if they cannot share them.
Life is short and there’s no point in wasting it by falling out of business deals or long term friendships on arguments based upon pride dressed up as ‘principles’.
Daring to confront ourselves and to step back to examine who we are and our set of principles from the view point of our opponents takes a great deal of courage. We might not like what we see but we become all the stronger for doing it, especially in times of serious disputes.
Have a good week,