When I was younger, I was fortunate to have been taught by a Taoist master. He and his wife had fled the cultural revolution, eventually settling in upstate New York. They quietly integrated into the community and lived, worked, and raised children near where I grew up and went to College and Graduate school. Some of my fondest memories of the time I spent with him were of the many lessons he would impart. Sometimes he would teach QiGong (various movement and seated meditations) and other times philosophy, history, and strategy. In his home, there were shelves lined with volume after volume of Chinese classics written in Mandarin, some from the Taoist cannon and others famous military manuals, historical novels, and other works. I never learned to speak, read or write Mandarin, which I regret now, but he would patiently take a volume down, open it up and translate and then we would talk about the lesson.
Hide a dagger with a smile is from a classic work on Chinese strategy called, appropriately enough, The 36 Strategies. This strategy, which is often used in business, in politics, and in all sorts of other situations, was an important one for me to gain an awareness of and I’m sure you’ve seen it before. It’s the person who seems like they want to be your friend, but when they get a chance, after getting to know you, they spread lies or rumors to their benefit. Ted Bundy faked a leg injury and used crutches, he seemed harmless, but was, in fact, a serial killer, luring young women to their deaths. John Wayne Gacey worked part time as a clown and was also a serial killer. While it’s important to trust others, we have to be cautious too, the problem, as it turns out, is that we all think we’re good at telling who we can trust and who we can’t, who is lying and who isn’t, but it turns out we’re not so good at it. Even law enforcement professionals and judges aren’t very good at it, as demonstrated by psychologist Paul Ekman in his book “Telling Lies”. But, there are ways to be better at spotting deception, Paul Ekman developed a training curriculum around learning to detect micro-expressions which are fleeting emotional reactions on the face that we barely detect. There’s a link to Paul Eckman’s website associated with this post.
So, keep a watch out for the dagger hidden with a smile. you’ll see it in international politics, in business dealings, in interpersonal relationships it’s everywhere!!! Wait, I think I’m just being paranoid now, or am I?