Darling, we must take the tiniest of tiny breaks from fairy tales to return to the real world where pretty much everyone is behaving badly (which is why we started to read fairy tales in the first place) because in fairy tales “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means” (Oscar Wilde) whereas in the real world, sigh.
Let’s not waste our time and energy counting all the malfeasance enacted by trolls these days. The dreadful (and dangerous) are always among us – be it in the CEO suite, laundromat, neighborhood park or grocery store (please note, Darling that it is totally understandable and forgivable to accidentally spill grape juice on anyone not wearing a mask. Yes, you have my royal benison and no, the stain will never come out).
So let us quickly revisit the rules of revenge:
1) Don’t pretend you don’t want revenge – you want revenge. You want your enemies, those bastards who thwarted and ridiculed you, to crawl through burning deserts begging for mercy. They deserve to be staked out under the burning sun, drizzled with honey and slowly devoured by ants as is right and good.
2) Do nothing. God will sort it out (or the Eumenides which is worse, Darling if you don’t know about the Eumenides, learn.) Either the person will come to their senses, straighten up and fly right; move; be promoted (no longer your problem); or self-destruct. Don’t try to push the self-destruction along, that will backfire. Remember: “there is…a simple but lucid treaty holding that when one side does something particularly fatheaded and self-destructive the other will respond by shooting itself in the foot within a period of from 17 to 30 days” (A. M. Rosenthal).
Keep smiling, keep living and working honestly and buy popcorn to munch on which you watch their inevitable, total, messy, assured destruction. If you want to make wax figures, that’s fine, just don’t let anyone find them.
3) Artful dissembling – just because you aren’t going to do the revenge yourself, doesn’t mean you have to aid and abet the soul-sucking sons of cockroaches.
- Learn, what I call, the martial art of friendly refusal: “Could you please put that in an e-mail?”, “You need to get X’s permission before I can look at that,” “I can’t do anything with a verbal request, can you write me a memo?”, “You need Y’s approval, then I can start work on it”, “I am so sorry, this isn’t clear, could you please submit a detailed plan?” and “I will need Z’s signature on that.” Say it with me, “Of course I will do anything to help you, I am ready to fly to your assistance but the rules don’t allow me to unless I have…”
- Be “a participant in the doctrine of constructive ambiguity” (Vernon Walters). Say “I am sorry, I don’t know” to all requests from loathsome people. This will whisk them off your phone, off your front porch, out of your e-mail or out of your office and off to bother someone else.
Darling, you might get an occasional “You don’t know?!” in a snide voice, but the choice is
- demonstrating your knowledge and having to deal with this twit (or troll) showing up again to pester you with questions
- having the person think you don’t know
Practice: “Gosh, I really don’t know,” “Oh, that’s a good question, maybe Florence would be able to help you,” “My! I’m stumped,” “You know, I used to understand that but I haven’t worked with that application in ages, better if you get Hortensia to help you.” Practice a sad, sorrowful glance and a wistful, “Heavens how I wish I knew that person/ number/ store/ piece of information!”
4) Win brownie points from everyone else. Be helpful to the non-trolls.
- “Do everything you ask of those you command,” General Patton, i.e. never ask someone to do something that you wouldn’t do / haven’t done
- “You will neither eat, nor drink, nor smoke, nor sit down, nor lean against a tree until you have personally seen that your men [and women] have first had the chance to do these things. If you will do this for them, they will follow you to the ends of the earth,” Field Marshall William Slim
- “Superior advantages binds you to larger generosity,” Ralph Waldo Emerson.
5) You get better information for surviving the PTA, neighborhood council, co-op board and the corporate world by reading war strategy books than reading “How to Get Along with People” or getting an MBA. I recommend Edward Luttwak, anything by an SAS trooper/officer or the classic Art of War.