A thousand years ago, in the early part of the eleventh century, a rebellious Shiite Muslim sect called the Nizari seized control of a mountaintop castle in Teheran, the capital of modern day Iran. This was the first in what would turn into a series of attacks this group carried out against political leaders of the Islamic world. Using their weapon of choice, the dagger, these men employed deceptive tactics to murder princes, scholars, crusaders, and anyone else who didn’t share their agenda. And while their loyalty to others could never be ensured, their dedication to achieving their own selfish goals was never questioned.
The founder of this group was Hassan-I-Sabbah, a man who so epitomized extremism that it’s believed he ordered the death of his own son for drinking wine. In fact, the members of this group of dangerous killers were so fanatical to their cause and fickle in their allegiances that they would execute Crusaders in one moment and then offer their services for hire to carry out execution attempts on behalf of the Crusaders the next.
Clearly, the only true loyalty these men had was to their own interests.
In many respects, these dangerous men were a precursor to terrorist factions like Al-Qaeda we are all too familiar with today. They were ruthless men who specialized in undermining and eliminating anyone who did not share in their beliefs or accept their narrow view of the world.
For almost 150 years the power of this band of radicals grew. It ended when Genghis Khan’s grandson Hulagu was able to capture their principle mountain stronghold and stop their reign of terror. Though the personal influence of this group of professional “hit men” began to wane, their dark legacy only grew as Crusaders returning to the western world told stories of the small band of dangerous men who wrought fear and terror at the very mention of their chosen name: The Assassins.
Today, the word assassin is familiar to most of us. However, we must realize that assassins are no longer limited to wayward sects, radical ideologies, or even Hollywood movies. The truth is, they are found all around us, to greater or lesser degrees, in our homes, workplaces, worship spaces, and communities.
Like the rebellious sect of old, the allegiance of today’s modern day assassins is only to their selfish goals and they will temporarily shift their loyalty to the individual or group who helps them promote their own agenda over those around them. Despite using different weapons and tactics, today’s hitmen in our midst are every bit as dangerous as their counterparts were over a millennium ago. For although they no longer use daggers to achieve their objectives, they do employ something equally powerful: Hurtful words, deception, intimidation, and manipulation.
Hurtful words are the weapons of animosity, anger, and malice we express towards a person, group, or object. They are weapons in the sense that they can wound another person psychologically and emotionally. The longer such negative, divisive words are allowed to persist, the more damage is done.
The Antidote: Commit to doing your part to make such language unwelcome in your surroundings. Eliminate hurtful words from your vocabulary.
Deception is a particularly hurtful weapon as it is can be used to convince others to believe something that is either partially true or worse, an outright lie. It intentionally misleads others in order to gain some unexpected or unfair advantage over them.
The Antidote: Trust that deception will eventually be exposed for what it is really is. So step out of the shadows and operate in the light. Always speak truth.
Intimidation is employed consciously or unconsciously and many people use this weapon to coerce others to adopt their own self-serving motives. It is frequently used to silence debate, encourage questionable practices to go undetected, and allow mistakes and mismanagement to become the norm. It’s a tool of the weak to appear stronger than they are and ultimately, pushes people further apart rather than bringing them closer together.
The Antidote: Make it stop with you. Draw a line in the sand and demonstrate to others you won’t condone such self-centered, bullying behavior.
Last, but certainly not least, manipulation is a subtle, but very dangerous weapon people use to selfishly promote themselves over those around them. Manipulators intent on getting their own way strive to distort reality or limit others’ choices.
The Antidote: Don’t let such selfish behavior take root around you. Assert yourself. Be honest with manipulators about the destructive nature of their behavior.
If you are truly committed to leading your life in a more excellent way, choose to lay down the daggers of hateful words, deception, intimidation, and manipulation. Set an example worth emulating by doing everything you can to neutralize the assassins in your midst.
John E. Michel is a widely recognized expert in culture, strategy & individual and organizational change. An accomplished unconventional leader and proven status quo buster, he has successfully led several multi-billion dollar transformation efforts and his award-winning work has been featured in a wide variety of articles and journals, including the Harvard Business Review. John enjoys helping people learn to walk differently in the world so they can become the best version of themselves possible. You are encouraged to learn more about John at his website, www.MedicoreMe.com