By Lisa Cypers Kamen.
Boxing icon Muhammad Ali, also known to the world as Cassius Clay, “The People’s Champion” or simply, “The Greatest,” has just as much talent for words as he does for boxing.
Ever since the legendary boxer coined the phrase “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” people worldwide have been using the famous saying to describe anything that brings beauty or art to a battle situation. (Not sure what I mean? Check out footage of Muhammad Ali’s graceful fighting style and you’ll get the picture.)
Here in the 21st Century, war is everywhere. It’s the conflict between coworkers, the clash of politicians on the podium, and the everyday animosity we feel toward people we think are more beautiful or successful than we are. In these complicated times, it’s more important than ever to understand the art of emotional warfare.
The question is, how to control your emotions in a difficult situation and use them to your advantage. Have you ever met someone who manages to maintain his or her grace even during a heated conflict? What about someone who can be empathetic and at the same time firm during an argument? How about someone who is kind even when his or her opponent is throwing low blows left and right? A
ll these people have one thing in common: They understand how to use their emotions to overcome conflicts. A big part of their success is refraining from reactive behavior. When you think and pause before you speak or act, especially in an emotional, heated context, you’re already one step (or several) ahead of your emotional sparring partner.
When Muhammad Ali entered the ring, he violated every boxing rule in the book. He relied on steady footwork and quick jabs to quietly KO major opponents in moves that were too graceful to believe. There are a lot of things to learn from “The Greatest.” You don’t have to live by the unspoken rules of fighting, which tell you to belittle or trip up your opponent any way possible. By bringing sensitivity and sensibility to conflicts like the heavyweight champion did, you’ll stun your opponent – in a good way.
Just as Muhammad Ali was the master of anticipating his opponent’s next move, we should all be more in tune with what the other person is thinking during our conflicts. By being more in touch with our opponent’s feelings and keeping a better grasp on our own emotions, we each can master the art of graceful, modern warfare. Before you know it, Muhammad Ali won’t be the only one floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee.
Happiness is an inside job. ®
Emotionally intelligent warfare is half awareness, half practice. To prepare yourself mentally for the conflicts in your life, start by repeating this mantra to yourself each morning, noon and night: I will act, not react. The purpose of this mantra is to remember how important it is to think before you act, especially in a heated situation. This practice will allow you to act and live with intention, something that Eastern and Western philosophers alike agree is the key to a fulfilled life.