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Billions of words have been written on how to save a marriage or make a relationship work better. That's easy stuff--writing all those words. The Department of Pathological Social and International Relations of the General Delivery University has recently completed the definitive study of how to make relationships fail, whether interpersonal or international. The same rules apply to both. Herewith are excerpts from that GDU report:

1.      Always try and read the other person's mind. Never wait until the other person (or country) explains itself. For example, your spouse could be thinking the weather is nice today. Or she could be thinking you are dirt. Or the Chinese could be thinking about improving their human relations record, or they could be thinking about where to build a new prison for dissidents. Assume you know how they are thinking, and act accordingly.

2.      Judge before you are judged. Everyone has an opinion about everything. Get there first. Before the other side can decide you are a lying scum, decide what they are--such as a worthless slime. Then act accordingly.

3.      Never give the other side the benefit of the doubt. Maybe your spouse was out late because he was having such a good time talking to his mother that he forgot it was 4 AM. Or maybe he was out sleeping with every table dancer he could find that night. Which would you choose? Or maybe the Russians just had an accident when the radar screen shows incoming missiles, or maybe they have launched a pre-emptive strike on the US. Which would you choose?

4.      Always jump to conclusions. There are always two possible meanings to anything. "You won't live long in this city" could be a death threat, or a prediction that you will get a better job in another city and move away. Or, "we vigorously oppose your intrusion into our domestic affairs" could mean every nation has the right to protect its own sovereignty, or we'll shoot all the political dissidents we want to. Which would you conclude was true?

5.      Never seek any outside assistance. You might not be relating well because your concept of being on time is to be half an hour late, and your spouse might expect when you say you'll be home at midnight, that does not mean 3 AM. This could be resolved by mediation with a qualified professional for at least $100 per hour, or the problem could be allowed to fester into outright conflict. On the international scene, a third party nation could be called in to mediate the dispute over whose fish they are, or you could sink their fishing boats.

6.      What you say is what you mean, even if that isn't so. People (or nations) rarely speak clearly to each other. "Stop jailing your newspaper editors" spoken by the US State Department actually means "we don't like what you're doing, but as long as our business people are making lots of money importing your cheap goods produced with convict labor, we'll just whine a bit and do nothing." This is in contrast to General Douglas MacArthur saying "We shall return" and he actually did. Now we tell the Japanese "we'll blockade your ships if you don't quit expecting us to open our markets for your stuff while you lock US goods out of your markets," which means "ship your stuff to Mexico and drive it across the line". In personal relationships saying "you don't love me" usually means "why haven't you helped me wash the dishes." Be very careful in saying what you mean, and meaning to follow saying "I'll be back" when you have every intention of doing so at the appointed time, only to find something going on you would rather have not known for sure was going on. Always speak with misdirection, so the listener is trying to figure out if you meant what you said, or something the opposite.

7.      Change your mind randomly and without notice. People like some level of predictability in their lives. If you like eggs in yesterday morning, you will probably like them next week. Or if you could sell Toyotas below cost in California last month, you can do this next month. Predictability breeds security and trust. Neither of these concepts is good for bad relations. Inject a serious level of randomness in a relationship, which will always keep the other side eyeing you with suspicion if not outright hostility.

8.      Always treat the other side like they were mentally deficient if not criminally insane. Treating each other with respect breeds familiarity and trust. On the other hand, if you always approach the other side with thinly veiled contempt, or openly expressed hostility, then the relationship will never flower and bloom into love. For example, always start a conversation with phrases like "you come from a long line of mental deficients" or "doesn't criminal insanity run in your family?" On the international scene, treating foreign dignitaries like idiots really improves the chances of war.

9.      Impute evil intentions to every act of the other. There is always a good and a bad explanation for everything. If you always assume the evil intention, you are likely to be right more than wrong. For example, "you deliberately took my car and went out and had that accident even though you were rear-ended" maintains an appropriate level of relational dysfunction. Or "your nation has invaded my nation 6 times in the last 50 years so why should I trust your terrorist behavior" is a great way to start peace negotiations if you don't want peace. A famous version of this occurred in Arizona where Indians and Whites sat down to negotiate a treaty, and the Indians started off by reciting how many of their relatives had been killed by the Cavalry. The spokesman for the Whites responded by allowing as to how the Cavalry quit too soon. Not another peaceful word has been exchanged between the two sides in over 100 years.

10.  When all else fails, do not respond at all. Refusing to respond to initiatives from the other side, especially well-intentioned gestures of love and friendship, will always chill out an otherwise blossoming relationship. On the world scene, offers of surrender sometime come at inconvenient times, like before you can prove that the atom bomb works, or the B-2 bomber can really fly through the rain and blow up that Iraqi city. Pretending you don't understand the language, that the phones were dead, or that you have a sudden and source-specific case of deafness does wonders to undermine relational bliss and world peace.


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Copyright 1998-2006 by Hugh Holub