The intriguing title of this book, suggesting we need to be both a friend and a foe, is developed in an engaging and often entertaining manner. The book takes us on a journey through real life situations referring to literary characters, historical people, current politicians and sports stars to name but a few, providing highly credible scenarios to help us balance the need for competition and cooperation.
I was pleasantly surprised to find it extremely readable as it didn’t dwell too long on any particular anecdote but moved effortlessly through different real life examples, thereby reinforcing the message in an interesting manner. I found myself reflecting on the scenarios and easily coming up with similar instances from my own experience. To take one example from many, the question of trust in a person, which the book claims is gained from that person showing both warmth and competence. If people are cold they present a potential threat, if they are incompetent they are neither credible nor efficient. The need for a genuine smile – even if that smile is conjured up by thinking of something totally unrelated to the situation the person may be in – and an apology when being the bearer of bad news, help instil trust in a person. I loved the example given of how every U.S. president since television began has got a dog, even Obama whose daughter is allergic to dogs, as there are few things that will make a person look warmer than ‘nuzzling with a cuddly tail wagging dog’.
The book also answers some fascinating questions; Why are twins that are brought up apart often more similar to each other than those raised under the same roof? When is it ethical to knowingly tell a lie? Why do wealthy people steal? How can signing a pre-nuptial agreement lead to the disintegration of a happy relationship? How does power increase infidelity? And ultimately how can knowing the answers to these questions help us to become more successful as individuals?
All in all ‘Friend & Foe’ was an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to a broad audience as it relates to everyday life as well and the world of business. Whilst being engaging and well-written, it is also a great guide to success in our social environment.
By WSE teacher Victoria Hebden