10 Management Lessons from Ramayana – Lesson 6

10 Management Lessons from Ramayana – Lesson 6


Flexing your style to get a Yes!

We have come half way through this beautiful part of Ramayana. This is a nice juncture to take a deviation. Instead of going on like a Bollywood movie, focusing only on the protagonist Hanuman, let us explore some lessons which the other important characters offer. We shall begin with Vibhishana, the younger brother of Ravana, in this post.

Let us go back to the story now:

Hanuman sat before a thundering Ravana who questioned him and his credentials through his minister Prahasta. Hanuman did not fail to notice how majestic Ravana was in his fury. He looked like the sun surrounded by the planets amidst his ministers. Hanuman thought that ‘here is a person who is fit to rule all the worlds, only if he adhered to the way of morality’. Ravana too did not fail to note the prominence of Hanuman. He wondered if Nandi the divine steed of Lord Shiva was seated before him in disguise.

Meanwhile Prahasta urged Hanuman to respond, to which Hanuman replied “Listen Ravana, I am here to fulfill a mission of Sugreeva. I am a messenger of Rama. Sugreeva wishes your welfare like a brother would wish. Sugreeva and Rama have become allies. You know the prowess of our previous Vanara king Vali, Rama killed Vali, with a single arrow! Know from this the power of Rama.” Hanuman tried to advise Ravana to adhere to the laws of Dharma and return Sita to Rama. He warned failure to do so, will lead to the destruction of Lanka. This enraged Ravana as Hanuman’s message though well-articulated was not what Ravana wanted to hear. Ravana in the spur of the moment ordered the death of Hanuman.

At this point Vibhishana, the pious younger brother of Ravana rose and objected to the decision. Vibhishana is prudent, he knew that a direct confrontation would not yield any result so he adopted a better approach of telling Ravana what he wanted to hear and then influenced him to agree to his proposal. “Killing a messenger is against dharma” said Vibhishana, “Good and wise kings do not do such deeds, there is no one better and wiser than you in all the three worlds”. He then lauded Ravana’s knowledge of the scriptures and wisdom. He said “such an act doesn’t behoove the lord of three worlds; moreover by killing him you lose an opportunity to deliver a terrifying message to our enemy Rama”. He further advised Ravana to change the punishment. Ravana having heard what is in it for him, agreed with Vibhishana. A convinced Ravana now order Hanuman’s tail to be set on fire as monkeys love their tails.

The rakshashas rejoiced this judgment and the message spread like wildfire across Lanka. It reached Sita’s ears who prayed to Agni – the fire god, not to hurt Hanuman. The rakshasha wound Hanuman’s tail with cloth and doused it in oil. They then lit it, but to the surprise of Hanuman it did not hurt. The wily Hanuman was now thinking of a way to make use of this fire that doesn’t hurt!

The way Vibhishana accomplished his task is eye opening. To convince a person who is as arrogant and angry as Ravana is not easy. But how did he accomplish this. We too can do it if we can follow three simple steps:

  1. Know your personality style: This is to be aware of how we communicate or process things. There a lot of tools to know this like Social Styles or Psychometric tools like MBTI, many of these are free to use and a simple online questionnaire can let you know your personality traits.
  2. Know the personality style of the other person: This is the trickier part after all you can’t go about asking others to fill questionnaires before you interact with them. You have to guess their style indirectly by observing their words, body language etc.
  3. Flex your style to influence others: Once you know how you deal with a situation and how other deal with it, you have to align your ways with theirs’ to get them to agree with you. This is done by changing the way you communicate, the information you use to substantiate your argument. Vibhishana did this by quoting scriptures and exalting Ravana’s authority over it. He also told Ravana what is in it for him and used Ravana’s position as the lord of three worlds as an excuse not to kill Hanuman.

What was Hanuman thinking and how did he use this cool fire? Wait till we find out in the next episode. Till then don’t hesitate to mail your views and comments to psmadankumar@gmail.com.

If you want to catch up what happened before this, read the previous post (Lesson #5) here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/10-management-lessons-from-ramayana-lesson-5-madan-panathula?trk=prof-post

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