Just because people are friendly doesn’t mean they’re your friends. Don’t mistake friendliness for sincerity. As a cynical politician once said, “The key to success is sincerity; once you can fake that, you’ve got it made!”
An example of this takes us back to our Anglo-Saxons leaders Hengist and Horsa and their descendants in the 5th century. Continuing the saga: after a few years of consolidating their hold on the area of Britain now called Kent, the Angles and the Saxons arranged a feast with all the leaders of the Britons, including the King, Vortigern. At that feast each Anglo Saxon sat next to a Briton and on a command from Hengist, pulled out a hidden knife and slew his neighbouring diner: It was the original “Night of the Long Knives”. The only Briton spared was Vortigern, who was also married to Hengist daughter, some in-laws they turned out to be! He was then ransomed for large swathes of his kingdom and forced to flee to that apart of Britain that is now known as Wales. It was an important step towards Anglo-Saxon dominance and the expulsion of the Britons to the Celtic fringes of the island.
The Anglo-Saxon had deployed the stratagem of “Hide the knife behind the smile”. They had given all the appearances of friendship whilst planning a supreme act of betrayal. History is full of similar events in both western and eastern histories.
For project managers the point is that your opponents will not always show animosity. The greatest villains have not always looked villainous; Hitler, Stalin, Ted Bundy, Peter Sutcliffe aka the Yorkshire Ripper, the world would have been a much better place had their evil been more readily discernable.
So do not be duped by the friendly demeanor of people you know have competing goals. Corporate life is often a zero sum game – if I win, you lose – so you need to be aware that friendliness may, at best, be common courtesy; hiding their real intentions. The main response to this is to judge your opponents solely by their actions and their interests: Words are cheap: Smiles are worthless: Protect yourself at all times.