Get Ahead With a Little “Lifemanship” – or not

By | February 9, 2015

Lifemanship, by Stephen Potter, is essentially the art of getting one over on other people. I really can’t workout if it’s a work of genius, or utterly rediculous.

Lifemanship is a sequel to ‘Gamesmanship‘, which applied similar methods to winning at sports by underhand tactics. The book gives you a sense of the now rather quaint customs of the time.

Lifemanship‘s influence was such that Nobel Prize winner Sir Peter Medewar coined the term ‘scientmanship’ to refer to scientific one-upmanship in his book Advice to a Young Scientist.

Of course, it’s all very tongue in cheek, but I’m still sure that there are cautionary lessons to be learned from it’s pages – either to notice these traits in other people, or to make sure I don’t fall into trying any of these ‘gambits’ myself.

1. Conversationship

Conversationship is the art of getting one over on your interlocutor:

In conversation play, the important thing is to get in early and stay there

Lifemanship is filled with examples of how to wrong-foot people, put them down or induce an awkward silence.

2. Expert Management

One of the key lessons in ‘Lifemanship‘ is that of expert management – or how to get by without really knowing anything yourself.

In dealing with an expert – perhaps someone who is dominating a conversation with their specialist knowledge the important thing is

interrupting him in that stupefying flow, breaking the deadly one-upness

3. Weekendsmanship

When you are visiting or staying with friends or fammily, ‘Lifemanship‘ recommends that you make a grand gesture of being helpful early on, you can then get away with having to ‘lift not one finger in the kitchen or garden’ for the rest of your visit.

4. Writership

Lifemanship‘ offers a series of tips for writing and journalism. I’m sure there’s a certain barbed humour directed at the profession:

A damned-good-journalist must either praise … to the heights, or blame it to the depths

and suggests that

the critic must always be on top of, or better than, the person criticized.

5. Gamesmanship

A good third of the book is devoted to ‘gamesmanship‘ – the art of winning games and competitions that your natural ability cannot win for you.

By far the best of these is the section on ‘Christmas Gamesmanship’ which observes that

very little has been written about the art of winning Christmas games

and suggests that

the general atmosphere of family gatherings… is a perfect climate of operation for the man who keeps his head.