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What does “(almost) anyone” even mean?

Why yes, thanks for noticing; we DID get print copies delivered this week 😁

What does “(almost) anyone” even mean?

One of the things that I love about this new book is its title. It seems to strike a deep chord of recognition in most people.

And now I’m in the process of racking up podcast and press interviews; one of the questions I get asked regularly is, “what’s with the ‘almost’? Who are you talking about?”

I’ll get to the “who” in a moment.

But what’s most important about the “almost” is that it means you can work better, you can build the best possible relationship with pretty much every key working relationship you have.

Those working relationships that feel like there’s always sand in the gears, and you just can’t click? You can move those from bad to good enough.

The majority of working relationships that are perfectly OK most of the time? They can become more vital and safer.

And those precious working relationships that seem to be almost magically terrific, well, they too can deepen and strengthen.


So, back to the ‘almost’. Who are we talking about here?

There are probably a number of reasons why it might be near impossible to build a “best possible relationship” with someone. One of those reasons is that they’re a psychopath. It’s a technical term for the 1% of the general population that shows some combination of the traits of egocentricity, predatoriness, recklessness, a lack of empathy, and a propensity for manipulation and exploitation.

What contributes to the “almost” in the book title is that those are traits that often allow you to climb a ladder in an organization. A psychopath can often have a lot of charisma and creativity, even as they lack those qualities based in empathy. Charming bastards, in other words. And how many CEOs are psychopaths? I’ve seen numbers from 3% to 16% to as high as 20%. Your experience and mileage may vary.


Don’t be foolish. Do be optimistic

My wise counsel is this: a plan to build a Best Possible Relationship with a psychopath is not going to work. Don’t be foolish.

My other wise counsel is this: you don’t work with (m)any psychopaths. Don’t write off people too quickly. When you think of the working relationships that can feel like a struggle right now, imagine them moving from hard to bearable/good enough. That’s no small thing. Removing the pain is often a greater win than amplifying the pleasure.

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Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier

I'm the author of five books that have collectively sold more than a million copies. I'm the founder of Box of Crayons, a learning and development company that helps organizations move from advice-driven to curiosity-led. I'm the host of the *2 Pages with MBS* podcast.