The Christmas Truce
Terry Braverman and Company

The Christmas Truce

Quote for the Week: "Peace begins between your ears." - Terry Braverman

It was December 25, 1914, only 5 months into World War I that German, British, and French soldiers, already sick and tired of the senseless killing, disobeyed their superiors and fraternized with "the enemy" along two-thirds of the Western Front (a crime punishable by death in times of war). German troops held Christmas trees up out of the trenches with signs, "Merry Christmas."

"You no shoot, we no shoot." Thousands of troops streamed across a no-man's land strewn with rotting corpses. They sang Christmas carols, exchanged photographs of loved ones back home, shared rations, played football, even roasted some pigs. Soldiers embraced men they had been trying to kill a few short hours before. They agreed to warn each other if the top brass forced them to fire their weapons, and to aim high.

A shudder ran through the high command on either side. Here was disaster in the making: soldiers declaring their brotherhood with each other and refusing to fight. Generals on both sides declared this spontaneous peacemaking to be treasonous and subject to court martial. By March 1915 the fraternization movement had been eradicated and the killing machine put back in full operation. By the time of the armistice in 1918, fifteen million would be slaughtered.

Not many people have heard the story of the Christmas Truce. On Christmas Day, 1988, a story in the Boston Globementioned that a local FM radio host played "Christmas in the Trenches," a ballad about the Christmas Truce, several times and was startled by the effect. The song became the most requested recording during the holidays in Boston on several FM stations. "Even more startling than the number of requests I get is the reaction to the ballad afterward by callers who hadn't heard it before," said the radio host. "They telephone me deeply moved, sometimes in tears, asking, 'What the hell did I just hear?'"

You can probably guess why the callers were in tears. The Christmas Truce story goes against most of what we have been taught about people. It gives us a glimpse of the world as we wish it could be and says, "This really happened once."


Excerpt from the book, "We Can Change the World," by David G. Stratman


Humor cleverly employed at the right time can be just the perfect antidote to conflict. Some shining examples in the business world:

Budget Proposal

A client kept returning our budget proposal saying it needed to be smaller. No matter how much trimming we did, the client kept pushing for "Smaller, smaller!" I finally took the proposal to a copier and had it reduced to two inches in size. I sent it to the client and said, "This is about as small as I can make it. Tell me what you think." He called me saying it got a huge laugh in his office and that he would now accept the proposal as soon as he could find his magnifying glass.


David Lewis, a Los Angeles attorney, shared a story of how humor defused a tense moment in negotiating for the purchase of a large office building: "The negotiations were going on very hard, night and day, and one night it got to one of those tense moments when two of the guys on opposite sides of the table were arguing about the height requirement for the urinals in the mens room. One of the guys was insisting it was 30 inches, and the other guy screaming no, its 36 inches. They were really going at it, and I jumped in and said, 'Gentlemen, I think were in danger of getting into a pissing contest.'"

"It broke the tension and really resolved the whole situation. Everybody relaxed and we moved into a place of equanimity. They realized it didn't make any difference anyway."

Cutting Costs

Many years ago, the Ford Motor Company went through a period in which the numbers people (accountants) took over the company and were closing plants left and right in order to cut costs. They had already succeeded in shutting down plants in Massachusetts and Texas and seemed to be relishing their newly found power.

Robert McNamara, who was president of Ford at the time, called a meeting of his top executives to discuss a recommendation he had received for the closing of yet another plant. Everyone was against it, but the predictions from the accountants were so grim that nobody was willing to speak up. Finally, a salty Ford veteran by the name of Charlie Beacham said, "Why don't we close down all the plants and then well really start to save money?" Everyone cracked up. The decision was made to postpone any more closings for a while, and the bean counters went back to working for the company instead of running it.

Florist Shop

A businessman storms into a florist shop, demanding to speak the owner.
"That's me," replied the owner. "How can I help you?"

"I ordered a HUGE arrangement of your flowers for my store's grand opening. You sent me a wreath, with a card that said, 'Rest in peace!'"

The owner sheepishly replied, "I'm terribly sorry about it. If it makes you feel any better, we sent your arrangement of flowers to a gravesite, with a card that said, 'Good luck at your new location.'"





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