Being Firm but Fair is often recommended as the best way of handling conflict situations and a rather amusing example of that working well arose in my life recently.
Around 5 years ago a certain businessman had his business licence taken off him because he was an exceptionally bad driver, much given to speeding. Most of us have had speeding tickets etc so we probably see minor traffic offences as forgiveable -- so a lot of people would have thought that the punishment was a bit excessive. One of the journalists for News Corp. appears to have thought so too so he wrote it up as a news report.
The businessman protested that the government had treated him unfairly and a report of his protests also appeared shortly thereafter in which he defended his driving
I thought the initial report was interesting too so reproduced it on one of my blogs at the time. I did not bother with the follow-up article however. And there the matter rested until this December -- when I got a very aggressive email from the businessman concerned demanding that I delete my online copy of the initial report as he had already got the newspaper to delete their report. It was quite a threatening and unpleasant letter.
A wiser person might have begun his email in a classically polite English way as something like this:
"Apologies for bothering you but I wonder if you would mind ..."
Given my largely English culture I would of course respond well to something like that. I do normally respond favourably to any requests about my blog posts.
Anyway, there are various ways to respond to threats and some are more devious than others. So I did exactly as he asked and deleted my copy of the original article. I went further however. I replaced it with the article in which he defended himself -- an article which of course repeated all the original criticisms! That article was still online at its original source so there was nothing he could say about that -- and he didn't
I was still not finished with him, however, so I put up a recent (December) article on the matter which included the original government report about him. That was still online too if you were good at digging into government reports
He was of course upset and apologized for his earlier rough approach to me. In English/Australian culture apologies are a big deal so in response to his apology I deleted my recent article. I think I was firm but fair.
And guess what? He and I now seem to be pretty matey. "Firm but fair" works well. It would be too much to say that I have converted an enemy into a friend but the change is in that direction.