“Success is the sweetest revenge.” – Vanessa Williams

In the unique language of the military, Blue Falcon is one of those terms that tends to be learned early and used often. I first encountered the term while still a cadet at the University of Idaho, after an upperclassman knowingly made a false accusation against me that spurred a lengthy – and wholly useless – investigation. Working with someone who routinely stole the work of others and claimed it as his own cemented the term in my vocabulary. And I was still using the term after I transitioned out of uniform and into the civilian sector, when I learned that a colleague was actively trying to undercut any influence I might have with my new boss. Spend a few minutes surfing Reddit and you can see for yourself just how common the flight of Blue Falcon has become.

While the term itself is deeply rooted in the uniformed ranks, the broad concept is well understood in any social environment. Whether it is referred to as backstabbing or screwing over, everyone understands the general idea, if not the behavior. The reasons why people feel compelled to Blue Falcon someone else range from general cowardice to a need to gain power and influence; doing so allows someone to gain the upper hand in a competitive environment, even the move risks retaliation. People do it. Organizations do it. Countries do it.

How to Contend with a Blue Falcon

Whenever I was the victim of a Blue Falcon – more the norm than the exception, unfortunately – my first inclination was to strike back. But revenge isn’t always the best option. Certainly not revenge in the moment, which has a tendency to backfire. But my own natural impatience made waiting for Karma to do its magic an improbably option. Being victimized by a Blue Falcon is also a painful reminder that you can’t control how others act. Acknowledging that fact is important, because doing so allows you to reflect inward and consider how NOT to allow it to happen again.

So, what options do you have? How should you contend with a Blue Falcon in your midst?

1. Don’t get emotional.

Nothing will make a Blue Falcon happier than seeing you lose control. It’s like icing on the cake – not only did they gain the upper hand, but they also pushed you over the edge. Instead, use that passion, that raw emotional reaction, to fuel a proper response. Weaving that emotion into a sound plan of action will do more for you in the long run than ranting endlessly about how you got screwed over. Think of it as the silent treatment: the longer you stay quiet and in control, the more the Blue Falcon will be looking over their shoulder.

2. Patience is a virtue.

Remember the classic line from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan: “Revenge is a dish that is best served cold.” Khan’s paraphrasing of French diplomat Charles Maurice de Tallyrand-Perigord (“La vengeance est un met que l’on doit manger froid.”) is a potent reminder to refrain from retaliating in the moment. Regardless of how appealing it might seem, don’t lower yourself to that level. Don’t resort to the same tactics used against you. Read some Sun Tzu.

3. Prove your case.

Collect the evidence necessary to not just establish your side of the events, but to definitely unmask both the identity and motivations of the Blue Falcon in your midst. This takes patience, because proving your case means getting one step ahead of someone who probably already has a step or two on you. That means carefully documenting your work, paying close attention to detail, and to be completely honest, playing your cards close to your chest. As Montgomery Scott once said, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

4. Freeze them out.

Altogether shunning a suspected Blue Falcon is about as bad a move as immediately confronting them without proof. Instead, limit their access to knowledge about you and your activities. In a perfect situation, you might even be able to feed them disinformation; there’s nothing quite as entertaining as Blue Falcon outing themselves publicly with bad information they’ve been unknowingly fed. Whatever else you do, though, play those cards close to your chest. The less they know, the better.

5. Confront them.

At their core, all Blue Falcons are cowards. Once you have the evidence to back your side of events, confront them publicly. Put them on the defensive. Back up everything you say with hard facts. This pretty much guarantees that they’ll retaliate, but by this point you will have shored up your defenses to the point that they’ll be seen for who and what they are.

Guard Up and Stay Focused

Ultimately, your success is the best revenge. Nothing else will gnaw at the soul of a Blue Falcon more than seeing you succeed in spite of their best efforts. Keep your guard up and continue to punch away at the things that matter. And, when you get a free moment, let the occasional “Caw! Caw!” quietly slip past your lips; it’s a reminder to them that you haven’t forgotten.

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Steve Leonard is a former senior military strategist and the creative force behind the defense microblog, Doctrine Man!!. A career writer and speaker with a passion for developing and mentoring the next generation of thought leaders, he is a senior fellow at the Modern War Institute; the co-founder of the national security blog, Divergent Options, and the podcast, The Smell of Victory; co-founder and board member of the Military Writers Guild; and a member of the editorial review board of the Arthur D. Simons Center’s Interagency Journal. He is the author of five books, numerous professional articles, countless blog posts, and is a prolific military cartoonist.