Today, I’d like to tell you a story about a girl from Cape Coast called Esi. Esi had been married for less than three months and was already hating her life. It wasn’t her husband’s fault – in fact, he was lovely.

Attentive, caring and amorous enough to make a whole volleyball team of wives happy, yet, he chose her alone. No, the problem was Esi’s mother-in-law. 

Now that woman was trouble. She sat in her rocking chair on the veranda from dawn ’til dusk and did nothing but criticize, insult and abuse Esi. Nothing she ever did was right. Esi would go shopping at Kotokuraba market to prepare dinner for her husband only to come home and find that the old woman had cooked something else for her son. Every time Esi walked past, the old woman would spit on the ground.

Once, she overheard her mother-in-law on the phone saying, “I really don’t know what my boy sees in that donkey. If she can’t be beautiful, at least, she should be smart”.

Esi had expected the conversation to stop the moment she entered the room, but the old lady didn’t even pause. She looked directly into Esi’s eyes and said, “I won’t let that ugly idiot kill my son before his time”

That was the last straw. Esi decided she would no longer live like this, so she went to visit a local medicine man. After pouring out all her woes to him, the wizened herbalist asked Esi what she wanted. Her answer was simple: “I want to kill my mother-in-law”

The old man thought about the problem for a while. Then he got up and fetched a bag of fine powder from his storeroom. “I will help you with your problem, but you must listen carefully and do exactly as I tell you”.

Esi agreed, and the old man continued. “The most important thing is to make sure you don’t get caught. So I am giving you a slow-acting poison. Put some of this in her food every day. Now, you need to make sure nobody even thinks you are capable of doing this, so you must be sweet as pie to the old witch. Wash her clothes, smile and joke with her, let everybody think you are her very best friend. And remember to cry the loudest when she dies.

Esi went home and applied the herbalist’s instructions to the letter. She would cook delicious meals for her mother-in-law and slip in a few pinches of the powder.

Daily, she would wait on the old lady’s hand and foot. She would wash her clothes, run her errands, massage her feet… as the days went by, the old woman’s attitude towards her daughter-in-law slowly started to change. She became much friendlier, would chat and laugh with her, lend a hand in the kitchen and constantly compliment her to friends and neighbours. The two women became firm friends.

Esi went back to see the medicine man. “Please, I don’t want the poison to kill my mother-in-law anymore., She has really changed. I really like her now. How do I reverse the poison?”

The old man smiled and said, “Don’t worry. The powder I gave you was just a mixture of spices. The real poison was in your mind”.

My dear friend, who hates you? Who is making your life difficult? Who is that snarky receptionist who always gives you dirty looks in the morning? Who are those gossiping colleagues who giggle behind your back and go silent the minute you walk into the staff room? Wouldn’t your life be much easier if they would just disappear? Well, here’s my advice: kill them with kindness.

The thing is, those who don’t like you, often don’t know you. They do not know that they are being unfair to you. Whatever their reasons, no matter how childish and illogical, they actually think they are justified in hating your guts. 

Now, you can’t go around asking them all why they don’t like you and explaining yourself to them. The only thing you can do is prove them wrong with your actions. They don’t like you because they think they have seen something bad about you, so show them something good.

When people insult you on social media, respond with a smiley. When people talk behind your back at work, smile in their faces, as broadly and brightly as you can.

If someone is rude, hostile or unkind to you, look out for the first opportunity to be polite, friendly or charitable to them. 

Now, do not expect it to be easy, and do not expect a 100% success rate. There will always be some people who just can’t stand you on general principle. Doesn’t matter. Kill them with kindness anyway. Make every day Hug-a-Hater Day. They may not change their minds about you, but you’ll still feel great.

If you really want to get rid of the problem people in your life once and for all, then kindness is the most effective poison. Smile at them. Compliment their shoes.

Look for opportunities to help them out and make their jobs easier. As for nothing in return. And always keep smiling. This is how to vanquish your enemies for good. At the very least, it will confuse the heck out of them.

My name is Kojo Yankson, and I’m killing all my enemies one smile at a time.