How to communicate with your adversaries

Most of us have someone in the office that we have trouble dealing with or seem to be in constant competition with: perhaps for resources, recognition, or other issues. However, we often need to work with these people as a team to achieve the goals of our organization. So how do you communicate with someone who seems to be constantly working against you?

Step One: Recognize that your mindset could be the problem.

You clicked on it because there might be someone you perceive as an opponent that you want to learn to deal with on a more positive level. The first step is to stop seeing the other person as an opponent. Let this sink in: Even if this person is outside your organization and you are in a very strained relationship, you need to see them as a partner. This allows you to find common ground and separate the person from the problem. Doing so and managing your underlying emotions is at the core of working with someone whose interests are not aligned with yours.

An exercise to help: Sit down, breathe in, close your eyes and use your imagination. Imagine the person in question is your friend or family member. Let go of anything you don’t agree with and think about what you agree with, even if it’s something as simple as breathing air together at first. What do they want or want? what do you want or want What motivates you? What is important to you? Then open your eyes and think about how you can help them get what they want and where there is room for compromise.

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Learning how to communicate with someone you are in conflict with requires retraining your mind to see them as a friend and not an enemy. This is necessary to do the next step: forming a bond.

Step two: form a bond.

If this seems like a Sisyphean task to you, you probably need to go back to step one. It’s easier to bond with someone you consider a friend. Remember, you don’t have to like someone to bond with them. As a hostage negotiator, I’ve had to build relationships with people whose behavior is pretty horrible, or people who have done horrible things. That doesn’t mean I like these people or the things they’ve done; it means we needed each other to achieve a common goal. It’s about the bond that makes it possible to find a common solution when this was not possible in the past. Once you can picture the person in a positive light and understand their motivations and desires, you can see things in common with them. This will get you ahead.

Step Three: Remember the golden rule.

Many of us forget the most basic principle of communication when we are in a tense situation: treat others as you would expect them to be treated. No matter what your disagreement with someone, remember to treat them how you would like to be treated. In other words, speak to them respectfully, help them maintain their dignity, and be kind. If you can do this, you will find that you can communicate with them.

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