Find the empathy cardFor a start, you could learn from Abraham Lincoln, who said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” You don’t have to like your workplace enemy, but understand their perspective more and you will likely find a reason for their behaviour. Or you just may appreciate that they are experiencing difficulties of their own, so give them a bit more leeway. Any insight into how to work with them effectively will be useful. They may actually be looking for the fight, so disarm them by not responding. It may be worth finding something you have in common – even if it’s a common enemy. And if you can bring yourself to do them a favour, they will probably feel indebted. Better still, according to the Ben Franklin Effect, get them to do you a favour. This psychological phenomenon, which Franklin described as an “old maxim” in his autobiography, states that a person who has done someone a favour is more likely to do something else for them than if they had received a favour from that person in the first place.
Get dreamingIt’s also important to visualise your relationship improving. Often we expect an interaction to be uncomfortable and it quickly becomes so. But imagine it going well, and it is much more likely to.
This might all sound like hippy, pie-in-the-sky thinking but it frequently works, even in extreme cases. Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness spent their lives fighting each other in mortal hatred until they found themselves sharing an office as first minister and deputy first minister of the Northern Ireland Executive. The result? A great friendship and a very productive working relationship. They even became known as the Chuckle Brothers, such was their behaviour in press conferences. Oh, and there was that small by-product of peace in Northern Ireland, as well.