Collaborating with the Enemy

How to Work with People You Don’t Agree with or Like or Trust

by Adam Kahane

Excerpts from the book; notes by JFR


3 alternatives to collaboration

  1. Adapt

  2. Force

  3. Exit

Collaboration: when we want to change and can do so only if we work with others (multilaterally)

Relationship conflicts tend to be perpetual problems, either for fundamental differences in personality or lifestyle needs. Rather than solving these differences, it’s important to be able to have a dialogue. Gridlocked conflict = emotional disengagement

Five Ways to Deal with Problematic Situations

Can we change the situation?


Can we bear the situation as it is?


Exit (unilateral)


Adapt (unilateral)


Can we effect this change unilaterally?


Force (unilateral)


Can we control this change?


Conventional Collaboration


Stretch Collaboration

Stretch collaboration: 3 dimensions

#1 Relate - How we relate to the people with whom we are collaborating (conflicts and connections exist beyond the team)

#2 Experiment - How we advance the work of the team (results may be unpredictable)

Types of listening:

Enacting new realities
“What I am noticing here and now is…”
“In my experience…”
Primacy of the whole + Primacy of the parts
“The truth is…”
“In my opinion…”

“When I am in a group that is presencing, it is as if the boundaries between people have disappeared, so that when one person talks, he or she is articulating something for the whole group or system, and when I listen, it is as if to the whole group or system.”

#3 What role we play (“step into the game”) - How we participate / what role we play (we may need to change what we’re doing)

Actionable considerations: