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
- when we cannot change the situation
- no energy is expended on things we cannot change
- used when we are not in power
- when we alone know best
- others who disagree will push back
- used when we are in power
- when we cannot change the situation, and cannot abide the situation
- used when we are not in power
Collaboration: when we want to change and can do so only if we work with others (multilaterally)
- when we cannot alone know nor succeed
- has a larger, sustained impact
- is slow
- may be co-opted or watered down (due to shared power)
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?
Can we effect this change unilaterally?
Can we control this change?
Stretch collaboration: 3 dimensions
#1 Relate - How we relate to the people with whom we are collaborating (conflicts and connections exist beyond the team)
Sometimes engaging (love), sometimes asserting (power)
From page 63:
|The generative side of this pole
|The reaction that signals the edge
|The degenerative side of this pole
Kahane mentions his other book “Power and Love”:
- Power = the drive of everything living to realize itself
- Love = the drive towards the unity of the separated
- Do not need to agree on principles first
- “The good of the whole” is neither sensible nor legitimate – each whole is part of multiple larger wholes.
Which problems can be solved, and which can only be managed
#2 Experiment - How we advance the work of the team (results may be unpredictable)
Types of listening:
||Enacting new realities
||Presencing“What I am noticing here and now is…”
||Dialoguing“In my experience…”
|Primacy of the whole
||Primacy of the parts
||Downloading“The truth is…”
||Debating“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)
- Rene Girard: “We … control internal conflict by projecting our violence outside [ourselves or] the community onto a scapegoat.” (enemy = the cause/cure of our troubles)
- Asks the question: “What must we do next?”
- You can’t be a part of the solution unless you’re a part of the problem
- If you play you might lose/fail (but don’t take things personally)
- Engaging fully in the situation is a risk that we will be changed or hurt by it
- Must be willing to sacrifice some of what feels known, familiar, comfortable, and safe
- “In a ham omelet, the chicken is involved but the pig is committed.”
- In other words: “attending to ourselves”
- Do you equally assert/engage? How does it vary depending on the situation? Balance this not by weakening the stronger drive but by strengthening the weaker.
- When / how often do you find yourself downloading, debating, dialoguing, presencing? Use dialogue stubs (see chart) to make this clear.
- Challenge yourself to use only dialoguing (“In my experience…”) and presencing (“What I am noticing here and now is…”)
- Describe a project from the perspective of an outside observer (and what the people involved need to do to move forward) and a participant (and what you can do to move forward). Are you currently taking actions as an observer or participant?