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Are you living and working in enemy territory?

Are you living and working in enemy territory?

Possibly so. In all my years of writing on the human condition and how to build more positive, productive lives, careers, and relationships, I’ve never seen more hatred and polarization amongst people. And that goes for almost every issue from politics to religion, education, healthcare, economics, lifestyle, values and morality.

People have moved from respectful disagreement with one another and a healthy debate of the issues to actually questioning the humanity of anyone who disagrees with them. And that’s dangerous, to say the least. 

So what can you do if you’re living and working in such a hostile environment? Here are a few tips to not only help you survive but also turn things around.

► 1. Notice the pronouns being used by people.

As Barbara Glanz wrote in her book, CARE Packages for The Workplace, pronouns “speak volumes about the commitment and morale of people around you.”

If you hear your coworkers talking a great deal about “they” and “them,” chances are they have an enemy mentality. Your coworkers see those other people as somehow different, more troublesome, and less human.

By contrast, when you hear your coworkers talking more about “we” and “us,” that’s a good sign that the people are proud to be a member of the of team and a part of the organization.

I’ve noticed a similar dynamic in relationships: the “me” couple vs. the “we” couple. A University of California study showed that couples who use pronouns like “we … our … and … us” showed less stress and were more positive toward each other than couples who used lots of “me … I … and … you” pronouns.

If you’re living and working in enemy territory, start looking for ways you can insert more “me … our … and … us” pronouns into your conversation. It’s a step towards friendship.

► 2. Get to know the other people as people.

I’ve talked about this in my programs for years. And in many cases, my audience members are surprised that that is even a part of their job.

Indeed, knowing the people around you at work, getting to know people as three-dimensional individuals is a critical part of every effective leader’s toolkit. As Mileham and Spacie noted in their book, Transforming Corporate Leadership, when leaders lack this knowledge, it almost always results in poor team performance.

So here’s a little four-question test you can take if you call yourself a manager or a leader. Think of four different people in your work group and see if you can answer these simple questions about each of them.

  • What does this person do in his or her spare time?
  • What are this person’s family circumstances?
  • At what stage are this person’s children?
  • When is this person’s birthday?

How well did you score on this little awareness test? If you don’t know your people as well as you should, it’s time for you to master the Brave Question technique that I teach.

That’s exactly what Terri Damman from MLT Vacations did after attending my Journey-to-the-Extraordinary experience. She says, “You taught me to look at listening and question-asking in a whole new way. I’m a very private person, so I thought your techniques would be difficult for me. But one day I decided to try your techniques. I shared some personal trials with my work team, asked them some Brave Questions, and listened to their responses. I can’t believe the things people shared with me, and our team has become stronger as a result.”

My last public offering of my Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program will be on April 23-24, 2020 in St. Louis. Register by March 13th and save $400.

► 3. Learn the other person’s “defining moment”.

In his book on Defining Moments, author Brent Filson states that your defining moment is the moment you decided to excel. Or it’s an experience in your past that helped define who you are now and what you’re trying to do.

Using this technique of sharing defining moments, one executive told his staff about the time his squad in Vietnam was ambushed. He alone survived. Hiding in the grass, he watched the small Viet Cong unit file off into the jungle. One by one the Viet Cong soldiers filed past without seeing him.

But the last one turned and looked right at him. For a terrible moment, they stared at each other. “All he had to do was pull the trigger and I was dead,” the executive said. “But then he did something that astonished me. He turned away and kept walking. He gave me my life.”

“Because of that moment,” the executive went on to tell his team, “all the years since, every day I give as much as I can to people.”

By sharing his “defining moment,” the executive inspired his associates to give as much as they could to their coworkers and customers.

The question is — are you doing that kind of sharing in your organization? And in your family?

One of the best ways to turn enemy territory into friendly territory is to learn the moment that changed the other person’s life. It has an uncanny, motivational, humanizing, trust-building quality about it.

Final Thought: Friends come and go, but enemies accumulate.