How to Turn Enemies into Friends

How to turn enemies into friends is easy, given a little effort. Get-It-Done Guy plays nice.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #307


We hate having enemies. Half-asleep, we sit down for our breakfast of steel-cut oatmeal (it’s a great source of omega–3s!). Suddenly there’s a thunderclap outside and our nemesis appears in a flash of lightning and column of smoke, scorching the freshly mown front lawn. They glide up to the front door, and leave a perfectly formed Red Delicious apple on our welcome mat.

First, we saw Snow White. We know enough to be suspicious of random apples. Second, Red Delicious aren’t very tasty. We only put Granny Smith apples on our oatmeal. And third, the slowly dissipating cloud of brimstone-smelling smoke is  a giveaway. Having enemies is almost as annoying as having telemarketers.

Fortunately you have options. Whether your enemy is a colleague from work who is out to destroy you, a bowling teammate who resents your standing in the league, or an evil step-parent jealous of your amazing complexion and entourage of animated animals, there are tactics you can use to turn enemies into friends..

Give Without Expecting Anything in Return

As I’ve discussed in episodes on Give and Take and the Go-Giver, giving is a way to get people to like you. Why do you think Santa Claus is so popular? This man squeezes down fireplaces, probably sweats like a pig, and smells like a reindeer-holding pen. But children love him because he gives them toys. They’ll overlook his poor hygiene.

You can give something tangible. “I saw these beautiful new knitting needles and bought them for you. I blunted the tips, so you don’t accidentally stab yourself...or me.”

You can give favors or compliments. “I’m heading to the snack bar. Can I bring you anything?” If you do it with genuine helpful intent, it might score points.

You must initiate the gift, however. Giving a bully your lunch money isn’t giving, it’s compliance. But if they approach you, hand outstretched, menacing expression, and the instant before they demand money, you put a kitten in their outstretched hand, look them in the eye and say “A gift for you. She’s purring! She loves you already!” That counts as a gift. Plus, if they’re allergic, it gives you time to run away while they sneeze.

Ask Them for Help

The flip side of giving is taking! Believe it or not, this works, too. Ben Franklin tells the story of a political opponent he wanted to reconcile with. He asked to borrow a “rare and curious” book from his opponent and they ended up reconciling and becoming friends.

There are a couple of forces at work here. One is called commitment and consistency. It’s a psychological principle that says we don’t like inconsistency, especially in ourselves. If your nemesis gives you a book, they’ve helped you out. They need to reconcile that action with their internal world. They can’t change the fact that they helped you, but they can change the way they think about you. So they begin thinking that you must not be so bad, after all, seeing as they must like you enough to lend you a book or do you a favor.

My father used to tell me this as a young boy, too. He said the best way to deal with a bully was to get them on your side by asking for help. 

In Franklin’s case, there was another force at work....


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT. 

You May Also Like...