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

Franklin was known as a literary scholar, and by asking to borrow a book, he was implicitly flattering his enemy, thus combining both the giving and the getting.

If your office hater is getting you down, but they know how to use desktop presentation software, show them your next presentation and ask for their advice on fonts. Everyone has opinions on fonts (don’t they?). You’re flattering them and activating the consistency principle all at once.

Find Their Inner Awesome

This last technique comes from my “Pull Leadership” framework, which I developed based on Oprah Winfrey. I was impressed at the devotion of Oprah fans. I asked them why the great devotion. They’d say, “I feel like she sees the greatness I can be, and wants that to be real.”

A coaching client of mine wants to become a powerful leader, rally armies to his cause, and presumably take over the world. We’re starting with step one: learning to inspire loyalty in others. I gave him this assignment: Go approach 5 people who dislike you and are real jerks. Talk with each one, with the sole intention of finding why this person has the potential to be someone amazing. Since you already hate each other, you have nothing to lose by trying.

He reported back that he had failed the assignment. Everyone he thought was a jerk actually turned out to be an interesting, engaging person. You can imagine my surprise.

This is another way to turn haters into lovers. Especially in American culture, we’re trained to point out what’s wrong. Very few people ever look at us and see our inner awesomeness. When someone does that, sincerely, we like them! As paradoxical as it seems, a great way to turn a nemesis into a friend is to train yourself to sincerely, find the best in them and let them know it.

Make a Peace Offering

Lastly, you can always be up-front about wanting to reconcile. Contact your nemesis and say, “I know we haven’t gotten along in the past. I’d like to fix that. Can we have dinner and get to know each other better?” If they say “Yes,” you have a chance to have a dinner that might fix things. At the very least, it will be super-awkward, which can be fun in and of itself. And then you can tell your story to Modern Manners Guy who will probably make a podcast episode out of it. Everybody wins!

You could even cook them dinner and deliver a homemade meal to their doorstep, with a note saying, “This is a peace offering. I’d like to be friends.”

Write Them Off

Which brings me to the final strategy. Twice I’ve made a direct offer of reconciliation to my nemesis, only to be told, “I really don’t want to fix things.” In that case, screw ’em. Life is too short to waste your time with people who make the conscious, deliberate choice to keep hostility and animosity in their life.

What if the person is a boss, or someone your career depends on? Change jobs, because things won’t get better.

But first, try giving. Try asking for help. And try finding their inner awesome. And if none of those work, try one final peace offering. Bake them a pie. An apple pie. Using that Red Delicious apple you found on your doorstep. Surely it will taste as good as it looks, and will be yummy and healthy for them. After all, if they thought it was good enough for you to eat, they’ll think it’s devilishly good.

I'm Stever Robbins. I help high achievers accelerate their careers and organizations. If you want to know more, visit steverrobbins.com.

Angry men, handshake, evil apple, and giving flowers images courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins 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. 

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