This is how to reach out to those with whom you disagree

Four big puzzle pieces coming together on a table held by 4 individuals

From previous blogs you know that The Collaboration Effect ® is all about connecting relationships, actively listening and educating judiciously to negotiate closure. This can work very well when applied to business, home or in life. But what about with individuals with whom we disagree? In this commentary the emphasis is on finding shared values and identities by focusing on the individual. This technique can even work with those with whom we disagree politically. That is a very powerful statement. Read on to learn more.

However, remember you can only pull a rope. You cannot push a rope. If the other party is firm in their position and is not willing to interact with you, that is there position. Walk away. If someone truly does not want to interact with you accept this. That is their decision. On the other hand, if the other party is at least willing to interact with you, that indicates there is at least a spark of hope. The ideas presented here may just allow you to take that spark and potentially develop it into a better workable relationship.


Find shared values and identities


We all have three levels of diversity. Exploring your own and then considering those of another can go a long way towards reconciliation. Initiating such a process towards understanding may very well allow you to bridge the gap. As a generalization here are three areas to consider for your own diversity.




These are:

Primary – visible: race, age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities, sexual orientation and class;

Secondary – below the surface: religious belief, nationality, geographic location, marital status, parental status, education, income, work background, and military experience.; and

Tertiary - learning style, personality and professional orientation.

Take a moment and write out your own primary, secondary and tertiary levels of diversity to explore your own uniqueness.

Seriously, write out your own. This will give you pause to think about them for yourself. If you want to add other ideas, feel free. This is not all inclusive. It is provided to give you food for thought.

Now what about the individual with whom you disagree. How much do you know about that person?

Write down what you know about your adversary’s diversity.

There likely is room for you to explore more about the other party. One question to ask, is where do we have shared identities and values? The chances are very good it is there somewhere. So, how do I find out what it is or what they are?

 How can I connect at a deeper and better level?

  • Based on your own diversity, can you explore something where you may have a mutual connection?
  • Are you connected geographically, have strong family values, have a strong sense of family, are you both active politically?
  • Beyond the items listed above as primary, secondary and tertiary areas of diversity, are there other areas to consider?

Are there areas where you definitely don’t have anything in common?

  • If so, what are they?
  • List them out.

With your perception of what you have and don’t have in common, this presents an opportunity to talk about the way you see each other. With this conversation, you may see each other in a new light.


Staying within our tribe or branching out


We like to be with others that are similar to us. By trying something like this it may be possible to bridge differences and find ways to relate to each other that were unexpected.

When we find ways to relate to each other by emphasizing what we have in common, we can be more empathetic and cooperative with one another.

Having attended workshops with better angels I have personally witnessed republicans and democrats actually sitting down together to discuss issues with one another. There are those that want to feed the fire and promote hate and distrust. They don’t like this idea of actually looking for common ground and reaching out to each other. Isn’t that what we are really called to do? Aren’t we called upon to look for ways to get along with one another?

With young millennials and generation Z coming right behind, they are expecting us to work collaboratively with one another. If they don’t see that they are likely to leave. In business think about this and the bottom line. Think about hiring, training, other tangible costs and intangible costs. Can you afford not to promote conflict resolution and collaboration? Isn’t it important to try to understand each other at work at home and in life?


Focus on the individual


We tend to like to assimilate with those that are like us. Historically that has been a matter of survival. We tend to feel threatened by those not like us. That is in part stemmed from an interest to survive historically. Now in a diverse world, reaching out to those different from ourselves is the key to survival. Our world is very diverse and our ability to communicate and work globally requires us to reach beyond historical boundaries. The next generation is very wired and considers communicating globally natural. So how do we calm the fire and reach out to those with whom we disagree?

To help calm the fire, ask yourself some questions about the other person. This may help bridge the gap. For example:

  • Is that person a night owl or early riser?
  • Does that person like dogs or cats?
  • Does the person have a particular hobby or interest such as exercise or reading?

When you begin to ask questions like these you begin to think of the other person as an individual with interests other than the group membership. You begin to think of the other person as a person rather than a demagogue of a particular group.

If we don’t take any action to understand the other person as a person, we tend to see the other person as simply a member of “that group”.

By taking a risk and asking questions to explore the other party as a person with interests and feelings it is possible to initiate a connection. This tends to reduce stress.

By seeing the other person as a person with individual features it may be possible to move well beyond stereotypes and really see the other person as an individual. This phenomenon is real. For example, the Sisterhood Salaam and Shalom brings together Muslims and Jews from the U.S., Canada and England to create understanding and lasting friendships. There are many other examples such as in Northern Ireland where groups that have taken the initiative to cross boundaries to promote individual relationships to gain understanding.


What about political issues?


A new study suggests that bringing together friends and family to discuss political disagreements helps us make better voting decisions.

Today we have been encouraged by our groups to view the other side’s perspective as unreasonable, unethical and clearly wrong. Who promotes this and why? The study indicates that when we leave our bubble and actually listen to others, we look at political decisions more broadly. This is healthy. The study indicates this works with friends and family we actually meet with face to face. It was not found to be effective in social media settings such as twitter. They tend to be far less personal.

When you have to sit down with someone face to face and hear their words, the tone of their words, and the corresponding facial and body language, this provides much better cues to the underlying commentary. From the new study, “If you’re up to the challenge of doing so, organizations like Better Angels, the One America Movement, and The People’s Supper can help.”


Take action


So, what are the next steps to take action?

To take action:

Write out your diversity for all three levels

Write out the diversity of the other party from what you know

Explore what you have in common

Explore what you don’t have in common

Reach out to the other party

Ask questions to explore diversity, interests and feelings with exploratory and open-ended questions

Find ways to connect individually with the other party

Build on those connections

Based on those connections, actively listen and work together to address mutual interests.

There is no one size fits all relative to connecting with those with whom you disagree, but consider adding the information provided here to your own tool box. Perhaps there are some ideas that can help you overcome adversity with another party with whom you disagree at work, home or in life. As with anything it takes practice. Start small and with a minor disagreement. Learn from the process and take steps with more difficult situations going forward. Do your best and know you did your best to try and overcome the conflict. In the end don’t blame yourself. It’s not up to you. If someone does not want to interact with you, that’s up to them.


About the author


Mike is a professional speaker, negotiator and mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 11 books including Business Valuations and the IRS: Five Books in One, The Servant Manager and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]