As a mediation and conflict resolution specialist who assists clients in negotiations, I have witnessed many times when overcoming negative bias allows for breakthroughs in collaboration. We don’t know what we don’t know, and there is also a major gap between what we know and what we act on.  We know if we want to go fast, go alone, and if we want to go far, partner with others, but how many times do we elect not to collaborate and go farther?  Organizations need to break down silos, find ways to work together, share ideas and resources, working for the better with clients, customers, employees, and the bottom line. The question is, how can you make collaboration work better for you?


It is not about me.

It is all about we.

It starts with me.

I show a PowerPoint slide with this commentary: a young couple lying on a bed together with a newborn baby between them. Their lives changed forever with that newborn first child. They had a life BC, which stands for Before Children, but once a child entered the picture, their lives changed to AC, After Children. Priorities change. The same is true for those working in a silo or by themselves. When you collaborate and reach out to others, this is very different than staying in your comfort zone in your existing silo.

The first step is to realize a habit has to change.   Check out how to change habits with James Clears best-selling book, Atomic Habits.  The first habit to change is how you look at yourself and others. Do you look at yourself and compare yourself to others? We all do to an extent. Now, how about if you look at yourself, consider your purpose and interest in learning, and let go of your burdens and negative thoughts? You can define a new perspective on success.  

Can you reprioritize how you spend your time?  How much time do you spend on email, looking at things you don’t need to spend time online with, how many meetings you attend that you don’t need to be there, and what would happen if you were not there?

Our brains continually look to enhance food, water, sex, and shelter and to avoid threats. My experiences are not your experiences. We are all different. Your experiences shape you. Mine shaped me. Our stereotyping tends to promote overreaction and negative tendencies to protect us. Knowing this, we must work hard to override our initial thoughts that collaboration may harm us and explore being more curious and creative.

Initiating collaboration

Collaborate people and organizations have learned to override natural tendencies of doubt and instead have learned to take risks, take actions, and build on collaborations. This is not done with open trust but with due diligence, building relationships, listening actively, and educating judiciously to build bridges and negotiate closure. How do they do this?  It takes effort.  It starts with people interested in having authentic, connecting relationships by trying to know the other party.  Think about this. What do you know about them, and what do they know about you? Why should they trust you?  Why should you trust them?  How can you build trust?

You can build trust by being open and willing to work with the other party to build a relationship.  Look for ways to create new positive experiences with each other. This can begin with going for coffee, having a get-acquainted phone call, or, better yet, a Zoom meeting. Explore different ways for you to connect. Be honest.  Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be straightforward, open, accepting, and responsible. Demonstrate that you can do what you say and follow through on commitments. Demonstrate your competencies, kindness, compassion, and character so the other party sees you are genuine.

Listening actively

As you explore collaboration, what are your questions and concerns?  Keep those in mind to bring up later, but first, listen to the other party with 100% attention. Pay attention to the words, tone, facial expressions, and body language. Think about what else you could be asking. Ask open-ended questions to draw out more from the other person.  When they ask you a question, instead of initially entering into a dialogue, say something like, “Before we go there, I have a few more questions I would like to ask you.” Proceed with additional open-ended questions. Check for understanding by paraphrasing, summarizing, and empathizing with the other party.  Checking for understanding and ensuring you are both on the same page allows for the possibility that the other party will be more receptive to you. It has been found in neuroscience that taking at least 10 minutes to listen actively to the other party will enable the other party to be more receptive to you. Once you have established a genuine, caring, considerate, authentic relationship and listened actively, you can educate the other party how they want to be educated.  You may have devised a plan on how you want to educate them, but knowing what you now know, perhaps you want to change your approach and instead focus on how they want to be educated. Keep in mind that 70% of individuals are visual learners.  Having visuals or being able to describe something with a story or analogy may help bring across what you want to share.

Bringing it all together

John Baker, in his book The Asking Formula, suggests once you have developed a relationship, listened actively, and provided elements of education, then apply his formula by (1) knowing what you want, (2) asking for it, and (3)  have three reasons why this is beneficial to them (prepare ahead of time, but modify based on what you have learned today), then listen. Let them talk. Answer their questions. This could lead to a great long-term relationship. Try this approach out.  The more you practice this, the better you will be at it and the more successful you will be.

Let me know what you think.

Check out these links if you need assistance or want to learn more about collaboration, conflict resolution, or enhancing additional Servant Manager skills

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]