A black and white issue: dealing with ideological opponents

It’s not about anybody changing their minds, but about working together

Proactively affirming the status of the people who don’t share your moral convictions may help you navigate through tense, complex situations and lead to better working relations.

Proactively affirming the status of the people who don’t share your moral convictions may help you navigate through tense, complex situations and lead to better working relations.

Wed, Sep 3, 2014, 06:59

How do you deal with someone whose deeply held beliefs are at odds with yours? Here is an effective strategy that can ensure that an opponent will support you at work (or, at least, not obstruct you).

Proactively affirming the status of the people who don’t share your moral convictions may help you navigate through tense, complex situations and lead to better working relations. Although many people intuitively convey a general sense of respect when they are engaged in conflicts and negotiations, status affirmation is about more than offering a hollow statement.

Here are four suggestions that can help:

1. Do not try to change their opinion about the substance of your moral opposition. Unlike other conflicts or negotiations, your aim is not to persuade an opponent to agree with you. Instead, your goal is to engender a mutually respectful and collaborative relationship, regardless of your ideological positions.

2. Be sincere. You have to find something about the person that you really admire. For instance, acknowledge their commitment and passion, or recognize their skills in a completely different domain than the one over which you disagree.

3. Be specific. Status affirmation is unexpected and may be met with scepticism, so remember to include specifics.

4. Be proactive by affirming status prior to engaging in negotiations or situations in which you need your opponent’s help. In association with Harvard Business Review