Dan Erwin: Communication skills

It's Even More Important Now to Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer

When I first wrote this back  in 2012, it was just fairly relevant. Given the status of our culture today, this article is extremely relevant. People aren't talking to each other about their differences. They are not just marching, but sometimes they are rioting over their differences. The issues that divide are numerous: politics, science, education, religion, pandemic, etc. The list is seemingly endless. Now, more than ever, people are just ignoring those they know differ with them, and sometimes behaving like irreconcilable enemies.

So why should you keep your friends close--and your enemies closer? It wasn’t the Godfather’s Michael Corleone who first uttered this well-known dictum. Actually, it came from Machiavelli in "The Prince," the definitive primer for how to be a dictator. You’d think that with my easy-going optimism, I’d never write a blog on this subject.  But, au contraire!
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As a manager or leader it is inevitable that we’ll want to add to your knowledge base, try to sell ideas, get people on board and even change the direction of our organization. One of the involved persons just might be your enemy. That’s my basic rationale for acting on Machiavelli’s instinct. In my first vocation, the Christian ministry, I worked diligently to stay close to parishioners who disagreed with my orientation. The consequence was that unlike many in the congregationalist polity I maintained significant support not only from those of my ideology, but also those of more rigid, fundamentalist ideologies. They could have been "enemies" and capable in our polity of creating a lot difficulties. But over an eleven year period, that never happened because I was close to those who differed--and worked to make "adjustments" without compromises.

In the business setting, I refer to “enemy” as a person you have to interact with, someone who’s competing for your resources, who doesn’t follow through on his commitments, whom you don’t trust, with whom the “chemistry” isn’t there, or who disagrees with your perspective from the ground up. These are also people whom you’ll need in order to get your own personal and organizational objectives met. As both a manager and a consultant, I’ve found a number of people who fit in that same box. In short, I’ve found Machiavelli very useful for my own success.

But there are a number of exceedingly important reasons for keeping your enemies close...

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