Make Allies of Your Antagonists
I’m working on a project right now where I have to rely on approval from a government agency before the project can proceed. It’s one of those scenarios where everyone else in an industry can agree on a standard, other people working in that industry have been approved using the common sense standard, but the government agent is in a position to have final say over this singular instance and won’t give their approval. If my project is the hero of the story, then the government agency is the enemy — the antagonist.
My strategy from the beginning was to get the agency representative working on the same side as me. To get them to see I was reasonable so that they would be reasonable. I wanted to turn my antagonist into an ally. Like in the movies where two people on opposing sides need to team-up in an effort to defeat a bigger villain.
Get your opposition to shift their position
It’s my belief that empathy leads to understanding, and if I can try to see things from the side of the agency, they just might decide that I’m a reasonable guy and perhaps they’ll help lean in my direction when possible, or at least try to see things from my side even when it’s easier to say “No”.
So far it’s been moderately successful.
I didn’t get the easy Yes I was hoping for, but neither did the agency give me a firm No and close the subject. They are actually putting in a little extra effort by previewing project plans and even suggesting alternatives to my rejected option.
My antagonist and I are still a few miles apart on trying to get this new project into the next phase, but the interactions have been almost friendly. They’ve been honest about what they feel they can do within the confines of their own world of boxes they have to work within and what they cannot do.
They even approved one variation that might work for the project — but I’m still trying to find a better option and peppering the agent with multiple emails containing an increasing amount of questions and web links and or project plans for them to approve.
I have to remember that from my side of the fence I might see my antagonist — but from the agency’s side of the fence, they may be seeing an antagonist of their own.