Building bridges with those that disagree with you


Today’s edition of The Porch is number 400 since the beginning back in December 2015. Many different topics have been covered in these 30 months, but today I wanted to talk specifically about the importance of relationships and how they impact our ability to work together:

“Rarely would any two individuals have the exact same beliefs, ideas, motivations, backgrounds, and approaches to life. Thus, we have differences with almost everyone we meet. Some of these differences are deep and wide. Others might be less significant, but they are differences, nonetheless. The ability to bridge these differences – or at least understand and respect them – can make or break our ability to work together. I have found that when you take the time to nourish and grow a relationship with the other individual, these differences diminish… often to the point that they become invisible to either party.”

The quote above has been a central guiding principle of my lifetime of working with others. I can tell you for certain that differences exist. Yet, when you take the time to build a relationship… get to really know the other person and understand why they believe what they believe… you can almost always develop a way of working effectively together.

I can give several examples in my life or career in which initial differences were overcome because of the development of a growing relationship. When you build a relationship, you build a bridge comprised of trust, understanding, integrity, common life goals, experiential similarities, and mutual caring. You eventually want the other individual to succeed and will sacrifice to make that happen.

So, how do you build these growing relationships based on trust? How can you learn to work better together? Following are 7 recommendations or approaches for developing relationships that build these bridges:

  1. Be intentional about spending time togetherThe best way to develop or enhance a relationship is to spend time together. When you do, you get to know the other person… what they care about, what motivates them, why they think the way they do. You begin seeing life through their eyes and understanding their perspective. Eventually, you begin caring about them as a person and start seeing less of your differences and more of what makes you the same. Being intentional means that you must initiate time spent together. Schedule times and meetings. Send notes. Provide update calls. When you get to know someone well, you begin seeking ways to align, not perpetuate things that divide.
  2. Be vulnerable by sharing your lifeTrust is critical component of any solid relationship. You build trust by sharing aspects of your life or beliefs that might be considered risky. By sharing things that are personally meaningful to you (such as items about your family, hobbies, aspirations, fears, etc.), you expose a part of yourself that can connect in a special way with the other individual. When you show that you are willing to share things more personal, you begin building a sense of trust that will encourage the other individual to share similarly. Being open means that, though we may not agree on everything, I do trust you enough to share an important part of my life with you.
  3. Eat togetherNothing goes farther than building a bridge than sharing a meal together. When you invite another to lunch or breakfast, you are really inviting them to a time to casually get to know you better. Spending time sharing food is a great way to enhance the relationship in ways that minimize your differences.
  4. Ask for opinions or adviceBuilding a relationship often has to occur bit-by-bit, day-by-day. One way you demonstrate trust is to seek the advice or opinion of the other individual. By showing that you value what the other person has to say, you are saying that you accept them… that you accept their thoughts. It is just the opposite of rejection. When an individual feels their views are important, they are more likely to engage productively.
  5. Serve each other Everyone has needs. When you meet the needs of another person, you are effectively earning the right to be heard. When you serve someone else, you are proving to that person that you care about them. Taking the time to make life better, even in a small way, adds structure to the bridge you are building through the relationship.
  6. Listen to each other, then act on what you hearWhen individuals have differences, they often stop listening for content. Instead, they are listening simply to formulate what they will say next. Building relationships REQUIRES that you care about the other person and what they say. When you truly listen, you demonstrate that what they say has value and that they have value as a person. Then, when you act upon what you hear, you provide living proof that you heard that individual. For example, if the other person mentions casually that they have a birthday party to attend that evening, you show you heard them and care when you ask about it the next day. Hearing/listening is nice, but acting on what you hear is proof that you care.
  7. Give up your desire to BE right – strive instead to DO what’s right – Most of the time, the reason relationships fail to flourish is because one individual always insists on being right. Their pride forces them to “one up” the other individual or to dominate every discussion. Relationships grow when you demonstrate the maturity that says, “I’m more interested in doing the right thing that I am in being the person that was right.” Doing what is right demonstrates that you care about results and that you care about others more than you care about yourself.

Great leaders understand that as relationships grow, differences diminish. And, this principle applies to every aspect of life… marriage, family, friendships, neighborhoods… not just the work environment. When you show someone that you care about them, not just what they can do for you, you build a bridge that can last a lifetime.


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