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Reaching Common Ground

Here’s some sound advice on how to work with someone
who’s your exact opposite.

Khyati Limbad |

At work, if you don’t have conflicting views from those of your colleagues, then how will your perception change about certain things and allow you to grow? To have a difference of opinion doesn’t necessarily mean you have to wage a crusade for others to agree or follow you. It is important that you burn the bridges of arguments and reach a consensus by talking about it. That is easier said than done — what you will say, right? But then it is true that you can work in complete harmony with someone who’s your exact opposite.
These strategies will help you manage your differences and avoid conflict situations from inflating into a war-like zone.
Take a time-out: Whether you like it or not, there’s no point sweating about being put on a project with someone who you know has opinions different from yours. The sooner you accept it, the better equipped you will be to not give a reaction, but a response. If you think that both of you have reached a point where you know it can go either way, then, take a time-out. Reschedule a meeting without the baggage of the last conversation.
Do not discuss your differences with co-workers: It is natural for you to look for someone who validates your thoughts and agrees with your view point. However, this should be completely avoided. Seeking allies will do you no good, especially because doing so doesn’t change your working relationship with your co-worker. In fact it will make matters worse should a word fall in their ear that you’ve been talking ill about them with other people who are not even remotely related to the work the two of you are doing.
Focus on your co-worker’s accomplishments and strengths: When you lock horns with a person, it is obvious that you will try and focus on the negatives. But when you’re working together, you can’t benefit from doing so. Instead, remind yourself of their strengths and what makes them invaluable to the company. If for instance, you are at a stage in the project where their expertise is of paramount importance, then let them take charge instead of you. This will set the tone of trust and will probably change the course of your tumultuous equation.
Avoid nagging: Each one of us has a saturation point and nobody likes being nagged and dragged. If you’ve finished your task in hand well in time and the other hasn’t, then don’t nag them to wrap up theirs just because you have. They may have other things keeping them busy. As long as they’re able to do it on time, there’s no point in being mean and looking down on them for not being “quick”.
Communicate clearly: The foundation to working with minimal conflicts is setting clear expectations and communicating it clearly. There’s very little scope of error in such a case and minimum emotional flare-up. If you’re heading for a brainstorming session, then take turns to speak and don’t cut each other off just because your thoughts don’t match. If you’re setting deadlines, be realistic.
Hang out with them: Often we’re unable to project our real selves at work because work means business. However, this facade comes off outside working hours — who knows the two of you become friends and look at the work in hand with a commons sense of motivation.
Escalate only if you must: Think about escalating it only if the situation goes out of hand or you just can’t resolve your differences despite putting in all the efforts. Let someone objective determine the causes and help you find a way out of it. You will get a new perspective which may help you bury your conflicts and start afresh.
While it’s natural to feel that conflict shouldn’t ever happen, it is good if you find yourself in one. You do feel emotions like vulnerability, fear, and frustration come forth, but then it’s good to face what you’re avoiding. It teaches you to learn to co-exist and grow. 
The writer is Project Manager, Work Better.