It can be difficult to get along with an arch-nemesis. It’s not every day that you see Captain Hook and Peter Pan working together to try to provide affordable health care to Neverland, and your even less likely to see John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi working together to provide affordable healthcare to you. However, working with an enemy is not impossible, and can actually be quite rewarding if you allow it to be.
First, identify, for your own benefit, why you consider them to be your enemy. Did they steal your significant other? did they slip a whoopee cushion onto your seat right before the big meeting? Are they a Nazi? This is important because sometimes you don’t have a good reason for considering someone your enemy. For example; if you don’t like someone because they have a cooler car than you, then you have a problem not them. If you can rationalize the hatred of that type of person then congratulations; you can get along with them easily.
“But Ryan, what if they are a Nazi??” You ask me frantically. You can get along with them too! Trust me, I can get along with some folks that think our president is a Socialist Islamist suicide bomber from Kenya. The trick is that when you have a serious disagreement with people or bad blood, just don’t bring it up.
Think about it. Say you work at the same place that your wife does, then one day she divorces you for a man half your age. (This example doesn’t work for me because my spouse would be leaving me for a ten-year-old which is kinda messed up, but…) She still works in the same place and next thing you know; you and she are paired up to do a project to promote synergy in the office.
Now, the comic irony of this situation may not be enough to bring the two of you together in a bonus-worthy effort, therefore, you have to work at it. First off: compartmentalize. Everything that you and she had going on whether good, or bad, is in the past and it has no bearing on the here and now outside of the possibility that the bad thing that happened in the past is the same, or similar, situation (in that circumstance, you simply learn from the previous situation.)
Secondly: Focus on positive characteristics instead of negative characteristics. If you spend your time with this person judging every thing that they do, then you make a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. If you are looking for negatives, you will find them. If you want to focus on those negatives, there is nothing keeping you from doing so, however, this does nothing but create an internal bias that will not help you achieve anything. Instead, look for positives and aim to focus on them. For example, if you were bullied in middle school by a really big strong kid, chances are he’ll be great at lifting your larger grocery bags today. Respect and admire him for that and it will be much easier to get along with him.
Third: Find common ground to retreat to. Much like the Keep during the battle of Helms Deep, you will sometimes need a place to go when your metaphoric walls are breached by a metaphoric orc with a torch that blows away the weakest part of your walls. In other words, if both you and your enemy consider each other enemies, then you will probably end up getting into situations where that boils to the surface despite your best efforts. In this situation, it is key to have a fall-back topic. Find out what you and your enemy have in common, and you can redirect the conversation to a more relatable topic in which you can be more friendly. For example: if you know that you and your enemy both root for Bengals (a rare coincidence) then when he/she starts going toward enemy territory, you can pull them and yourself back by tossing out, “But how about then Bengals? Maybe they won’t suck in a couple years!”
Finally: Realize that having enemies is petty. If you are looking for some kind of victory over this other person, I can assure you that it can only be attained the mature way, by getting over it before they do. If you don’t care, and you don’t make a big deal out of not caring, then eventually your enemy will join you there. At that point, they are no longer your enemy and could turn out to be a good friend. Or, if you are Luke Skywalker; your father.