How to turn an enemy into a friend
The Kansas City Star
You’re new on the job, and some guy starts criticizing you, either directly or indirectly. You don’t know what to do, so here is the solution.
First you have to understand why someone would go out of their way to attack you. Often it is a combination of them having a brain with an enlarged amygdala and a relatively small anterior cingulated cortex.
Among its other important functions, the almond-shaped amygdala responds to threats, either actual or perceived. The amygdala generates the primitive fight or flight response. The guy may see you as a potential competitor for the boss’s attention. You are the new person, and new people initially get more attention that the old guy who seems to have been there forever.
Since you are a potential enemy, the guy with the big amygdala lashes out at you either to your face or behind your back. To him it is just a matter of attack or be attacked, shoot or get shot. He is just acting to protect himself and his interests.
Compounding this problem is his small anterior cingulated cortex (ACC). The ACC is the key location in the brain for resolving conflicting evidence or different points of view. Someone with a small ACC hates uncertainty and abhors cognitive dissonance. Such a person takes a Manichean view of the world. Everything is either black or white. Gray areas just require too much mental energy to deal with.
His large amygdala has motivated him to attack you, but you can exploit his small ACC to get him to stop the attack and back off.
To him you have to be either a friend or an enemy. Because you appear as a potential threat, he has chosen to classify you as an enemy. But you can change that. He can’t handle cognitive dissonance.
By consistently treating him as a friend in an off-hand, routine way, you will throw a monkey wrench into the normal workings of his brain. Keep saying good things about him. Offer him some home baked cookies. His small ACC doesn’t allow for someone who is supposed to be an enemy, but refuses to act like an enemy. He cannot continue with this confusing and frustrating contradiction. If you insist on continuing to treat him as a friend, he has no choice but to cave in and finally accept you as a friend.
The interesting thing is that these types of people tend to have few friends. Once they accept you as their friend, you will have a very loyal friend indeed. The guy who was attacking you behind your back will now have your back.
Larry’s commentaries can be found via Twitter under NDProfMarsh.