Whose Side Are You On?

Published: Dec 12 , 2013
Author: Alan Smith

Today’s friend is tomorrow’s foe in this dynamic and complex world. Barely a day goes by without mergers, acquisitions, take-overs (hostile or not) or promotions, that take the guy you were managing and makes him your boss.

How do we best manage our relationships to get the most out of them in this constant flux?

Seems the best way of building rapport is to focus on what psychologists call "‘uncommon commonalities".

A group of Manchester United football fans were asked to fill in a questionnaire about what they liked about their team before moving to another building to fill in a second part of the study. 

Unknown to them on their journey between the two sites they witnessed an accident (deliberately staged by actors), involving someone tripping and hurting themselves. Sometimes the accident involved someone in a plain t-shirt, other times a Manchester United shirt and thirdly a Liverpool shirt. For the non-football fan, Manchester United and Liverpool have a fierce rivalry.

Perhaps the results will come as no surprise. The fans were most likely to help fellow Manchester United fans, followed by those in plain colours. The Liverpool fans fared worst. 

What may be more of a surprise is what happened in the next part of the study.

The same set-up, with Manchester United fans, but instead of asking the group what they liked about their team, they were asked what they liked about football.

They then witnessed the same accident scenario.

In this second group, the Manchester United fans were twice as likely to help the Liverpool fan.

So what?

It seems that by focusing on the things the group had in common the relationship or potential partnership has double the chance of a good outcome. 

In conflicts, it is very easy to focus all of our effort on what our differences are. Seems if we can build on the commonalities we may have greater chance of success.

Alan Smith


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Alan Smith

About the author:

Alan Smith
My background is marketing and advertising. After graduating in Economics I entered the agency world to become, at 28, MD of London's largest independent below-the-line marketing provider.

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