I have been thinking recently about this old adage, which seems apropos to so many situations. It really speaks to the issue of trying to keep the lines of communication open with a rival, so as not to be surprised later.
I recently finished a week-long run of seminars through Wisconsin and Illinois, starting in Green Bay and Madison and ending up in midtown Chicago. I was the facilitator and trainer for groups of people who had been recently promoted to supervisory positions in their workplaces. One of the topics of conversation surrounded the question of how to deal with a rival in the workplace – that is, someone who competed with you for the job you now hold.
Openness is the key: Acknowledge that he or she wanted the role you now have, and may be disappointed. Communicate very openly that you’d like to have a good working relationship with the person. Ask for his or her vision of what the future holds, listen non-judgmentally, see where the commonalities lie, and ask for his or her support. It might well take more than one try, but be patient.
If you really think about it, “drawing your enemy closer” in this way is a lot more effective than fanning the flames of discontent by ignoring the 800 pound gorilla in the room!
Interestingly enough, the phrase popped up in my investigation into Jodi Huisentruit’s disappearance. It came in the midst of a fascinating conversation with a psychic on one occasion a few years ago. We met in the course of my research for Dead Air – The Disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit, and she used the phrase as an example of what Jodi might have been attempting at the time she disappeared.
When I asked the psychic (rhetorically, of course) why she thought Jodi was spending so much time with a man she may have been trying to discourage, the psychic answered the question with a question. She asked, “Have you ever heard the phrase ‘Keep your friends close and your enemies closer’?” In the context of our conversation that day, she opined that perhaps Jodi was attempting to pull a potential enemy closer, for any number of reasons.
In Jodi’s case, we’ll never know the answer – it’s an example of the speculation and conjecture that goes on between people when they’re having a private conversation. But it sent my mind into a thousand different “what if…” kind of scenarios. Think about it from your own perspective and experience. How might Jodi have been working to keep an enemy close?