Use conscious naivety to reduce unnecessary friction

She is sitting across the table from you. She has input into a decision that affects both of you.

But you have never been able to agree with her. You have long suspected her of having an agenda, but you can't quite figure what it is. This is all the more frustrating because you just want to do what's best for your business. Too many times your interactions with her end in frustration and unresolved disagreement.

What should you do?

Remember this: we judge ourselves by our intentions, but we judge others by our perception of their actions.

What if I were to tell you that your colleague has the best interests of your business in mind too? And that she distrusts you because of the fact you inadvertently criticised her team in an open meeting a few months back?

There is a cure. Both of you should practice conscious naivety. In other words, rather than try to guess her intentions, you should start by assuming her intentions are the same as yours, i.e. she wants what is best for the business.

If you both start from that place, then your argument will tend towards getting clarity on WHY you each think your approach is best for the business. You should more quickly then get to a shared understanding of WHAT you should do, and HOW you should do it.

Note that, in a work context, this applies to colleague relationships only. For vendor relationships, unless you have significant trust already built up, you need to put time into understanding each other's principal interests, and to protecting those interests. More on that later.