Collaborate – To work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor. Merriam Webster Dictionary. Collaborate is closely related to cooperation. The United States of America is a function of collaborating States. Here are ten thoughts about how to collaborate:
Recognize the players: Know your position on a matter and, recognize that there are other points of view held by people who are as sure of their ideas as you are of yours.
Look at the big picture: Take a step back from you position and try to see a wider perspective. One side says less taxes and the other says increase services. Both sides may agree that a review of the current budget may reveal ways to address the needs of less taxes and expanded services in one area with reduced funding in another.
Instead of debating how big a piece of the cake you or the other will get talk about getting a bigger cake.
Look for general goals: Define some areas of agreement; as in working towards the good of the community, or the company, or the organization. How improvements might be achieved can be defined later but first agree on the general goals.
Define the benefits of working together: Collaboration provides more input to problem solving. More input leads to more progress. Collaboration lessens the individuals’ workloads. Collaboration solves more issues. If one is collaborating with others one learns more.
Define problems: You know your position but may need more information on the others’ positions. You know what you want and why you want it, but may not know why the others’ want what they want.
Define similarities: This can be achieved by asking ‘ice cream’ questions. These are questions that have nothing to do with major points of disagreement (police brutality v community safety). These questions are designed to demonstrate how people may have like ideas; ice cream over pies, cowboy movies over science fiction; or similar backgrounds – What was your favorite subject in high school?, Did you play sports as a teenager?…. These discussions can help lessen barriers between groups.
Give credit where credit is due: Show respect for the thought that went into the others’ position (what they want) and their interests (why they want what they want).
Own your own mistakes/shortcomings: Admit that you have failed to understand/appreciate the others’ positions or interests, and, you have not been clear in communication your own positions and interests.
Show appreciation: Collaboration is a two or more party endeavor and cannot be done alone. Tell the others’ that you appreciate their willingness to talk about collective problem solving – say thank you!
Value the advantages of neutrality: Taking things personally can lead to anger, anger inhibits cooperation, collaboration requires some level of cooperation.