7 Simple Steps to Turn Enemies into Friends

how to turn enemies into friends

Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.
– Mahatma Gandhi

In frustration, in anger, you ask . . .

Why? Why did that person spread lies about you behind your back, vilify you, or even mock you to your face?

Surely they had no reason when you obviously never meant to antagonize them (and honestly can’t even figure out what you did to provoke them).

Perhaps it was someone you hardly know who seems to begrudge your very existence. Or someone you can’t avoid, like a work colleague who, for some reason, chose to hate and hinder you from day one.

Perhaps it was someone you were once close to — a family member, a friend or even a lover.

Whoever it is, the hurt and anger eat you up inside, keeping you awake at night and tarnishing any connections and memories you’ve had with them. What’s worse, all of this animosity impacts your health.

Wait a moment. Breathe. You can do something about this.

Enemies may seem an inevitable, painful part of life, but in many cases you can free yourself from all this stress and sorrow. Sure, you might be thinking, “Why the hell should I be the one to make amends when they started it?” And you might be right.

But at what cost?

Turning a foe into a friend isn’t something you do for them as much as it is something you do for you. [Click to Tweet]

Enemies aren’t born, they are made, even if unwittingly. And they can be unmade by following the 7 steps below.

1. Refuse to be their enemy

A wise man thinks it more advantageous not to join the battle than to win. – Francois de La Rochefoucauld

First, understand that no one can make you fight. You can consciously choose not to participate in hostility, no matter what the provocation.

You have the power to decline their offer of war!

So whatever the situation, you can alter the dynamics in an instant by removing yourself from the fight. By doing so, you will have changed the situation from a two-sided feud to a one-sided non-dispute.

Be proactive rather than reactive, and put yourself in control.

2. Change the label

The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend, and the best way to make someone a friend is to give them that accolade in your mind. – Abraham Lincoln

Scrub the label ‘enemy’ from your mind and swap it for ‘friend’.

Just as no one can force you to fight, no one can force you to label someone as a foe.

Sure, that’s going to take some seriously strong resolve and oodles of character. So cut yourself some slack at this stage if it takes a while, because this is a big shift in outlook.

The payoff is the way this radical shift allows you to interpret their words and actions in a new, less hostile light. Moving forward, your new perception will translate not only into how you think, but crucially, how you act toward them.

By deciding that the person is already your friend, 50% of the partnership is now already in place.

3. See yourself in them

When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems. – Stephen Covey

Animosity begets animosity, you can’t hate your enemy into a friend!

However, it’s hard to think of someone as a friend if you imagine they personally wish you harm, hate you or want to hinder your progress.

But if you can look objectively at their actions and words, you’ll likely see how these spring from their own inner torment.

Your antagonist is human just like you and has a bundle of fears, worries and failings, even feelings of shame and insignificance. They’re really not in a good place right now, and they’re taking it out on you.

We all do this from time to time. Empathizing allows you to not take these attacks personally. Realize that they’re not fighting you, they’re fighting their inner demons, and this is when they need your support the most.

Be the best friend they can have. Show them compassion and empathize with their personal battles.

Your support will be a powerful message that you genuinely wish to be friends, not foes.

4. Keep talking

It pays to know the enemy, not least because at some time you may have the opportunity to turn him into a friend. – Margaret Thatcher

When two countries are in an escalating dispute, the first thing the politicians do is withdraw their diplomatic staff. At the exact time they need all channels of communication open, they sever them. A disastrous policy for any hope of a resolution!

Silence or avoidance never lead to an end to conflict. Even if the strength of the other person’s animosity were to weaken over time (and often time strengthens animosity), there would still be no agreement or harmony between you.

Here’s where your creativity kicks in. If they refuse to meet you, engineer opportunities to ‘bump into’ each other. Keep the conversation going however you can.

Remember, this is your decision. If your relationship with the person is toxic, this may be further than you choose to go. Still, it’s worth considering.

Where there’s communication, there’s still hope of resolution. [Click here to Tweet]

5. Disarm them

When armies are mobilized and issues joined, the man who is sorry over the fact will always win. – Lao Tzu

Wow, at this point you’ve managed to make some major shifts in your thinking toward this difficult person. Congratulations.

Now draw further on your resolve and follow up with a single, powerful action . . . apologize. Be the one who is big enough to offer a heartfelt ‘sorry’.

This is not a matter of right or wrong. It’s a matter of promoting the best cause in life – friendship.

Realize something about your relationship (or their perception of it) is twisting the tourniquet of their personal pain. Maybe they’ve misinterpreted an innocent conversation or action on your part.

You may have unwittingly stamped all over their ego, beliefs or even dreams.

Whatever the case, you can still apologize. This selfless act tells them you acknowledge their hurt as real and valid.

Be big. Be sensitive. Be genuine.

6. Overwhelm them

The only way to have a friend is to be one. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

By now you will have clearly demonstrated your positive feelings and intentions toward this person. Understand that doing these things does not constitute accepting their poor behaviour —rather, these acts are a testament to your strength of character and your unshakable positive stance.

Want to take it even further? Now it’s time to nail up your friendship manifesto.

Let them know how much of a friend you are with extreme kindness. Go out of your way to be generous. Instead of making time for yourself, make time for them – rock their day with an unexpected, thoughtful act.

Top this off by showing genuine respect. Show them you recognize their value and contribution. Meet their human need for validation.

Ramp your efforts up by taking every opportunity to praise them, especially to others. Only speak positively of them – don’t ever talk about the unpleasant things they may have done or said. Again, this needs to be genuine, so search diligently for ways you can show honest appreciation for their efforts and actions.

Ready for the tricky bit?

A true friend shares the good times . . . and the bad. If you truly want to turn an enemy into a friend, treat them as such and be vulnerable when life gets rocky.

Yes, ask your enemy to help you!

If your friendship message hasn’t gotten through already, this will take a hammer to their negative perception of you.

7. Conquer their hearts with unrelenting love

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Love your enemy? Whoa. That probably seems about as doable as taming a rabid shrew, right? But remember what’s at stake here – your peace of mind and your happiness. Again, it’s your choice whether or not to go this far.

Start by focusing only on their lovable aspects. Act only lovingly toward them. Transform your respect into fondness and your appreciation into affection.

Grow your empathy into love.

Turn an enemy into a friend using all the points above, but turn an enemy into a lifelong friend by showing them genuine love.

A Lifetime of Animosity or a Lifetime of Friendship?

How magical would your life be if loving friends stood right where your enemies are today?

Imagine the animosity is gone. Picture the fight is over. Done with.

No more hurt or anger. No more tears, and no more fear of what will or won’t be said or done. The whole situation gone, forgotten, never to be repeated.

You look forward to your days again. Relaxed. Happy.

Hey, it isn’t necessarily easy. And it isn’t always going to work. But you never know until you try.

It takes a special person to take that first step and admit they wronged someone, and then put that wrong right.

It takes an exceptional person to take the first step when they believe they are the one who has been wronged.

But if you take that step, the only thing you have to lose is an enemy.

Be special. Be exceptional.

About the Authors:

Laura and Mark Tong love people, pizza and positivity. They are on a mission to help you declutter your mind and life of strife and stress. Download their Resource Guide: 5 Free Mind Decluttering Tools that Simplify Your Day and Make You Excited to Roll Out of Bed in the Morning

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  1. Ellen says:

    This is a lovely post Mark and Laura, and is truly a ‘make the world a better place’ piece of writing. I liked the quotes for each point (though was amused at the Margaret Thatcher one, I wouldn’t have ever considered her as a role model for this particular post 🙂 ).

    You mention toxic people in the post, what’re your thoughts on that in relation to this topic? There’s something about appropriate boundaries perhaps, and not everyone *has* to be your friend?

    Thanks for sharing, and have a wonderful weekend, Ellen
    Ellen´s last blog post ..On vulnerability, imperfections, and how to shine brightly

    • Laura Tong says:

      Hi Ellen, thanks for your thoughtful comment. Indeed, Margaret Thatcher didn’t spring to mind initially but whatever her definition of ‘a friend’ was at that point, it sums up our belief that animosity is truly damaging. Re ‘toxic people’: yes appropriate boundaries can be a good way to keep yourself at a comfortable distance but the idea of making them a friend still stands. It’s crucial for your own wellbeing that you don’t have ‘enemies’ in your life, that you have a positive view of the people in your life. And hey, if you only bump into them on a rare occasion, it could be a good thing. There is no intention to make ‘toxic’ people are larger part of your life, rather to ensure they have no negtive power over your thoughts.

  2. Ashley says:

    #2! Love it. If you label something, it becomes that something. Great post, and great reminders. Thanks!

  3. Angela says:

    Great post Mark and Laura. Relabeling works wonders in so many ways and on so many levels! Even on ourselves. 🙂

    • Laura Tong says:

      Thanks Ashley. Labels can be so limiting, even damaging or . . . with the use of positive, empowering labels can be liberating. We’re very hot on how we label ourselves and others. Thanks for commenting.

  4. a very moving article – loved the mention of showing your vulnerability as being a way to link with another. A tough one to do – but isn’t fighting tougher?! Thank you.

    • Laura Tong says:

      Thanks Therese, we’re delighted you found some strategies that speak to you. You’re absolutely right, being vulnerable isn’t easy, and doesn’t come naturally but there’s nothing more stressing and exhausting than fighting.

  5. Ann says:

    Laura and Mark, I loved #6 and will be worked towards it. I always did the opposite (keeping them closer to pour ice bucket-revenge).

    • Laura Tong says:

      Thanks Ann, well ice bucket revenge can seem like an idea when we feel really peeved but it’s inevitably going to lead to us being left out in the cold! SO pleased you liked the post, good luck with trying your new strategy.

  6. John says:

    I can’t remember what book I read this in, but it said to tell people you love them (in your mind, not out loud), even those who drive you nuts. So hard to do, but it works. Great post and very helpful.

    • Laura J Tong says:

      Thanks John. You’re right it isn’t always easy to implement some of these elements but the rewards are priceless. Saying you forgive them is another powerful to adjust your thoughts and ward off that ‘enemy’ status in your mind.

  7. sherill says:

    Hi, it is so hard to be friends with your enemies but it can happen. Thanks for sharing. Great Read!
    sherill´s last blog post ..Should You See Magic Mike XXL?

    • Laura J Tong says:

      Thanks Sherill. I totally agree, this is not always an easy thing to do but with perseverance it can be achieved in many cases. So pleased you found this useful and enjoyable. Thanks for commenting.

  8. jOsh lugEmbe says:

    Wow,

    This is such a great site… good that now I know where to get some quality thoughts.

    Laura and Mark, thank you for sharing this positive post.

    I like the point that we can choose to relabel an enemy to a friend. In fact, we can as well choose not to react but to be proactive. Well said.

    Years back, I remember I used to have some people I considered not friends and that ate my energy more than anything.

    But from reading I found out that the person I was hurting was me and not them. So I decided to call them my friends and to treat them in a way they never expect.

    For example, when I meet them, instead of simply walking pass, I’d stop, ask them about their families and their work and everything. Before long they were acting the same way.

    Again, thank you for sharing.
    jOsh lugEmbe´s last blog post ..the rich #thoughtoftheday: you’ve got to do your part

    • Laura J Tong says:

      Thanks Josh and congratulations on turning your thoughts and actions around towards those you might have called enemies previously. And, I’m delighted for you that they reciprocated your kind and friendly approach. I love the way you describe them as having eaten your energy – so well said.

      And yes, Mary has created a truly incredible site and community here.

  9. Heitem Ak says:

    Great post!

    Admitting our mistakes is the best way to disarm!

    Keep them coming,

    Heitem Ak

  10. Laura J Tong says:

    Thanks Heitem. I’m delighted you enjoyed this post.

  11. Yasin Rishad says:

    Hi Laura,

    Glad to see your post on turn enemies into friends. A challenging but necessary approach for sure. Not just for the benefit of both parties involved either, but for humanity as a whole.

    Thank you for your beautiful content.
    Kind Regards
    Yasin Rishad
    Yasin Rishad´s last blog post ..Magic Submitter Review Best Automatic Backlink Software

    • Laura J Tong says:

      Thanks Yasin. That’s an excellent extra point you make. Taking a much more positive stance in the world by eliminating enemies through changing our thinking is one of the greatest things we can do for the world as a whole. Thanks for joining this discussion.

  12. Gnanabalan says:

    Love your enemy is a big command.. Easy to say but hard to follow. I really like to love my enemies but it always ends up in wrong action so I feel better to be silent than keep on talking to them.

    • Laura J Tong says:

      Thanks Gnanabalan. I totally agree, turning enemies into friends is a challenge and it isn’t always possible. The minimum we can always achieve however is to take control of our perception of them which is so important for our own wellbeing. Keeping silent can be a positive strategy: “Silence is sometimes the best answer.” ~Dalai Lama. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  13. Hi Laura and Mark! This post contains so many great reminders–thank you. Ram Dass repeatedly said that we should pray and revere all those that challenge us because they provide us with the greatest opportunities to overcome our own thoughts of violence and pain. He would put photos of those who challenged him on his alter along with all his teachers and gurus and include them in his prayers and meditation. While his story about the activity was always funny and touching, the power behind the action was extremely relevant. Thank you for that reminder and your other suggestions. ~Kathy
    Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com´s last blog post ..Letting Go Of The Clutter In Your Mind

    • Cherine says:

      Thanks Laura and Mark for this valuable post. Special thanks to you Kathy for telling us about Ram Dass and his awesome discipline towards ‘challenging’people. I love this discipline and respect it deeply. May I ask you how could we learn more about him ? Did he write books or articles available ?
      Thanks again.
      Love to you and to all friends,
      Cherine
      Cherine´s last blog post ..دعاء

    • Thanks Kathy. Ram is a great example of someone who consciously set out to create positive feelings towards anyone who challenged him. Thank you for reminding us all of this.

  14. Laura J Tong says:

    Thanks Kathy. Certainly those that challenge us give us the chance to reflect, learn and exercise our right to choose how we react. I still use my favorite powerful strategy when confronted by difficult people or situations of stopping and saying “I didn’t choose this but I can choose how I react and how I feel about it afterwards”. I’m delighted you enjoyed this post. Thank you for joining in this discussion.

  15. well i am trying it on my self. i am always find that type of article. this is very nice and social article. give a good message to other.
    pankaj karnwal´s last blog post ..SSC GD Constable 22 Nov 2015 Answer Key, Morning/Evening Shift

  16. I loved thought you have in post.

  17. katherene says:

    this .com is just silly

  18. Lee Jiyeon says:

    thanks you so much Mark and Laura after trying your steps,finally my enemy and I become bestfriend untill now.Seriously thank you

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    jobsera.in´s last blog post ..SBI Mains Clerk Results 2016 JA JAA Selected Candidates List

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