Us and Them or We and They

WRITTEN December 6, 2018 Author: Rich Atkins

Disunity means that people have chosen sides. It becomes “Us and Them” or “We and They”.

They have drawn lines and decided who is on their team, and who is on the opposing team. This is most easily classified as simple, destructive conflict.


When in conflict, participants lose perspective (the ability to be objective). 

Then, it’s easier to judge, be critical, and blame. This sort of conflict allows those involved to diminish others (using labels, such as “them”) and see the others as “less than” (think: identifying someone with the one-word story—“wrong,” “uncommitted,” “selfish,” “disloyal,” etc.).

The conflict mentality of “Us and Them” allows for stereotyping, making people “invisible,” and finally, out-and-out exclusion.


The Golden Rule (Luke 6:31): “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

1.   Communicate Clearly and Openly

  • Let all know the mutual goal and get aligned (although we may have to settle for acceptance or agreement).
  • Build Team Value*
  • Use power appropriately (never be a bully)
  • Allow dissent

2.   Listen*

Listening means focusing on the words, body language, and overall message of the speaker. This requires practice. The chief block to listening is self-centeredness (including being distracted by thinking about what you’re going to say next).

3.    Make Amends for Harms

“To amend” means “to change.” When a harm has been committed, a change must be made to show that there is a regret for bad behavior in the past, followed by a noticeable effort for better relationships in the future.

Although an apology (I’m sorry) may be part of the making amends process, it may not always be necessary. When the US Government amends the Constitution, there is no apology for the citizens. Simply put, they had to change.

4.   Forgive, Be Forgiven

“To Forgive” doesn’t mean that we “delete files” from our minds. Human beings may not be so good at forgetting harms, but the mark of forgiveness is evidenced in asking the question of yourself: When I see the person in question, do I have an emotional, gut reaction?

5.    Break Bread Together

Take a meal or even have a coffee with someone with whom you need to strengthen a relationship.

Also, plan interdepartmental meals and silo-breaking get-togethers, allowing staff to participate in something that doesn’t demand results. Sharing food is extremely powerful psychologically, because all partake of the same sustenance.

This information is discussed in our Diversity – Building a Thriving Business Environment curriculum. If you’re looking for ways to improve your communication skills, register for one of our public classes.

Photo Courtesy of Dwight Sipler

Other Resources:

Rethinking Us and Them – Integration Diversity in Europe

Us and Them — Difference, Diversity and a World of Difference

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