What does the term “Enemyfying” mean?

In a world that’s sadly becoming more fragmented, polarized, and violent, there is a thought provoking book that offers a process for returning to more “normal”, human- centered behaviors.

The book explains how hate is fueled by our own creation of “enemies”. It offers true life examples such as peace efforts in Columbia where “enemies” engaged in raw conversations that revealed common goals and aspirations. They discovered that so called enemies could work together for peaceful, if imperfect, resolutions.

We have come to the point in our country where we enemy-fy those who are different.  This enemification happens when we stop listening to each other and begin to fear differences of thought, heritage, beliefs, and perspective. We abandon hope that exploring differences can reveal greater solutions, understandings, strengths and even innovations.

We’re pondering what the term “Enemyfying” means because it is a key concept in the book Collaborating with the Enemy by Adam Kahane. We started this community book club thanks to a project inspired by Junior WiseTriber, Mitha Matilus, a high school junior wise beyond her years who participated in our Summer Sustainability Camp.

With our world so polarized, and growing increasingly rich in its complexity, it is critical that we find paths leading away from conflict and contention. 

 The book teaches that the red flags leading toward enemifying look like this:

  1. We label each other with surprising ease and judgement.  We forget our own imperfections and condemn the imperfections of others based on our own internal points of view.  We make assumptions instead of asking questions.
  2. We’ve stopped having real conversations.  We listen with annoyance or eye rolling as people express their thoughts that may conflict with our own.  Instead of asking questions, finding commonalities, and challenging positions with civility, we wait to pounce and prove them wrong.
  3. In the end, we allow for intolerance to take hold and grow, unwittingly creating another new enemy.

Our community book club, following the teachings of Kahane’s book, is a small but important step towards adding new social skills for conflict resolution and making transformation possible.

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