Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much. – Helen Keller

We have all heard the stories and complaints – The parents who can’t get their children to do anything, the boss who can’t seem to get employees on the same page, teachers with kids who “just won’t listen” and the wives or husbands who are “never listened to”. Why does it seem so hard and frustrating to get our point across and get people to cooperate with us?

Often the problem arises because we are not really looking at the situation from the other person’s perspective. We tend to focus on what we want to be done or what we want to accomplish.  We may have a tendency to see the other person(employee, child) as an obstacle or an opponent to our objectives. Also, we have probably developed ingrained action-reaction habits that keep us in the same vicious cycle that we can not seem to get out of.

How to Get Cooperation Quickly

Well, let me say this: arguing or trying to “reason” with people simply won’t work. It never has and it never will. Rather than hammering the person with our point of view, or beating them into submission, we can gently bring them around to being agreeable to helping us.

1. Get the Ego Out of the Way

There is no useful reason to let our emotions and our tone of voice take control. Intimidation may get some cooperation, but it will only be done begrudgingly. It is natural for us to defend our ego and our pride, and it is a losing strategy to conquer by force.

Also, when we allow our emotions to take over and we give into manipulation techniques (such as shaming, ridiculing, threatening or forcing), we give a clear message to the other person that we are not in control of ourselves and that we certainly do not trust them.

2. Relate Person to Person

Protect the ego of the other person at all costs. If we attack a person’s ego, we can be sure he will defend it and retaliate. He will do what he needs to do to save face. No person will accept to do something just because we told them they must do it. As the saying goes:


A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.


On the surface, the person may comply, but deep down they are not happy or agreeable to doing what we have told them to do.

3. Don’t Pressure

Usually when people ( children are people too) don’t want to cooperate is because they don’t have reasons and/or incentives to do so. Or, they might be lacking crucial information as to why you want them to do what you have asked. Oftentimes, when we give the necessary information as well as show them how it will benefit them. people are more willing to dig in and help.

Let the other person bring in his ideas. Ask for his help as opposed to telling him what to do. Two heads always work better than one, don’t they? And, while we’re at it, help the other person to see it is a problem that impacts him as well. Ask for suggestions and advice- you may be surprised at how beneficial this approach can be.

Have confidence in their intelligence and ability to solve a problem and get a job done. Put the ball in their court and trust in the process. What you want is a result; the process can be whatever works. All we need to do is present the problem to be solved or the job that needs to be done. How it gets done will depend on how much we are willing to let go of the reins and allow for creative cooperation.

4. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Did I mention communicate? Let people know what your expectations are. Have regular times where you can come together (even short 5 or 10 minutes) to do a “State of the Union” address on how things are going. Ask if you have been clear in your expectations. One of the most basic reasons for not getting cooperation is that we simply don’t ask. Sounds crazy, huh?  The reality may be that we think we have been clear and we expect cooperation, when, in actuality, we haven’t even communicated.

Discuss the issues. Put the problems on the table for everyone to see. Engage everyone and get input. By giving everyone an opportunity to help manage and problem solve, egos are salvaged,  and satisfaction and cooperation become a reality and everyone feels listened to and respected. Make sure there is a leader whose job it is to weigh suggestions and make final decisions.

5. Harness The Power of Numbers

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Get opinions and perspectives and really take an interest. When people put their heads together to solve a problem or to figure out the best way to get a job done, the responsibility is not on the shoulders of one person alone. The benefits are powerful: creativity, bonding, skills development, time effectiveness, better communication and much more.

Let us not forget that a wise person is he who seeks the counsel and participation of others and one who is unwise tries to everything by himself. Everyone we meet has something to teach us. Stay humble. The best teaching environments, the healthiest of families, the strongest businesses all have this in common: they encourage engagement, ideas, and communication from all members, employees or participants.

The Takeaway

Getting cooperation doesn’t have to be a hassle, although most of us are pretty good at turning it into one. It really comes down to a matter of getting our own ego and agenda out of the way and really seeking to work in harmony (as opposed to discord) with others. Communication is key. Asking for help and suggestions will always get better results than demanding, whining or forcing. At the end of the day, who wants a headache from conflict?


Has this post been helpful to you? Let me know in a comment below


This post was inspired by How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing with People by Les Giblin, Editor: Les Giblin 1956