To my amazing co-workers:
Generally we are a happy bunch. But we do have our skirmishes and differences. Some of us are vocal and others are not. In life and work it would bode us well to have open, honest conversations. Here are some thoughts based on techniques I practice. Hope you find them useful.
We all work closely and there is bound to be conflict between us because our egos clash and we want to be recognised, acknowledged and respected for who we believe we are. However, often what we project into the world is an image of ourselves that evokes a range of responses in others not based on who were are but on the assumptions they make about us. This sets off a vicious cycle because we react to those responses and on and on till the conflict spirals out of control. We would be wise to push the pause button.
When someone expresses something that we believe is directed against us and is negative, we can do three things and each of those actions will have a different set of repercussions.
One, we can react and escalate the conflict and negativity.
Two, we can notice actions by others towards us that trigger our responses to know which buttons we don’t like having pushed. This could be an education about us, our conditioning, baggage that we carry from past experiences or closed ideas or dogmas that we cling to. We may have had a negative experience with a boss or co-workers and may be carrying the memory of that and reacting to the memory rather than to the present situation. By noticing we begin to let go of that conditioning.
Three, we could approach them with an open mind and tell them how we feel and ask them open-ended questions about why they said what they did. We could do this without getting defensive but allowing them to speak and be prepared for the responses we get. People will often surprise us with their responses. They may not have meant what we thought they did based on assumptions we made. It is possible, however, that they did make the assumptions we thought they did and then we can probe in a non-threatening way and ask them to think about other assumptions they could have made. This usually gets people to reflect and alter their perceptions in the present moment and going forward into the future.
The organisational review process we went through last year was not an easy one for me. It resulted in two senior staff leaving. However, their departure was graceful and mutually respectful, the result of listening without assumptions, responding in a compassionate way and honouring people for who they are. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of practice to take the third approach. However it works with bosses, peers and subordinates.
I remember when I was new in Canada I was defensive and combative every time I went for a job interview, thinking everyone was racist and would not hire me because I was a minority. Obviously, my reaction did not endear me to folks as a potential employee. After graduating from law school, my confidence was built and I was much less defensive. I went for one interview where the managing partner at a large downtown law firm made some remarks about my community. My immediate reaction was “why is he singling out my community, what a racist”. However, I hit pause and asked him what he had meant to which he said “the South Asian community is thriving and we could do well by bringing in that business”. Two things happened as a result. I found out he had actually meant something positive. The lawyer who had introduced me to the partner said he was impressed by my courage and my ability to stand up to the guy and I got offered the job.
Thanks for listening!