Ok. Raise your hand if you’ve ever had this experience: you’re sitting in a meeting, listening to your coworkers give reports on what they’ve been up to. There are some successes, a few failures, a few times when it feels like your group dropped the ball, a bunch of times when it sounds like people have a ton on their plate, and definitely a few projects that leave you wondering why they exist at all.
In a moment of frustration, you make an explosive comment that is mistaken. Feelings are hurt. Confusion continues. It feel like there’s no way to move past this now.
Many of us have experienced or witnessed this. How do you recover? How do you mend the fences with your coworker so that you can put this uncomfortable experience behind you? Is there any way to get past this?
The uncomfortable feeling can go on for weeks. If you don’t have a system in your workplace built around supporting each other, there can be no clear way to move past this kind of problem. It can build until it feels like it’s out of your control.
In many organizations, when interpersonal communication is not addressed in a healthy way, tensions can build up and get in the way of doing work efficiently. When it comes to the workplace interpersonal field, there are a few key factors that need to become embedded within the culture for communication to be effective, and may make the difference for people when it comes to fueling for good, or fodder for war. These are things that aren’t visible to the naked eye, and require a culture of support in order to be successful.
The emotional intelligence of the workplace culture, for example, is something that can have a strong effect on the individual. If the workplace has a culture that feeds deep emotional intelligence and understanding, it can influence the individual to also have emotional depth that can help build healthy, constructive interpersonal relationships, at work and beyond. But if the workplace culture displays an ignorance of the emotional field, or deals with emotions in a dismissive or destructive way, this can build an interpersonal field that is less conducive to deep understanding, conflict resolution, and personal growth. Collaborative organizational structures can be a place where emotional growth and communication are built in and encouraged. Where coworkers are given the space and opportunity to communicate their differences and celebrate their solidarity. But how do we get there?
Communication doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There are many factors that build the foundation for an environment that can contribute to the success or failure of the situation. Being sensitive to where people are coming from culturally as well as in their day to day lives, being aware of the physical surroundings, and being responsive to the relationships within the conversation can all assist with successful communication. The context is also affected by our own feelings about the communication: if we are holding any stereotypes or are not fully engaged and open to the other person, we can bring misconceptions and assumptions with us that can ultimately block the message. Strategically encouraging receptivity in meetings can make all the difference.
The Interpersonal Conversation, when proactively embraced, can build and nourish trust, and provide a platform to move forward with any appreciations or tensions amongst coworkers. Collab™ is unique because it delivers a process to proactively handle these sensitive conversations. A smoothly running organization depends on these supportive interactions and a healthy culture of communication in the work environment. With the Collab™ Interpersonal Process, we help organizations create environments in which coworkers build an ability to sense and properly identify an interpersonal conflict, and build competency in conflict resolution and mediation skills.
Effective communication is the key to creating healthy interpersonal relationships and a successfully collaborative culture in your work environment.
The Interpersonal Meeting Practice is designed to address this challenging issue: bring forward any issues that may come up, be able to have a safe space with which to clear them, learn from them, appreciate each other, rebuild strong relationships, and offer opportunities for reflection and growth.
Tips for taking it on:
- Identifying Interpersonal Tensions can be tricky, but once you’ve established a clear way to move these tensions forward, the comfort level with this kind of conversation can be much greater. Any Interpersonal Tensions that may come up should be brought to a special Interpersonal Meeting.
- There should be a time for the tension to be shared clearly and without interruption. This tension would be addressed first by identifying the speaker (the tension-holder) and the listener (the person who the tension is addressed to).
- There should be a time for mirroring, in which the listener repeats back what the speaker has said without challenge, justification, or their own opinions.
- Validation is key to moving this forward. Once the speaker has said all they feel they need to say, the listener then lets the speaker know that “I can really understand how you would feel when I…” This process will continue until the speaker feels good about the listener’s understanding of the reason for the tension.
- Then the speaker and the listener will both have a chance to offer appreciations for each other’s participation in the exercise. This restores the channel to move back into the workplace with more understanding and comfort.
Imagine you and your coworker schedule a time to talk this through. You have a confident facilitator there, holding the space and encouraging understanding. There is a clear conversation, and you both leave feeling refreshed and unburdened. You no longer dread how this miscommunication will fester. Instead, you and your coworker have built trust and understanding. This is the power of a successful communication strategy in a supportive environment.
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