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.

The interpersonal field is the space that holds how you relate to and interact with other people, at work and beyond. It’s all around us. It’s the hidden but palpable third wheel in any email, elevator ride, meeting with a client, or board meeting. You can’t get away from it, no matter what you do. It can support us and bolster us in tough times, and it can drag us down causing dread and resentment. If we are enjoying our interactions and relationships with our coworkers, we can experience quite a bit of contentment – even joy – in our interpersonal experience. Other times, there can be interpersonal challenges that make it more difficult to focus on tasks, collaborate effectively, or even come to work.
We’ve all experienced the make or break of the interpersonal field at work, where we’ve decided to move on because we just didn’t vibe with the culture we were experiencing. Everyone has a bit of a different style, and whether we can work together to understand our differences can be a minor issue or can be the major factor in career decisions.
Daniel Little, Master Integral Coach and Co-founder of Round Sky Solutions, has this to say about the interpersonal field:
One of the main ways I’ve experienced interpersonal difficulty is around the way that people have different styles and the way that that creates different expectations. There can be quite a bit of tension caused by different styles and that can become exacerbated, particularly in times of stress. We all affect each other so much that it can get really hard if we don’t have a way to share what’s working for us and what’s not working for us. If I’m feeling disconnected with my coworkers then I’m not going to be able to coordinate my work with them very well. Everything will be colored by the disagreement, and it can be much harder to listen to each other, to synergize and be creative about solutions together. It becomes a power struggle that basically is just like a muck, a mud, obscuring all the connection and synergy that’s possible. Daniel Little

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.

Emotional Intelligence

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?

Collab Retreat Circle

Context

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.

Collab™

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.

What I really need to do is put myself in the other person’s shoes to understand what they’re experiencing. So that’s why the interpersonal tools in Collab™ are great, because they walk us through a process to really understand what another person’s going through and what they’re feeling. If I can get that understanding, then it restores the sense of connectedness between us. There are practical details to work through, too, but if we don’t have a good clear channel of understanding, then we’re not going to be as creative and engaging as we approach those processes to find the best solutions for the business or organization. Daniel Little

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
Charlotte Root Teaches Collab
It’s important to say that it still takes people being willing to try. Collab™ is a suggestion for a way to go about this that has a high rate of success, but success really depends on people with the good will to give it a shot. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the willingness to engage with all this is what provides the way forward to being able restore the relationships between people. Daniel Little

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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