Leadership Competencies

Repairing a relationship in the workplace

Suppose that you have argued with a colleague and now you avoid talking to them because the relationship feels strained. You may wonder how to repair and restore that relationship—how to start over, make up, rebuild trust and work through issues.

Most of us experience moments of conflict like this daily, as we fall prey to power, politics and personalities. When we disagree with someone on an issue, we get triggered and then go for a win. If the conflict involves something important to us, we tend to take a position and fight for our beliefs. Sometimes this can stop us from finding the solution-oriented path and working through misunderstandings with others.

Transform anger into alignment

My relationship-repair kit includes conversational rituals that will help you reframe, refocus and redirect conversations, while also transforming anger into alignment. The idea is to strengthen your relationships by listening to and caring for others, which in turn will quell fears, trigger the mirror neuron system, create empathy and open your mind to thinking about conflicts in new ways. As you trigger oxytocin—the trust and bonding hormone—it can open new possibilities.

There’s a powerful ritual that you can use right now to reflect on your interpretation of success. I call it “Double Clicking” because it mimics the process of opening folders on your computer as you drill down into details and unlock deep connections. This exercise emphasizes sharing opinions, discovering ideas and understanding the perspectives of others so they feel heard, not threatened.

The exercise: ‘Double Clicking’ on success

To do this exercise, grab a piece of paper and bring at least three other people together. Draw a circle in the center of the paper and write “success.” Then draw 12 spokes around the circle and write one word that represents success to you. Ask your colleagues to do the same. And then share and compare your word meanings and perceptions with each other.

You will discover that people have different ideas about success. One person may equate team success with lack of conflict, while another might view it as the ability to share different ideas and challenge one another. Another might use a financial metric to measure success.

How this exercise mitigates conflict

We all hold different views of reality. When we look inside to see the meanings we make of core concepts, we discover associations we didn’t know we had. Double Clicking brings to light areas where people are aligned and misaligned.

We often assume we are aligned around success when we are not. Our success wheels represent the way we envision and measure success, and how we navigate to create success. If our “movies” differ in the details, that can create cultures of distrust. I’m looking to produce my “movie of success” while you are looking to produce yours.

Double Clicking is an antidote to conflict. When you look inside someone else’s meanings of words, you see that conflicts often come from the way we frame or define the words we use.

Through this exercise, we learn how to practice living in discovery. When we don’t stop to explore and discover, we live with the belief that we disagree—when in fact we may not.

The broader outcome

When we graphically map success together, we can feel an organic and chemical change taking place that turns foes into friends. This dramatic shift transforms “my ideas” into “our ideas,” and moves our mindsets from “I” to “we.” This causes a neurochemical shift at the heart of Conversational Intelligence that enables bonding and collaboration.

We all hold different views of reality. When we “double click” on those views, we explore the unique connections at the heart of the matter. We breathe new life and possibilities into relationships—often resulting in transformation.

Power, politics and personalities are part of being human. We are, by nature, social beings who function better inside a group. We want to be included, appreciated, valued, recognized and loved.

By enhancing the quality of engagement at each level, you will have more meaningful conversations that restore relationships, reduce conflict and move into co-creative interactions that achieve desired outcomes.

Read more on this topic: 6 ways to manage difficult conversations

Category: Leadership Competencies

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About the Author: Judith E. Glaser

Judith E. Glaser was an Organizational Anthropologist. She was one of the most pioneering and innovative change agents, consultants and executive coaches, in the consulting and coaching industry and was the world’s leading authority on Conve…

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