"Don't Just Play Nice"

When there are conflicts or difficulties at work, do you shy away from it? 

I like harmony. Yet when there are conflicts at work we need to have the courage to open up to the difficulties and frustrations.  When we acknowledge and address conflict productively, teams are more likely to grow and progress, rather than just "get along."  Respectfully voicing issues and concerns  lends itself to excellence rather than "false harmony".

Try and shut the door

Sometimes when I hear someone say 'try and shut the door' I visualise the mental exertion the person must be going through as they 'try and shut it'.  When did we change our language from 'please shut or close the door' to suddenly being seen as a challenge?

Teachers and coaches will often use 'try' as a way of encouraging someone to push beyond  a perceived barrier.  "try and do it..."

Common ones heard include "Try harder"," Try and put more effort into it", "Try and behave" I believe using 'try' actually creates a mental barrier for the person in some situations will make it harder for the person as they put their energy into the 'trying' bit. 

I believe it would be more effective to remove the  'try'  and focus on what  you are wanting, a ...success or a change of some kind.

If I was working on a particularly thorny problem, to have someone say to me "try harder to solve it" would not make an iota of difference to whether I was able to solve it or not.  However, it might make me question whether the person thought I wasn't already working  hard to solve the problem!

Telling someone to 'try and behave' could be more effective if you name the behaviours(s) you want rather than some vague concept. "I want you to sit quietly for 10 minutes" or "please close the door quietly" (this is particularly effective, if you have a door slammer child!) will achieve more success because it is naming the behaviour you want and is unambiguous.

As an aside, it  struck me how confusing it must be for second language learners, when they hear a commentator at a rugby game state X has 'scored a try!'  

Mediation is a no brainer

The majority of people are not comfortable being in conflict with one another. We naturally prefer a state of equilibrium. Sickness and significant stress can and does result from unresolved conflict.

When conflict occurs in a workplace or organisation, the impact is huge. If it can be successfully worked out without the need for someone independent, that is the second best outcome - next to not actually having reached that point in the first place!

Question which is often asked, "what if I go to mediation and it doesn't work?"

Short answer is, in all likelihood, through the mediation process  you will have:

  • resolved some, if not all of the issues  
  • a more informed understanding of the issues. 
  • significantly reduced the likelihood of escalation

Often organisations like schools and not for profit organisations which operate on tight budgets, are often resistant to get someone external to assist with a conflict situation because of the perceived cost. 

This needs to be weighed up against the risk and cost if if doesn't resolve without external support. In my role as  a mediator who assists organisations with disputes I am acutely aware of the importance of early intervention and resolution.  I suspect the financial and reputation cost far outweighs any short term cost involved in a mediation process, especially if lawyers have been required or if the issues have made it onto social media or news outlets.

These potential risks and benefits make having mediation as one of the early resolution strategies a no brainer!

 

 

Oops! I missed that one - The danger of not asking the question

Complaints grow legs the longer they are allowed to exist. If you ever find yourself asking, "How did this suddenly get to this situation?", then it's often because an earlier opportunity to recognise a complaint was missed.

Complaints can be and often are made in the form of 'softly presented' expressions of concern about something or someone. It is fairly common for these to be missed and consequently grow in seriousness.

A complainant could justifiably say, "I asked you to do something about this two months ago!" By this stage the legs of the complaint have grown quite a bit, and irrespective of what the original issue was the complainant may now hold an opinion on your skills, attitude, or even your parentage! It is also fairly likely they will have told a number of other people, either in person or, worse, on social media.

It's important to be alert to the possibility that what you're being told is a complaint. You can be sure by simply asking the person if they are making a complaint, especially if you are hearing phrases such as, "I am concerned...", "that doesn't satisfactorily answer my question", or "I am not happy about..." or numerous other possibilities.

We tend not to ask the question because we are concerned about the work involved if it is a complaint.

However, if you think it might be a complaint, don't hope it will go away. It won't!

Sporting Metaphor for Effective Listening

John Hester suggests five tips for effective communication. I think the metaphor he uses could stick for some people, especially if you are sports mad! 

To listen effectively, I suggest that you view dialogue more like a pitcher and catcher in a baseball game. The pitcher (speaker) throws the ball for the catcher (you) to receive it. The catcher only throws the ball back after he has it firmly in his grasp.

The 'But' stops here...

One of the best things I learned to help avoid a conversation from stalling (especially important in complaint handling) was to be aware of everytime I used the word BUT in my conversation.   

BUT will successfully do three things:

1) stop your ability to successfully influence another person on your perspective

2) move you out of rapport with the other person

3) lead the other person to believe you are 'difficult to deal with' because you are not able to listen

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 "Those clothes look great on you, but..."

"I understand, but..."

It would be fair to say the person hearing the comment would be far more focused on what was about to come (usually a critique or criticism) and not have heard the positive.  It is entirely possible, in fact, highly likely, they will not have taken  anything  except the stuff you said, following the 'but'

The challenge with making the 'but stop here' is the reality lots of people use it. Either "no, but.." or "yes, but..." Is very common. 

This does not mean it cannot be changed. It simply requires a shift in thinking from looking at ways to counter someone else's view to finding ways to understand their view more carefully.  Often 'but' can appropriately be replaced by 'and..."

Next time you are in a meeting, it is a fun distraction to have a listen and count up the number of time  you hear people use  'that' word, and then observe what happens in the discussion.