Too often, we see management and employees as separate. In reality, both are part of a larger system of colleagues working together to create positive business results. The challenge for you as a leader and as a colleague is to understand how to create "mutual trust" through the way you communicate with colleagues every day.
Our ability to communicate openly, with candor and caring, determines the quality of the connectivity between us as individuals, teams, or larger organizational units. While we do not always talk about our fears of speaking up candidly, we feel it. Knowing where we stand is vital to our success, and when we feel we are on the outs, it negatively impacts our performance. We start acting strangely-we protect, we hide, we defend-all because we feel we are being rejected.
Creating the space for open and non-judgmental conversions is a WE-centric skill. As we have conversations and listen, we are able to sort out what affects our personal future and what does not. The Amygdala in our brain senses threats and tries to prevent them from harming us. It senses where we are in the pecking order, who is bigger, who is more powerful, and who is a friend or foe. This kind of subconscious listening is fundamentally I-centric by nature.
Listening I-centrically causes us to be apprehensive in our conversations with others and cautious about their intentions and motivations. One of our least-developed skills is the ability to confront another person and have a difficult conversation. As a consequence of our fear of confrontation, we reactively take on the posture of being defensive when we sense we are facing an enemy.
Even thinking of the word "confrontation" causes our blood to boil, or our fears to rise. The word is fraught with meanings that keep us at a distance from others. The dictionary defines confrontation as "to stand over or against in a role of adversary or enemy." While the word also means "to meet or to face someone; to encounter another person," we often project onto the word all of the bad experiences we have had when we face others. Over time the word itself has become tinged with fear and apprehension.
When we think of a "confrontation" or of having a "difficult conversation" with an associate, it takes many of us to the edge of our comfort zone, and we will do everything imaginable to avoid it.
Having a difficult conversation scares many of us into thinking we will lose a friendship, and so we avoid confronting the truth. When we feel frustrated or angry with someone who has stood in the way of our success or undermined us and caused us to lose face-at least from our point of view-we get so upset we just can't find the words to express ourselves. We end up angry and express our most reptilian behaviors (Our Amygdala Response which is hardwired as fight, flight or freeze). Worse than that, we hold all our feelings inside until we boil up and over with frustration, and then we blast that person.
How We Connect
Confronting others honestly requires that we all share mutually in building relationships, with all parties feeling the power of the exchange; these are power-with relationships. When we feel others want to own us or take our power away-a power-over relationship-we fear harm and cannot open up with honesty. If we think of our conversations as a power-over experience, it's impossible to be comfortable confronting others honestly.
Additionally, when confronting another person brings up potentially volatile emotions, we move with caution and keep our real feelings close to our chest. In the most extreme cases, when in the midst of situations that stir up highly charged emotional content, most of the tension and drama are actually taking place in our own minds. We make up our "story", and this is how we see the world. It is our own personal drama of the confrontation, and our interpretation of our experience. Much of our frustration is coming from the words we use to tell this story to ourselves and to others.
Behind the Scenes
Behind the scenes is the reality of the confrontation challenge:
- How do we communicate with each other when we feel we are being excluded?
- How do we deal with others in a way that builds relationships rather than erodes them?
- How do we masterfully keep ourselves in a state of openness, with our assumptions and inferences in check?
- Think about your workplace.
- Think about your team.
- What Co-creating Conversations can you introduce to create a stronger WE-centric workplace?
Judith E. Glaser is the Author of two best selling business books:
Creating WE: Change I-Thinking to We-Thinking & Build a Healthy Thriving Organization - winner of the Bronze Award in the Leadership Category of the 2008 Axiom Business Book Awards, and The DNA of Leadership; and the DVD and Workshop titled The Leadership Secret of Gregory GooseContact: 212-307-4386
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