Earlier this week, two highly successful team members came into my office seeking assistance with connecting with the other. Neither was aware of the other’s conversation with me nor did they know a conversation had even occurred. These two team members are among the select few that make up the foundation of my approximately 40-man team, and they work closely with each other and myself on several different projects and tasks. One is slightly more senior and holds more of a management role over a portion of the team, while the other aspires to lead but has had few opportunities to grow his leadership style.
As I spoke to each of my team members, who were seeking a solution of some kind, I challenged both of them to do the following: “Have an open-and-honest conversation with him, explaining how you observe and perceive his actions and how this makes you feel.” After conversing with both of them, separately, it became clear that both of them have become so focused on what the other person is doing that they do not recognize how their own actions contribute to these conflicts.
Office conflict is nothing new; each of us deals with it in some way every day. This is not a problem isolated to Corporate America or the military, in my case. Instead, this conflict arises anywhere two-or-more people interact professionally. Having candid conversations, focusing on your observations and feelings, we create space to find solutions within these conflicts without making the other person wrong. No one can argue with your observations and perceptions, though they will likely try to justify their actions. Likewise, no one can argue with your feelings.
These candid conversations focused on your perspective rather than on “Winning and losing” allows room for self-reflection and increased awareness. In her TedTalk, Tasha Eurich defines self-awareness as “The ability to see ourselves clearly.” She states that “95% of people think they’re self-aware, but the real number is closer to 10-15%. […] On a good day, 80% of us are lying to ourselves.” Why does this matter in office conflicts? As I found with my team members this week, we are not good at viewing ourselves from someone else’s eyes, nor are we very effective at seeing past our preconceived beliefs on a situation to determine the real story. “There are three sides to every story; your side, my side, and what really happened.” Having open-and-honest conversations, centered on observations and feelings, helps create space for the other person to have “Aha” moments in their self-awareness. These conversations force others to stop lying to themselves and see themselves clearly.
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