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Archive for May, 2014

The Most Dangerous Delusion-Part 2

Last month we looked at why people in organizations have such a difficult time staying connected.
We also looked at the problems negativity brings to working relationships.
Here are some ways to improve communication and connection in the workplace.

We need to learn how to have a conversation that is safe so each person can relax their defenses and be open and honest with each other.

When I am speaking with employees about the frustrations they have with bosses and coworkers, I begin by making sure I am hearing their concerns.
As I mentioned last month, I sought the advice of Drs. Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt ( From them I learned a three-part approach to communicating called “Dialoguing” or “Safe Talk.”

I use Safe Talk when working with employees, managers and owners.
It is also the approach I teach them to use when communicating with others.
The first part of Safe Talk is listening to the other person so they feel we heard exactly what they were saying. This is accomplished by saying back to them what we heard to make sure we “got it.” It is called Mirroring.
The second part involves seeing the logic behind what the person said. It does not mean we necessarily agree with what they said; it simply means someone could have that point of view. This is called Validating.
The third part requires that we explore how they must feel. This is called Empathizing.

It looks something like this:
“So let me see if I got this. You were expecting me to finish my part of the project and were disappointed when I came to the meeting without my information.
That makes sense and I imagine you would have felt annoyed and let down.”

Even if we just mirror the other person it will help communication.

Approximately 90% of the frustration we are having with another person is not about the topic at hand but about something from our past that has been triggered.
We all have issues from the past that we bring into our adult relationships. Events happen in the present that can remind us of times we were ignored, abandoned, embarrassed, bullied, etc.
Understanding what is going on inside of us is helpful for two reasons. First, it enables us to put the current frustration in perspective. Second, it allows us to see that while we might have been powerless as children, as adults we have options.

When we are frustrated we need to learn to express our feelings in such a way that we don’t overwhelm the other person with so much information and intensity that they can’t process what we are saying.
Avoid phrases such as everybody, nobody, always, and never.
Practice “mole hills” not “mountains.”

Rather than, “You never listen and everyone in the organization knows it.” Try “When I was talking to you in your office yesterday, I felt there were a couple of times when you weren’t paying attention.”

The inability to see another point of view causes the other person to become frustrated and either lash out or withdraw. To eliminate this problem, each person needs to realize their frustration is actually a wish in disguise. They need to learn how to communicate the wish directly by asking for what they want instead of complaining about what they do not have. One way to do that is to ask yourself the question, “If it was just right, what would it look like?” When you have an answer, communicate that.
If you practice, it can become almost automatic.

The best way to keep negativity at bay is to fill the workplace with appreciations.
Scientists say there is a 5 to 1 ratio to overcome a negative comment. Be generous with positive comments and stingy with criticism. Pick a person. Give them one new appreciation a day for 20 days. Watch how it affects the relationship. Appreciations are free. They make you a safe place. People’s brains associate you with pleasure rather than pain. (We probably like appreciations more than we like to admit.)

The secret to an effective, productive working relationship is to learn how to talk in a new way—replacing monologues with dialogues (safe talk), embracing differences, ending all negativity in all forms and on all occasions and replacing conflict with curiosity, assuming good intent and accepting differences. Do that and working with others will suddenly require a lot less “ work.”

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Baltimore, Maryland 21214

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