This is my year of decade celebrations — 40th birthday and 10th anniversary of marriage. Neither have been walks in the park, but I have no regret either. With the years or experience I have collected in each, I agree wholeheartedly with Pat Benatar — love really is a battlefield. With the benefit of hindsight, admittedly there may have been better ways to navigate the tricky business of being in a relationship. Whether it’s a marriage, a sibling, a child, a co-worker or a neighbor — sometimes it’s hard to find perspective when you are that close to the front lines. The good news is that when tempers flare that also indicates strong emotional attachment. Let’s face it, if you didn’t care about someone you wouldn’t spend a moment’s time feeling upset about something they did or said. I get the pleasure of spending time in a variety of workplaces as a corporate trainer. This gives me the opportunity to meet wonderful people and experience different cultures on a regular basis. While each organization is unique, miscommunication, assumptions and hurt feelings at the office are far more widespread than you may think. There are many factors that play into this, but it mostly boils down to interpersonal communication. For a species that spends so much of its time talking, we are not really as effective as we could be. I’ve outlined a few tips that may help you turn your office battlefield into sea of harmony. It’s Never Personal Regardless what someone says to you, it’s really not personal. I know that may be hard to accept — especially if you’ve ever been really put through the ringer by others. Truly, it’s always about them and the lens they choose to view the world through. The feeling you have about yourself, the culmination of your experiences and your values determine your behavior, and the same is true for everyone else you interact with. If you can really wrap your head around this and buy into it you will find it much easier to relate with others. Be Honest Don’t confuse this with “don’t lie”— even though that is a good rule of thumb. In workplaces we get very concerned about how others will accept what we say. We run scenarios through our heads over… and over … and over… and over and convince ourselves that we will basically be treated like the office charlatan if we speak up. This can cause a lot of worry time (read low productivity) and often results in keeping things held in and a lot of pent of frustration. Being honest does not mean being cruel, passing the buck or laying blame. It means assertively addressing situations in a non-personal way to facilitate a more productive and positive work environment. Embrace Differences We are all unique individuals and that is what makes life so fun! Instead of focusing on how or why someone isn’t more like you, spend time looking for the positive side of your differences. Today we have more generations than ever in the workforce, which can make communication interesting. Think of what magical things could happen if we spent time trying to understand one another and learn how we could work together to make extraordinary stuff happen. Relax Really — try it, I think you’ll like it. We’ve all become so uptight these days. Running around with frowns on our faces telling everyone how busy we are. Life is meant to be experienced and enjoyed. Take time to get your head out of your computer or off your phone and interact with live human beings about mundane, run of the mill stuff. Chat at the water cooler or go out to lunch with a co-worker — the break in routine may be exactly what you need to reinvigorate your brain. No matter what your lot in life, it all boils down to relationships. If you can focus on having some people in your world that bring you joy and happiness, then you’ve done something right. Most spend more time with the people we work with than anyone else — why not make that time meaningful and peaceful? Who knows, you just might look forward to getting to the office on Monday morning to hear how your work family’s weekend went.
Shelley Davis Mielock
Shelley Davis Mielock is a certified business image coach and the founder of Mieshel Image Consulting, a Lansing-based firm that specializes in image development for individuals and businesses. She is also a co-host of In Her Shoes, a a weekly women’s talk radio show. To ask Shelley an image question, please e-mail her.