This often occurs in the office. For example, you may be friendly with your boss, but she may be forced to give you feedback as part of her job. Of course, you throw a tantrum, and these "difficult" interactions can add stress to a relationship that, in other contexts, may be perfectly easy going.
|A typical interaction with colleagues|
Personally, I can think of a number of instances where I acted like a brat during a tough interaction with a superior or a colleague because I was thinking in a selfish and short-sighted way. This typically occurs in scenarios where I feel like I have been working very hard and the discussion highlights room for improvement or where more work needs to be done. In both cases, I have gone defensive before I even think about why the conversation is happening and before I try to empathize with the other person. In most cases, when I take time to put myself in the other's shoes and remind myself that we are a team working toward some common goal, I become much more open-minded.
|Dreamworks Pictures' representation of me getting feedback|
From these experiences, I've tried to adopt an empathetic stance as a default in complex relationships, but this has taken conscious practice and I'm nowhere near perfect. Ultimately, though, I think this approach is the healthiest and will probably lead to the best outcomes for everyone involved: when I respond positively, that will increase the likelihood of future positive interactions.
For today's challenge, we're going to practice empathy while considering a complex relationship:
Task: Contemplate a complex relationship for 10min
Info: Find a quiet place to sit and think. During the session, think about the relationship you've selected - choose a relationship that isn't all bad but has a decent balance between good and bad. Try to imagine what it must be like to be the other person. Here are some questions you could ask yourself:
- What are his goals?
- What are his responsibilities?
- What are the external factors that might be influencing his decisions?
- Most people are not bad people out to get you - why might this person have initiated a tough conversation?
Normally, just assuming that the person wants the best for both of you is enough to approach tough conversations in a more positive way. During your session, also remind yourself of instances when this person has done good things for you. These instances are proof that the person has been on your side in the past.
Goal: Foster a positive, empathetic approach to your complex relationship. Spend more time considering positive rather than negative characteristics of the relationship.
Of course, this exercise doesn't mean you have to always turn the other cheek. Not at all. However, by approaching relationships with empathy, you will be more likely to react in the most positive way possible, no matter your opinion. And, that will serve to keep the relationship running as smoothly as possible.
Links: Return to the Week of Empathy - Continue to the next Daily Mind Game