7 ways you may be undermining your relationship with others, and what you can do about it.
Going to work every day and facing the challenges of our professional duties and the expectations of our higher-ups — while balancing our professional duties with our family life, social life, etc. — can be stressful. The last thing we need is additional stress from difficult relationships with our boss or coworkers.
Increased stress can affect our physical and mental health, causing symptoms including insomnia, insecurity, fatigue, and low self-esteem. Clearly, this not only affects our work, but can also have negative consequences for our overall well-being and our family relationships.
Because differences in personality and opinions are inevitable, it’s vital that we do our best to foster a good personal connection with the people we work with. The first step is evaluating the way we communicate with them. Is the way we talk to and work with them causing some kind of conflict? It’s vital that we learn to listen and to express ourselves the right way.
When we come off domineering and arrogant, thinking that we’re always in the right and that those who disagree with us are necessarily wrong, we enter the “toxic communication” zone.
Here are some common habits that can lead to toxic communication between us and our coworkers:
We may not agree with all the opinions of our coworkers, but the worst thing we can do is to interrupt them while they are talking. If this happens, the other person may get irritated, angry, and possibly resentful; consequently, the team’s work will be negatively affected. Often, it’s not something we do on purpose, but we need to catch ourselves, say, “Sorry I interrupted you,” and let the other person finish.
Showing a lack of interest
When we show disinterest in what other people have to say, we create an environment of apathy, disinterest, and rejection. Most people prefer to have coworkers who are receptive and interested in listening to each other respectfully.
We must avoid downplaying or disregarding the feelings and opinions of others. Otherwise, we will create an atmosphere of anger, resentment, and injustice, setting the stage for future conflicts. This obviously will damage the company and its commercial activity, so if we have this bad habit, we need to change it.
Feeling an irrepressible need to give advice
Although advice can be more than welcome, nobody likes having a coworker who is constantly telling others the “right way” to do things (which is always different from the way they are doing them), and who doesn’t accept different opinions. We must learn to give advice only when it is requested, not when we feel inspired to do so. Otherwise, sooner or later, we will create conflict, and our coworkers will consider us to be arrogant and closed-minded. If we really think we have something helpful to say, it’s not a bad idea to start by asking, “Would you like help with that?” or, “May I make a suggestion?” And if they say, “No,” we should take them at their word.
If a coworker shares something private or personal with you, he or she is looking for support, not judgment. If you constantly set yourself up as the judge of other people’s lives, telling them what you think they should have done, where they went wrong, and what you would have done in those circumstances… your coworkers will find someone else to confide in, and they will make absolutely sure to avoid telling you a single thing about themselves in the future.
Not expressing ourselves opportunely and clearly
If we work with others as part of a company, and especially as part of a team, there needs to be an open exchange of proposals and opinions. Consequently, just as we need to be open to listen to others and respect their opinion, it’s important that we, too, feel free to express ourselves in meetings and explain what we have to say. Who knows; maybe our ideas and thoughts might be beneficial for our coworkers and for the company. This also requires gauging how much is appropriate to say; we should neither go into excessive detail, nor be so general and brief that it’s not clear what we are proposing.
The solution: Be assertive, but not aggressive
We need to learn to express our opinion respectfully, not aggressively. That doesn’t mean retreating into submissive silence; if we have something worth saying, we should do so, with healthy confidence.
This balanced attitude can be called assertiveness. Assertive communication — clear, respectful, calm, based on facts, and involving both speaking and listening — is healthy communication. If we learn to be assertive in this sense, it will create a positive change in our relationship with coworkers and superiors, and that will benefit everyone, creating a more effective work environment.
There’s no guaranteed way to take all the stress out of our workplace; it’s simply not easy to deal with other people day in and day out, in addition to the pressures of meeting goals and deadlines. However, if we want to create as positive an environment as possible, we have to work on ourselves, learning new skills such as assertive communication that will allow us to be more successful in dealing with others, whether at work or at home.