When working with those who are different, be it race, gender, ideology, or background requires the ability to adapt because differences often surface tensions, value tensions, diversity tensions, etc. Failure to adapt and be flexible results in gridlock, stagnation, and frustration; not only for those involved but also for those affected. The process can be a challenge but recognizing some key points may help move the process along:
1. Never underestimate the power of people to operate against their own self-interest to make a point. I have witnessed some strange and defeating behaviors during mediations because people preferred to make a point rather than resolve an issue or get something done.
2. Self-righteousness does not serve you well. It is ok to believe that you hold the right position, but self-righteousness is frowned upon in relationship building. Everything is not an “either/or” proposition, something’s are an “and” proposition. Multiple people can be right in a discussion. Practice collaboration versus combativeness.
3. True relationships are value driven. People need time to make adjustments in their values. Be patient, values are established throughout a persons’ life and the process of negotiating with oneself is unsettling. If you add the dynamic of culture, ethnicity, and generational differences, it becomes increasingly complex. Success lies in identifying and leveraging shared values.
4. Try to speak to the moment. I understand there is an injured child inside, or a neglected mom who set aside her dreams for the family, or a son who could never live up to dad’s expectation; however people need to know who there are talking to in order to get to a resolution. (Sidebar: There is nothing wrong with getting help to deal with unresolved emotional issues.)
5. Are you defining resistance based on your filters? Is it really resistance or is it concern? If you frame it as a negative, then your response will be negative. Are you judging or trying to learn? Your willingness to reframe your definition and view of resistance may help propel you to resolution.
These suggestions may not get you to a grand compromise, but they will certainly make the process less painful for all involved.
I have been in a protracted discussion with a friend over an issue and clearly, we see the same events in different ways. My friend steadfastly holds to the “facts” of the situation and I am trying to explain my interpretation. This reminded me of how this dynamic occurs in the workplace.
As organizations make decisions, take actions, solve problems, and conduct business the workplace grapevine gets started and what the organization thought was very good decisions are now being viewed and categorized in less than pleasant ways. Leadership often becomes frustrated, as they believe employees are not informed about the “facts.” They expend a great deal of energy trying to correct misinformation but unfortunately, this has little effect on changing minds.
So, what is really going on? The narrative of the mind takes over and the elements of mistrust, doubt, and questionable motives start to frame the discussion. If you add cultural norms, personal backgrounds, unresolved pain, stereotypes, and bias … Whew!
Allow me to suggest:
- Before you act, think about how your behavior, decisions, etc maybe interpreted by your audience.
- Do not assume you know how others will react to your decisions, behaviors, etc. As previously noted, reactions can and will be based on a number of factors including cultural norms, personal backgrounds, generational issues, unresolved pain, stereotypes, and bias.
- Even when presented with “facts,” people will also include hunches, expectations, and guesses in their thought processes. Do not discount the power of one’s “spiddy senses.”
- You have heard it many times before; it is not the intent, but the impact!
- If you have unresolved issues not addressed and properly reconciled they will resurface in later conflict and drive the narrative. This is why mediation and other conflict resolution tools need to be incorporated into workplaces to help rebuild broken relationships. I recommend transformative mediation as one tool.
- Never forget, Interpretations are more powerful than facts.