Relationship Building

May 2003

One of the things that I firmly believe is how important healthy relationships are in the workplace. Ever find yourself dreaming about how easy life, and work, would be if we didn’t have to contend with other people? Ever think about how boring that would be, a world without others to challenge us, teach us, support us, frustrate us, and inspire us? Yet we can close ourselves off from a lot of learning (not to mention loving), if we do not know how to nurture appropriate, healthy relationships.

Theodore Roosevelt said “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” I tend to agree (although, of course, I’m left to wonder what President Roosevelt thought are the other ingredients to success..anyone know?), and have come up with a few basic thoughts in this matter.

As a first step in getting along with others, I try to understand the other person. This involves finding out how they view their work, how they see the world (or corporate culture), what they want, what they need, what they value. Careful observation or even research is fine, but remember what fruit an open, straightforward conversation can bear. Stop guessing, stop assuming; just ask!

That leads me to the second step in getting along with others: really listen to them. Learn to listen with complete attention, and be aware of how your body language, tone and word choices impact how the interaction goes. I’ve learned that you don’t have to agree with what someone else says (a tough lesson for a “pleaser” like myself), but listening with respect and openness to the other person and their perspective is key.

Don’t give misunderstandings, hard feelings, past hurts, anger, or negative thoughts the time or space to grow. Those are the things that build walls between us. If I find myself compiling a mental list of all the things someone else has said or done that upset me, I know it is definitely time for me to figure out what is going on in the relationship..or in me. Which brings me to the last step: knowing myself (which, one might argue, is really the first step to any healthy relationship). Until I’m able to be totally honest with myself, and see my own shortcomings and strengths, insecurities and worth, my chances of truly connecting with someone else are slim.

Are there any relationships in your work world that need attention?

Sharon Keys Seal

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