Does one of your colleagues or someone you know do things that really irritate you? If the answer is yes, then read on.
One of the most common reasons why 1:1 relationships become strained or fail, is due to the other person doing or behaving in a way that irritates us. Whilst what they do or the way they behave is the catalyst, it is usually our inability to raise the issue with them, that ultimately makes the situation worse, or indeed leads to the relationship failing completely. As we know, these breakdowns in relationships, occur both in our personal lives and also our working lives.
Part of the learning workshops I facilitate with organisational teams, explores 1:1 relationships in depth and how to make them as effective as possible. On such a workshop, which was with a group of senior leaders, I had been made aware, during the pre-workshop briefings with the client, that 2 of the individuals did not get on at all, indeed they did their best to interact with each other as little as possible. This was causing issues, not only between them, but also within the leadership team and beyond, and needed to be addressed.
I undertook a session called Contacts of Commitment. Using the template, each person in the team wrote their name in the central oval. They then wrote the names of their colleagues in the outside ovals. Using the line that connected their name to that of their colleague, they then had to make note of two things:
1. One thing that their colleague did that worked positively in their relationship?
2. Something their colleague did that irritated them?
Once they had completed this, they then paired off and had 1:1 conversations about what they had written about each other, explaining their reasons and thoughts.
Within a couple of minutes of the activity starting, I heard raised voices from across the room. I saw that it was from the 2 leaders who I’d been told did not get on. I thought the worst. However as I walked towards them, they both started laughing and hugging each other, which I thought rather bizarre at first. I asked what was going on? They both smiled and laughed, before one of them said the following to me and the rest of the group.
“When I was new to the department, people always used to say go and see Tim, he’ll give you good advice or point you in the right direction, based on his knowledge and experience. Well one day, I strolled over to Tim’s desk to seek his advice, that’s when our relationship ended before it had even started. I sat on the edge of Tim’s desk and asked for his advice. He gave me a curt reply, so I left. I thought he was having an off day. The following week, I went to Tim to seek some different information from him. I received the same curt response. From that day, I’ve kept my distance and our relationship has been somewhat cold towards each other.
When I sat down with Tim to do this activity, I let him go first. Tim said, he would give me the negative feedback first. He said, “It really irritates me when you sit on the edge of my desk rather than taking a seat. It gets me so angry inside, that you are invading my space and hence I want to get rid of you as quickly as possible.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and said to Tim, “Why didn’t you tell me?”. Tim let me know that he had never raised the issue, as he thought I might react in a bad way to something I might find trivial.”
Tim and John had then started laughing at the situation and how something that could have been easily fixed sooner had been left to fester and escalate. Both felt stupid that neither had raised it before, or done something about it.
The lesson to be learnt from the above situation, is that if someone does something that irritates us, they will continue to do so if we do not bring it to their attention. It is sometimes our fear of their reaction, which stops us from doing so. Often their reaction is not as bad as we imagined it could be.
So, give someone some positive and constructive feedback about their relationship with you, and ask them to do the same for you, you’ll be surprised at how beneficial this can be.
All the best, Nick