Archive for November, 2008
Reducing Tension During Tough Times: Tip #2
Recently, I’ve been discussing ways to dial down tensions at work. Here’s another way to keep the peace in the office in these challenging times.
Listening is a highly effective tool. But listening means more than taking your headphones off; and it’s more than just “hearing.” Try being an active, empathetic listener. It can be a challenge, but make a concerted effort not to think about the next thing you’re going to say while the other person is talking. Active listening means playing back what you’ve just heard to clarify what’s been said. Skilled active listeners ask questions, and express that they care about what’s being said, even if they disagree.
Did you know that paraphrasing a person’s statements back to them has a calming effect, and elicits much greater receptivity? That doesn’t mean you should automatically agree with everything said by your boss or co-workers. In fact, it makes it easier to disagree in a constructive way.
Here’s an example. If your boss storms in and proclaims, “We’ve got to cut costs by 15%, pronto!,” and you groan and say, “That’s terrible,” you’ve ratcheted the tension levels even higher. If, on the other hand, you say, “Wow, it sounds like we need to cut some expenses; do you have anything specific in mind?,” you’re demonstrating that you’re paying attention and are a team player.
As he shares his ideas, you’ve bought yourself time to think about solutions; he now knows he doesn’t have to argue with you or become defensive; your discussion will be constructive; and you’ll be able to work more collaboratively as you deploy cost cutting initiatives.
It’s been said that we’ve been given two ears and one mouth. During these tense times, that little adage is a great reminder of how active listening benefits the outcome of your own work day, and that of others. It’s also another way you can humanize your workplace™.
Reducing Tension During Tough Times: Tip #1
If tension at work leads to trouble, how do you reduce that feeling of unease? First of all, there’s humor. I always encourage people to view life through a Levity Lens™ and look for the funny aspects of a situation. That doesn’t mean viciously mocking bosses or customers, but it does mean that you can lighten and brighten situations by finding gentle humor in the challenges you face. You know the expression “Someday, we’ll all laugh about this.” Well, I believe you can make “someday” today. Instead of complaining or growling at challenging situations, look for laughter to calm things down.
If a client tries to bite your head off over the phone, think of a funny way to cut the tension after you politely wrap up the call. When you relate the story to a co-worker, you might add “At least she didn’t bring her chainsaw!” as a funny way to show that things could have gone worse and that you survived the bad experience. If your boss tends to throw reports on your desk and leave, put your hands up in the air in your best NBA pose the next time he walks in and say “I’m open!” Even online, smileys and LOLs can defuse a tense e-mail exchange.
Some of these ideas may sound silly, but guess what? Being silly and lighthearted is healthy. Keeping a sense of humor is critical to good health, and when you balance it with a professional approach to your work, its helpful to your relationships at work too.