In recent weeks, I’ve met with people who are struggling to communicate with each other to work effectively together. One common theme has appeared over and over; we must let go of the past in order to create a successful future. When a relationship isn’t working, people spend a lot of time going over what went wrong and what the other person did to cause the issue. It has been my experience that people rarely agree about the details of a past event. And it doesn’t really matter what happened, who started it, who didn’t do what, etc., etc. The important part is for the individuals involved to acknowledge that they are each responsible for the current state of affairs and agree to do their part to rebuild the relationship.
The title track Let it Go from Disney’s movie Frozen holds some good advice for people struggling to communicate and work together. 1) It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small. When we can step away and get a new perspective we often find problems are not as insurmountable as we once thought. Or simply the passage of time can help us realize the bigger picture and move to make amends. 2) I’m never going back; the past in the past. When we let go of the past, we can begin to move toward a more productive future. We will not be able to resolve a conflict by trying to force agreement on what took place in the past. Skip this and simply acknowledge something went wrong, respect the other person’s memory of what happened and work toward an improved future.
Here’s an example of these in action. Let’s talk about two mythical co-workers, Jane and Sally. They are working on a project together and there is a misunderstanding about a deadline. Jane expects Sally to deliver the details to her before the meeting with other team members and Sally believes she needs to bring them to the meeting for everyone to review at the same time. They both show up at the meeting and Jane feels frustrated that Sally didn’t provide her with the data to review beforehand and Sally doesn’t understand why Jane is upset. Jane may say something directly to Sally in front of the group, or more, Jane may make some indirect remarks to the group about Sally. Unless Sally is skilled at constructive confrontation and able to problem solve with Jane on the spot, she will either ignore Jane’s remarks and retaliate later, or she will become silent and unresponsive during the meeting. Thus begins the downward spiral of each person becoming the victim and blaming each other for results. How do Sally and Jane avoid this from happening in the future? By using the phrase, “Next time I will…” This will allow each of them to acknowledge the other’s position and gain clarity around expectations on future deadlines. Next time you feel frustrated because someone at work didn’t respond the way you thought give yourself the gift of distance to gain perspective and let go of the past by implementing the “next time I will…” approach.
Let me know how it works by commenting below.