The new year is beginning to unfold and as you might expect, the newspaper has been full of great ideas for creating and sustaining a healthy lifestyle. There have been articles on physical fitness, as well as a review of apps to help you stay true to your exercise goals.
We’ve seen articles on making healthy meals with turkey leftovers, meals to keep you warm and articles that help you to discover the trick to making a smoothie. All in all, the advice is meant to drive readers toward good health and happiness.
At the same time, all of these healthy articles have been overshadowed by the recent distressing stories of the terrorist acts in Paris. I’m bothered, as well, by the seemingly unnecessary interpersonal conflicts already emerging from our own city hall. So, all this made me think people need to start paying better attention to building healthy relationships. And I mean improving relationships right at the grassroots levels; your family, your friends, your neighbours, your work colleagues, your vendors and your customers. How can we expect issues at the national and international level to get resolved if we can’t even build positive working relationships on our home front? And from a career perspective, how can you even think about getting ahead if you can’t develop and sustain positive relationships in your workplace?
Relationships are what sustain a workplace. They’re what creates good teamwork. They’re what allows us to get things done and what makes our work enjoyable. Wouldn’t you rather have the freedom to do your work every day instead of spending so much time and energy struggling with an interpersonal conflict? Wouldn’t you rather have a trusting workplace where differing opinions are valued, people are treated respectfully and goals are achieved through collaboration and consensus?
You might not realize it, but building relationships is a conscious choice. You choose to build healthy, positive and productive relationships or you choose to build negative, toxic and destructive ones. Developing the following skills and attributes will start you on your way to consciously building positive and effective connection in you workplace.
Effective relationships require an attitude, perspective and life view that enables you to engage in objective, adult-to-adult conversations. Communicating from the perspective of an angry child or an intolerant parent impacts your tone of voice, your body language and your choice of words. The listener will respond negatively and before you know it, your relationship is off to a bad start. Take time to assess which life view impacts your perception of others and make sure it can help you build positive relationships.
The old saying, "listen more than you talk" still rings true in today’s workplace. This is especially true if you are new to your job. Remember, you don’t know anything; you only have assumptions. Focus on listening and learning for the first several months. Ask questions rather than criticizing before you even understand how a system works. Avoid rushing to judgment.
Teamwork and collaboration at any level of an organization simply won’t work if you don’t make an effort to build a foundation of trust. Trust is built through action and words. You need to commit yourself to meeting your goals and objectives, to respectfully communicate issues as they arise and to working together to overcome obstacles and get the work done for the good of all.
With work changing at such a fast pace, you need to ensure your skills and competencies are constantly being upgraded. Your team depends on you. Take a course. Read industry-sector magazines and reports, attend seminars and conferences that will help you gain a broad perspective of your work environment. No matter what, build your knowledge base.
Have you ever heard the phrase "plain English"? That’s what you need to develop strong interpersonal relationships. This means you avoid trying to impress people with the strength of your vocabulary or by using any or all of the latest buzz words. Tone it down, speak simply and clearly. Adopt the goal of helping the listener understand your message.
Arguments in the workplace are all about an "I win-you lose" approach. Be empathetic, let go of your need to be right and put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Do you understand their perspective or how they feel about the issues being discussed? Getting angry and overreacting instead of listening signals you’ve lost control. Keep in mind it isn’t possible to agree on everything. As a professional, take responsibility and find common ground.
Being able to give constructive feedback is a key tool to building a mutually respectful and positive relationship. Focus on an individual’s behaviour and not their personality. Be specific. Be timely. Be civil, respectful and avoid being mean-spirited. Keep in mind that people will forget what you said; however, they’ll remember how you made them feel.
It’s normal to get lost in your own personal world and to get so focused on your own way of thinking you don’t realize how hard and fast your opinion and perspective has become. Building strong interpersonal relationships requires you to rethink personal biases and to allow yourself to be immersed in the whole experience you’re dealing with. Learn to recognize where and how you are being resistant to new ideas. Be honest; you are not all-knowing, so give yourself time to explore different points of view.
Positive working relationships are built on giving without expectation of immediate return. Consider giving to be an investment in creating a long-term relationship where there is value for all concerned. This approach shifts your thinking from self to others. It will enable you to build and leverage a network of relationships that will be there when support and assistance are needed.
It’s well-known, and I personally have no doubt, that to succeed in one’s career you need ambition, energy, good judgment and decision-making. On the other hand, no matter what your job role, in my view, success means careful planning and thoughtfulness to engage others around you and build strong interpersonal and professional relationships.