In a spewing soliloquy, spawned from a typical teenage rebellion, my daughter made clear her displeasure with the fact that we wouldn’t let her have a Pinterest account. Of course, we never said that, and, she had never asked. In fact, we had actually decided several months earlier that once she asked the answer would be “Yes.” But, that was beside the point.
36 hours later, she admitted that it wasn’t actually our rule – she had just “assumed we’d never let her get one.” Unfortunately, this is not an unusual scenario in the DeWolf house. Our kids often assume the worst. Apparently, I’m an ogre.
My kids aren’t alone in allowing their imaginations to project what others are thinking. As human beings, it’s not uncommon for us to develop beliefs about other people, to reinforce them in conversations with others, and to then interpret every behavior through that lens. Unfortunately for relationships around the world, it’s incredibly difficult to change these perceptions once they are bought into.
I see this behavior play out in all sorts of settings. It creates stress. It sabotages productivity. And, I’ve seen it destroy relationships by creating vitriol that never should have existed. Unfortunately, just like with my daughter, it all could have been avoided with a simple conversation.
Dealing with conflict directly is key to building a healthy team environment. Simply asking a question, providing candid feedback, or, sharing your interpretation allows misunderstandings to be clarified and actual disagreements to be dealt with. And, I can assure you that those direct conversations are, 80% of the time, much easier to deal with than the anxiety of unwarranted perception.
Unfortunately, these direct conversations, while simple, are hard. Our fears and emotions get in the way. We build discussions up to be much harder than they need to be. Our wandering mind fuels our fear and builds anxiety.
The next time you find yourself frustrated by a colleague, assuming bad intent from a coworker, or getting anxious about a comment your boss made, the best thing you can do is deal with it heads on. Simply ask the question. Provide candid feedback. Have a conversation. You’ll be amazed how a simple and respectful conversation will likely alleviate the pressure and build trust.