Difficulties In Working Relationships: Understand And Reverse The Negative Cycle

Difficulties in Working relationships Mary Rafferty Consensus Mediation

When we find ourselves becoming increasingly annoyed, upset or fearful around someone’s behaviour and attitude over an extended period of time, here’s what tends to happen for many people:

  1. We start to have increasingly negative thoughts about that person/persons which in turn causes us to experience a greater level of unpleasant emotions such as anger, hurt, irritation etc.
  2. We begin to see that person as a key source of our own stress and negative feelings at work and often end up ruminating and worrying about it outside the workplace.
  3. We get into a mindset of thinking that they have to change before we can feel good about coming to work. We find ourselves putting a lot of our attention and focus on that other person’s behaviour, how bad it is, how they aren’t doing X or Y etc.
  4. This consumes huge amounts of our positive energy and motivation and we begin to see ourselves as the ‘victim’ of that other person/persons behaviour and attitude. Frequently, we also have a story in our minds about that person’s behaviour in some way undervaluing us or undermining us. We can even let this story take over how we see ourselves and find ourselves wanting to try and ‘make’ this other person realise that we are of value and we are a worthwhile person.
  5. When that happens we have then disempowered ourselves and lost touch with our own inner resilience and wisdom about how best to handle and negotiate the situation with this other person/persons. We tend to be reactive and operating from a hurt, angry or irritated state of mind. We have lost touch with our own inner wisdom and intelligence about how to negotiate and engage with this person in a constructive and productive way.
  6. We then ‘react’ in some way (even if it’s just that we are less friendly, open and trusting in our attitude). They of course pick this up and similarly the cycle happens for them. A vicious cycle of action-impact-reaction gets set up between us and them.

Reversing the Negative Cycle around Difficult Working Relationships – Some points to reflect on

1. To what extent to which you are allowing the negative thoughts about that person/persons and their behaviour (whether it’s how they interact with you or whether it’s to do with how they perform in their role) affect your own mood and well-being?

2. While it looks like other people can ‘make us feel’ a certain way, no-one can have that ‘power’ unless we give it to them. How we feel in any one moment is determined by what’s going on inside our own minds not outside of us. It’s like a bank account, no one can put in or take out without you letting them. For example, if you really think about it, you will find that the same behaviour from another person in a different context might not bother you so much.

3. Realise that you can let the negative thoughts about the other person and the situation (you can’t actually stop or prevent your thoughts) just come into your mind and ‘go out the other side’ rather than letting them determine your mood and state of mind.

4. Understand that beneath all the thinking and worrying, you have access to an amazing creative and resourceful intelligence and intuition that can help and guide you on the best approach to deal with this person and this situation.

5. Understand that you always have access to this innate resilience and intelligence when you are in a calm, centred state of mind. That’s all you need to do… Move away from thinking that your worth and value as a person is linked to what someone else does or says. Instead, turn your attention inward and see if you can get in touch with your own clarity, wisdom and peace of mind.

6. From that place, then be open to figuring out how you can talk things through with that other person in a constructive and effective way.
What might be some of the things you need to talk about and start doing differently so that each of you can interact and work together in a productive way?

So when working relationships go wrong, does this mean I shouldn’t feel this way?

So does this mean that it’s all my own fault? That this person’s ‘difficult’ behaviour or unhelpful actions are all ‘ok’ and that I’m the person who has to change?
In life, there will always be people who do or say things and act in ways that seem to upset or frustrate us. Indeed their behaviour might be described by most people as ‘difficult’ or ‘inappropriate’ or ‘undermining’.
That’s a fact. Nobody is denying this.

And as we are all human, there is no denying that our experience of this behaviour can be unpleasant and upsetting. However, your main job in life is to look after you… and it’s tempting to think that if you can ‘make the other person change’, that this is how best to look after yourself. But the trouble is, you can’t control anyone else’s behaviour. You can’t control how they act or whether they will take on board your requests for them to change. So you have to look after and take responsibility for the only person you can influence – yourself.

That means knowing that you have access to a state of mind where you aren’t as affected emotionally by their behaviour. It means tapping into your own innate resilience, your own inbuilt ‘well-being’ immune system. Then you have a clear calm mind to help you focus on making the best attempts possible to positively influence them. So it’s about ‘putting on your own oxygen mask’ first before trying to ‘tackle’ any kind of dialogue or conversation with them about change.

Engage in dialogue from a clear and more settled ‘state of mind’

Once you are in a clearer, calmer and more centred state of mind, you are in a better place to engage in a dialogue with the other person/persons about making things work better. From this frame of mind you can think clearly about what it is you might need from them to be able to work together more effectively. Equally, you are more open to hearing from them, what they might need from you to work more effectively.

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