In the workplace, we are often navigating through challenging situations that require effort. It takes hard work to work well with others. Cultivating an understanding of our own personal awareness in relation to our communication with others is the essential ingredient to productive business relationships. How can we then cultivate personal awareness in the workplace in order to move through difficult situations with confidence and ease?
There are opportunities to explore relational dynamics in broader and deeper ways than most of us are currently doing. When we are attuned to others, we are open and receptive to the flow of their energy and information with ours. Dr. Daniel Siegel (2012) coined the term mindsight to reflect on internal awareness of information flow between our brain, mind and relationships. There are richer and more meaningful levels of awareness we can achieve. Even current research in neuroscience gives us added insights into how our interconnected physical, mental and emotional worlds operate.
The more attuned we are to our internal states the more in tune we can be to the internal states of others. The limbic regions of our brains are critical in being able to process the exchange of information between from our bodies to make meaning of our social interactions. This in turn stimulates our emotional reactions. We co-create the relationships we have with others by the force we emit to them, how they receive and make meaning of it and vice versa, how we receive and make meaning of what we receive from others.
In the workplace, when a co-worker does not complete assigned tasks that feed into our part of the project, we have a variety of ways in which we can respond:
1. We can blame the person for not being a team player and the person remains resentful and less productive.
2. We can report them to the boss. Once we do that, however, the co-worker is probably not going to want to collaborate with us or support us going forward. So what can we do?
3. If we slow down our reaction process by taking a few minutes to focus on our internal state and why we are having an emotional reaction, we allow for a more constructive interaction. Reaching out to them with an observation and inquiry may create a mood of collaboration, rather than accusation. For example, “I noticed that I did not receive the report yesterday from you and I am wondering if you will be able to get that to me today? Is there something I can–or what can I–do to expedite the process?”
Our response to this action is a critical moment and one in which our next action is fateful. It determines the tone of the immediate, and in some cases, future relationship. What is the quality of the relationship we are trying to create?
None of this is easy. It may be difficult to have a collaborative tone or use supportive words when we are feeling upset. However, accusing people will breed further difficulty. It is up to us to decide where we want to exert our efforts: in taking a minute to relax, think through and create a subsequently more congenial working relationship; or create more of a tangled mess by blaming our co-worker?
One way of developing the ability to approach the situation collaboratively is by getting to identify and understand what is really important to us. There is a daisy model used in coordinated management of meaning (CMM) , in which the petals of the daisy show all the different influences that shape what is in the center. Daisies can have as many petals as you want to draw, and you can demonstrate the fullness of the many influences that shape who we are and how we see the world. How important is this action? How important is this co-worker? How important is this workplace?
People do not leave companies; they leave people. We are willing to put up with hardships for quality relationships that are stimulating and motivating. The vice versa, stimulating work and good compensation, yet working with people who aggravate us, add stress and make us sick — we tend to leave those jobs. By using self-awareness instead of reactive energy, we create more dynamic and evolved work relationships.