Some people carry relationships around that are really the walking dead.
Often (and without knowing it) we walk around in quiet desperation as it relates to a key relationship in our lives. There are festering problems that we try and address – and no matter what, they don’t go away.
Rather than have a “Do or Die” confrontation. A more interesting approach is to seek a negotiation. Sometimes the negotiation is only with yourself, sometimes it is with another.
Here is an example of a negotiation with another.
Aaron was a longtime associate at a technology company. He knew his job and generally did it fairly well. Occasionally he excelled and sometimes he slacked, but generally did his job.
Aaron was also a hothead. He was often emotional over small issues. He was sarcastic which was sometimes funny (he thought he was always funny). Increasingly, he was getting offensive and it really started bugging Steve (as well as few others).
Steve never really knew how to take the issue on. His previous efforts we3re met with a defensive attitude. Steve didn’t want to lose Aaron, but he didn’t want to let things go or at some point he as was going to have to fire Aaron. He also had let it go on for more than a year without fixing it. He was in a real bind.
Here is what he did about it:
Steve made some notes to himself:
What did he want from Aaron and what did he want Aaron to not do
What was the impact of what Aaron was doing
How could Aaron succeed in this area
How would Steve follow up
He prepared the conversation and then sat with Arron to talk it through.
He started off by saying Aaron, “I have to have a conversation with you that is very hard for me, and at the same time I really need your help”. (Both were true for Steve)
I have a hard time when I hear sarcasm that diminishes someone else. I don’t mind when we make fun of some “thing”, but I think it really does damage when we diminish someone. It is just a quirk that I have and I would like your help in addressing it.
What I don’t want, is to alienate our relationship and I don’t want you or me to be uncomfortable unnecessarily.
I want all of our communication here to be respectful and that includes from me to you. I also want our relationships and everyone here to be comfortable, relaxed and professional.
So here is where I want your help Aaron. I know you are skilled enough to redirect your humor toward “things” versus people. However, we all slip – so I want a code word from you that I can tell you, that will let you know that the sarcasm occurred and you can use that to offset it for a next time.
In that way, we can partner toward a solution. Aaron suggested the Hittite and both he and Steve started laughing.
They agreed that if Steve used Hittite in some way, that that was a signal for he and Aaron to circle up later and talk about it or just for Aaron to acknowledge that he understood what Steve was referencing.
Within 8 weeks, the sarcasm was successfully redirected toward things, the atmosphere improved for Steve as well as others.
The negotiation was both useful and worthwhile.