Managing Board Conflict

Posted on by Turning Point Resolutions Inc.

Article by by E. Grant MacDonald, Director Non-Profit Sector Leadership Program – exerts only. Full article can be found at

The Four Arenas of Board Conflict

For boards of directors of community organizations, there are typically four arenas in which conflict manifests itself.

  1. Conflict among board members

Conflict on the board itself arises as a result of differences between individual directors or factions of directors. Camaraderie and friendship is often important for volunteer directors and if the board is not fun at some level, in the face of significant conflict, board members may drift away or resign. Frequently the chair of the board is the source of the conflict, often by virtue of “running the show” or dominating board discussions, or else he/she is guilty of doing nothing to facilitate resolution. Marion Peters Angelica points out that the chair and chief executive (Executive Director) must play a role in resolving board conflict but that the latter is in a very awkward position to do so without appearing to take sides or be manipulating the situation. Beyond providing factual information or providing process advice, the Executive Director is wise to let the board chair, or other board members take responsibility for resolving the conflict.

  1. Conflict between Board and Staff

Conflict between the board and staff, especially between the board and the Executive Director is common. Often it is a conflict of a structural nature: the boundaries of each other’s roles and responsibilities, where power is shared.

  1. Conflict among Staff Members

Boards frequently get drawn into conflicts among staff or volunteers. While the Board might take a role as a result of their own initiative, more often than not the Board will find themselves involved because an individual director or a staff person has done an “end run” around the Executive Director. In situations where a conflict is between a staff person and the Executive Director, the board may need to get involved either to mediate or arbitrate. Boards are increasingly concerned about the legal and/or reputation threats a conflict may have on the organization. Where there is an Executive Director and the conflict is between other staff (or between volunteers), a board would be wise to stay clear, especially if it wants to be seen as affirming the ED’s authority and responsibility. Boards get drawn into staff conflicts because they are often seen as the real authority. A board with a tendency to micro-manage will be drawn into more staff conflicts than a board that sees its role as an arbitrator of last resort. Boards can make staff conflict situations worse, especially when individual directors, or even the chair, take it upon themselves to intervene.

  1. Conflict between the organization and its members or stakeholders

Sometimes the legitimacy of the board and staff will be challenged by the members or groups that are part of the organization’s constituency. Factions amongst the membership can arise whenever a few people become unhappy with how things are being run and believe they or others can do a better job. Directors who show disregard for the organization’s by-laws or constitution open themselves up to an uprising. In such a situation a board is ripe for a “coup”, often involving a raucous Annual General Meeting. Organizations with representative boards are susceptible to these kinds of conflicts because the membership is often already somewhat organized.

How to Manage Better With Conflict

Unfortunately, the media and entertainment industry provide us few examples of well-managed conflict. However, there are ways to channel our inevitable differences into constructive action. Here are some ideas, not in any particular order, for non–profit organizations that want to manage conflict more effectively.

  1. Clarify roles and responsibilities

Boards must strive to clarify the roles and responsibilities of individual directors and officers (especially the chairperson) and the board’s role in relation to staff. An annual board orientation session is a logical place for such a discussion. Job descriptions outlining duties and responsibilities are seldom adequate for clarifying roles, especially where board and staff responsibilities overlap such as in determining and working on strategic objectives.

  1. Seek or develop a skilled board chairperson

An effective board chair is critical to managing conflict. Such effectiveness comes from clarity about the chair’s role, personal integrity, an understanding of the importance of process and the liberal use of a few proven facilitation techniques.

  1. Encourage job evaluation

Formal evaluation processes for the board, executive director and staff members are important mechanisms for direct communication and action that can improve working relationships. Boards should evaluate themselves (with the Executive Director having an opportunity to provide his/her own assessment of the relationship) and should regularly evaluate the Executive Director according to pre-determined criteria. Regular evaluation of staff, by the executive director, if constructively handled, will help avoid staff conflicts.

  1. Implement a grievance procedure

Whether unionized or not, voluntary organizations that employ staff or regularly utilize volunteers should have a written grievance or complaint procedure that is known to everyone. Such a procedure will outline the steps and decision makers involved in resolving a dispute. Normally such a procedure will include both informal (verbal) and formal (written) steps and time frames. In most cases, such a procedure will designate the Board of Directors as the final decision-maker.

  1. Establish a code of conduct for directors

Non-profit organizations ought to have a written code of conduct for directors that set some standards and rules for their relationship with one another, with the Executive Director and with staff. A code of conduct ought to give direction on issues such as confidentiality, conflicts of interests, interactions with staff and speaking with “one voice”.

  1. Deal with conflict openly when it arises

As uncomfortable as it often is, and as much as we hope that it will go away if we ignore it, it is important to acknowledge conflict directly when it occurs. Boards need to talk about what to do when they have differences. What is necessary for the boardroom to be a safe place to raise difficult issues?

  1. Discuss good interpersonal communications practices

Boards should make time, possibly at orientation, to reflect on, research, and discuss good communication practices. On an individual level, this includes balancing “inquiry” and “advocacy”, checking our assumptions, being aware of own filters and separating impact from intent. Directors can be more effective if each person put into practice the principle that they should ‘seek first to understand, and then to be understood.’ Starting a “difficult conversation” by describing what happened rather than our interpretation of what happened can help prevent people from becoming defensive.

  1. Frame conflict as an exercise in “win-win” negotiation

It can often be helpful when there are different views on what should happen, to discuss the resolution of a conflict as a negotiation. In this frame, people can be asked to set their positions aside, assert their views, seek to understand those of others, work with underlying interests (common and different), and look for solutions that meet everyone’s interests.

  1. Celebrate agreements and new understandings

Both boards and staff can do more to acknowledge the hard work that is involved in expressing and working through important issues. We can all show genuine appreciation for openness and risk-taking, “Pats on the back” are often welcome. A bottle of champagne, a case of beer or a team dinner can be useful ways of drawing attention to success in managing conflict.

  1. Look to gender and cultural differences as a way out of a mess

It is well known that men and women, and people of different cultures, bring different perspectives and skills to managing conflict. If a conflict suffers from cultural intransigence, boards should look inward or outward for some alternative approaches.

  1. Seek outside help early

A third party is often very valuable in helping to resolving conflict. This can be a professional or a trusted friend outside of the organization. The integrity and skills of the person should always take precedence over their position; even a representative of a funder, if they are the right person, could facilitate a resolution. The board should be clear if it wants the resolution mediated with the help of a facilitator (a negotiated resolution) or someone else to hear the arguments on all sides and decides (an arbitrated settlement).

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Stop Complaining About Your Colleagues Behind Their Backs

Posted on by Turning Point Resolutions Inc.

Article originally posted at and written by Deborah Grayson Riegel.

In my coaching work with leaders and teams, I often ask my clients whether they engage in workplace gossip. More often than not, they respond, “of course not!” with a look on their faces that indicates that they are insulted to have been asked such a question.

But when I ask them whether they have ever participated in a “confirmation expedition” — whereby they 1) ask a colleague to confirm their own negative or challenging experience with a third colleague who is not present, or 2) welcome a similar line of confirmation inquiry from another colleague about a third colleague who is not present, most admit that this is, in fact, a regular part of their daily work life.

While leaders and teams might consider this behavior to be innocent “blowing off steam” or the more strategic “confirming performance data,” I consider it a form of workplace gossip.

But it’s not just me. Authors Nancy Kurland and Lisa Hope Pelled, in their research paper, Passing the Word: Toward a Model of Gossip and Power in the Workplace, define gossip as: “informal and evaluative talk in an organization, usually among no more than a few individuals, about another member of that organization who is not present.” When you think about how often your workplace conversations are 1) informal (“I’m just hanging out in Linda’s office”); 2) evaluative (“discussing how difficult it is to get a timely response from Doug in Accounting”); 3) among no more than a few individuals (“…and Marci’s here too.”); and 4) about another member of that organization who is not present (“Doug’s at his desk, of course!”), you might start to realize how often you’re engaging in gossip, and contributing to gossip’s damaging effects.

Like what? Like the erosion of trust, hurt feelings, decreased morale, damaged reputations, reduced personal and professional credibility, increased anxiety, divisiveness, and attrition.

Despite the high costs of gossip, the drive to engage in it is strong. Dr. Peggy Drexler, research psychologist and professor of psychology at Cornell University’s Weill Medical College writes that “anthropologists say that throughout human history, gossip has been a way to bond with others — even a tool to isolate those who aren’t supporting the group.”

Talking with one or more coworkers about how hard it is to get Doug in Accounting to give a timely response creates a feeling of connection with everyone else who is struggling with Doug’s lack of responsiveness. Those similarly frustrated by Doug treat one another with in-group favoritism, a common and central aspect of human behavior, whereby people act more pro-socially towards members of their own group relative to those outside their group.

Gossip is also a means of venting for those who are reluctant to give direct feedback to or have difficult conversations with their colleagues. As I cited in my HBR article, When to Skip a Difficult Conversation, “In a 2013 Globis survey of more than 200 professionals on the topic of difficult conversations…80% of respondents reported that these conversations were a part of their job, [but] more than half indicated that they didn’t feel like they had adequate training on how to conduct them effectively.”

By talking to anyone, everyone, or even one person about another colleague who isn’t there to hear the feedback, provide his or her perspective, and engage in joint problem solving, you are undermining the benefits of an open, honest relationship and a feedback-rich culture.

Finally, we use gossip as a way to collect evidence that confirms our beliefs, satisfying our confirmation bias — the tendency to look for information that confirms what we already believe to be true. By checking in with a coworker about whether she, too, experiences Doug as slow to respond, we get confirmation for our existing beliefs, and the satisfaction that comes from “being right” about Doug. And as Judith Glaser explains in her article, Your Brain Is Hooked on Being Right, the flood of adrenaline and dopamine that accompanies feeling right can become downright addictive.

Considering how satisfying it is to be right, how tempted we are to avoid giving direct feedback and having difficult conversations, and how often we seek confirmation for what we already believe, it can be hard to break the habit of engaging in gossip — as the instigator or the recipient. Nevertheless, there are several strategies to help you and your team stop engaging in something so wrong that feels so right:

1) Name it, then pivot. First, call gossip “gossip” to stop it in its tracks. If you are engaging in “informal and evaluative talk in an organization, usually among no more than a few individuals, about another member of that organization who is not present,” — especially if the aim is to confirm your experience rather than get constructive solutions — then you are participating in gossip. If you call someone on it, most people will step back at hearing a colleague say, “This sounds like gossip. Is that what you intended?” Second, pivot the conversation by asking, “How can I help you get a better outcome?” Only engage in coaching, brainstorming, and problem-solving conversations — not in problem-confirming ones.

2) Ask yourself or others why you need someone else’s confirmation about a behavior that you’re noticing in a third person. If it’s to justify your feelings, to confirm that you’re right, or to gain support for your point of view, don’t bring someone else into the conversation. If it’s to understand how you might be contributing to the dynamic or problem, to brainstorm helpful solutions, or to go on record to make a formal complaint for further investigation, then go for it.

3) Let people know that you have a policy of “if you have a problem with me, please tell me first.” Adopt the “tell them first” policy with your colleagues, and, when someone approaches you with gossip about someone else, ask “Have you already told her?” to remind them of this policy.

4) Create a feedback-rich environment around you. The more you normalize feedback — both positive and negative, and both giving and receiving — the less likely people will be to look for alternative means to express their frustrations and concerns. Rather than “saving” feedback for annual performance reviews, make discussions about what someone did well, and what he or she could do differently, a part of every supervision meeting or project debrief. And make sure to give people positive feedback when they offer particularly useful feedback — even if it’s hard to hear.

Gossip, even by any other name, is still a destructive communication strategy that negatively impacts individuals, teams and the whole organization. By stopping it in its tracks, choosing healthier and more helpful methods of communicating what’s not working, and engaging in collaborative problem-solving, relationships and organizations can flourish.

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4 Things to Do Before a Tough Conversation

Posted on by Turning Point Resolutions Inc.

Article originally posted at and written by Joseph Grenny.

I was in denial for about a year and a half before I admitted that I needed to fire Randy.

His work performance had made the conclusion inescapable for years, but he was so darned nice and likeable that I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Not only did I like him, I also knew his income was crucial to his family. Furthermore, over the nine years he worked for me, his income had grown to the point that he would find it difficult to get comparable compensation. I hated the thought of the hardship that letting him go might cause. And yet Randy (which is not his real name) had shown himself to be entirely incompetent at managing people and projects. He completed projects based on whoever was nagging him the most not on the importance to the business of the commitments he’d made. You knew he would agree to anything, but you never knew if you’d actually get it. His team was in a constant state of whiplash as his panicked phone calls would often reset their entire agenda.

Eighteen months earlier, I had communicated the serious nature of this chronic pattern. I was certain he could make the changes he agreed to. In subsequent months I fooled myself into believing his random successes demonstrated a pattern of improvement. But after such a long time — and a perfectly harmonized chorus of complaints from his coworkers — I could no longer elude my responsibility. Randy had to go.

I lived in dread of our Friday 2:00 PM appointment until the moment it arrived.

My colleagues and I have spent 30 years studying best practices for dealing with just this kind of moment of emotional or political risk. We’ve learned that how we deal with these kinds of crucial conversations predicts the magnitude of our influence, the health of our teams, the consistency of innovation, the strength of customer relationships, and even the durability of marriages and friendship. We’ve spent many thousands of hours observing how people manage these moments, and our recurring observation is that, unfortunately, when it matters most, we do our worst. We cower or coerce, obfuscate or exaggerate, contend or defend.

It’s no surprise that books on these topics (like ours) fly off the shelves. We all crave tactical advice about mastering the verbal ordeal. How should I compose my opening sentence? How do I present my concerns? How can I be sure the other person is forthcoming? How do I stay focused and get to a solution?

While these are all valid questions, our research shows the primary predictor of your success in a crucial conversation has less to do with how you use your mouth, and much more to do with what you do before you open it. What I did Friday at 1:30 PM mattered more than what happened at 2:00 PM.

Here are the four things you must do to prepare. If you do them well, the odds your conversation will go well improve dramatically.

Get your motives right. Under conditions of stress and threat, our motives become short-term and selfish. We worry about whether others will like us, whether we’ll look good, be right, win, or avoid conflict. For 18 months, my motive with Randy had been to keep the peace. I wanted to smooth things over and make it all better. The problem with short-term motives is that they preserve the present by mortgaging the future. By avoiding conflict with Randy, I compromised his ability to save his job; I hurt our customers; I frustrated his teammates — and even risked losing some of them. But under conditions of stress and threat, I think escape, not long-term. Each time Randy would violate a commitment, my chest would tighten and I would think, “How do I patch this?” rather than “What’s the real problem?”

The first thing to do when preparing for a crucial conversation is to reset your motives. You can radically change your motives by thoughtfully answering a simple question: What do I really want? I find it helpful to answer it at four levels: What do I really want for me? For the other person? For the relationship? For other stakeholders?

Something potent happened as I meditated on these questions that Friday morning. A sense of focus, determination, and calm came as I connected with my real desires: to be a caring and ethical manager; to help Randy get a job where he could win; to ensure Randy knew I cared about him and his family; and to provide his team and customers with the support they deserved. Simply connecting to these motives changed my affect as I approached the conversation.

Get your emotions right. Unhelpful emotions are another second barrier to a productive conversation. We often come in angry, scared, hurt, or defensive. Surprisingly, our emotions have less to do with what the other person is doing, and more to do with the story we tell ourselves about what they are doing.

For example, prior to dismissing someone, managers will often tell themselves victim and villain stories. Their victim story helps them absolve themselves of responsibility for the problem at hand (“I did everything I possibly could for Randy. I have been patient, supportive and kind. There’s nothing more I could have done! He did this to himself!”) A victim story makes us out to be innocent sufferers in the predicament.

A villain story helps us justify any negative action we take toward the other by attributing evil or malicious motives to them. We make the other person out to be deserving of suffering. (“I can’t believe Randy hasn’t fixed this. He has been lazy, unmotivated, and entitled. He had every opportunity but didn’t care enough to address the crystal-clear feedback I gave him!”).

Recognize and challenge the stories you tell yourself. Turn yourself from a victim to an actor. Turn the other person from a villain to a human. Ask yourself, “What am I pretending not to know about my role in this?” and “Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do what he’s doing?”

As I asked these questions, I could see many ways I had minimized my feedback and enabled Randy. I could see that he had made valid efforts to change, but that the position did not play to his strengths. This was a good man in a wrong role. I felt a sense of respect and resolve rather than detachment and indignation.

Gather the facts. By definition, we enter a crucial conversation with opposing views. For example, Randy is likely to come to this conversation believing he is making reasonable progress and deserves continued employment. I don’t. Often, the conversation degenerates into contesting conclusions rather than shared information. I say what I think. You say what you think. Rinse and repeat.

Don’t start a crucial conversation by sharing your conclusion. Share the facts and premises that led you to your conclusion. Lay out your data. Explain the logic you used to arrive where you did. Gathering the facts is required homework for a healthy conversation. If I think, “Randy is entirely incapable of managing people or projects,” I owe it to him to build my case in a patient, honest, and vulnerable way. And I need to be willing to let him challenge my case as well, which leads to the fourth step.

Get curious. The most important attitude to bring to a crucial conversation is a blend of confidence and curiosity. I need to have thought through my position enough to have confidence that it has merit. And I need to muster enough humility to be interested in any facts or logic that might improve my conclusion. Many people resist curiosity because they think it weakens them. In fact, it does the opposite. It makes you more persuasive. As Dean Rusk once said, “The best way to persuade others is with your ears, by listening.” When you listen deeply and sincerely, others feel less of a need to resist you in order to be heard.

As I walked into the room to meet with Randy, I felt confident of the decision I needed to share, but open to information that might persuade me otherwise. I felt a mix of compassion and determination. I was ready to share the basis from which my decision had been made. I wasn’t happy. But I felt peaceful.

I wish I could say that everything turned out great. Randy had a tough time finding his next job. My colleagues and I rallied around him frequently in his search. Even though implementing the decision was painful, Randy supported it within minutes of our meeting. He said, “The past six months have been stressful. I have been drowning and can see I’m not cut out for this.” When we finished our conversation, we hugged, something we have done periodically in subsequent years of our friendship.

Going into a tough conversation, it’s understandable to be worried about what you’re going to say. But it’s important to focus first on your motives, assumptions, and thoughts. Crucial conversations are 60% getting your head, heart, and gut right, and 40% saying it right.our motives, assumptions, and thoughts. Crucial conversations are 60% getting your head, heart, and gut right, and 40% saying it right.

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Working with People Who Aren’t Self-Aware

Posted on by Turning Point Resolutions Inc.

Article originally posted at and written by Tasha Eurich.

Even though self-awareness — knowing who we are and how we’re seen — is important for job performance, career success, and leadership effectiveness, it’s in remarkably short supply in today’s workplace. In our nearly five-year research program on the subject, we’ve discovered that although 95% of people think they’re self-aware, only 10 to 15% actually are.

At the office, we don’t have to look far to find unaware colleagues — people who, despite past successes, solid qualifications, or irrefutable intelligence, display a complete lack of insight into how they are coming across. In a survey we conducted with 467 working adults in the U.S. across several industries, 99% reported working with at least one such person, and nearly half worked with at least four. Peers were the most frequent offenders (with 73% of respondents reporting at least one unaware peer), followed by direct reports (33%), bosses (32%), and clients (16%).

Un-self-aware colleagues aren’t just frustrating; they can cut a team’s chances of success in half. According to our research, other consequences of working with unaware colleagues include increased stress, decreased motivation, and a greater likelihood of leaving one’s job.

So how do we deal with these situations? Is it possible to help the unaware see themselves more clearly? And if we can’t, what can we do to minimize their damage on our success and happiness?

Understanding the problem

Not all badly-behaving colleagues suffer from a lack of self-awareness, and not all who do can be helped. Therefore, you must first determine whether the source of the problem is truly someone’s lack of self-awareness. Ask yourself:

What’s behind the tension?

When we’re having trouble working with someone, the problem isn’t always a lack of self-awareness on their part. Interpersonal conflict can arise from different priorities, incompatible communication styles, or a lack of trust.

To determine whether you’re truly dealing with an un-self-aware person, consider how others around them feel. Typically, if someone is unaware, there’s a consensus about their behavior (i.e., it won’t just be you). More specifically, we’ve found several consistent behaviors of un-self-aware individuals:

They won’t listen to, or accept, critical feedback.
They cannot empathize with, or take the perspective of, others.
They have difficulty “reading a room” and tailoring their message to their audience.
They possess an inflated opinion of their contributions and performance.
They are hurtful to others without realizing it.
They take credit for successes and blame others for failures.
Where is this person coming from?

In contrast to the unaware, certain difficult colleagues—like office jerks—know exactly what they’re doing, but aren’t willing to change.

I once knew a chief operating officer with a reputation for humiliating his team whenever they disappointed him. When finally confronted about his behavior, his response was, “The best management tool is fear. If they fear you, they will get the work done.” (Unsurprisingly, his superiors did not share his views and fired him several months later).

The biggest difference between the unaware and the Aware-Don’t-Care are their intentions: the unaware genuinely want to be collaborative and effective, but don’t know they’re falling short. Whereas the Aware-Don’t-Care unapologetically acknowledge their behavior (“Of course I’m pushy with clients. It’s the only way to make the sale!”), the unaware can’t see how they’re showing up (“That client meeting went well!”).

Helping the unaware

Once you’ve determined someone suffers from a lack of self-awareness, it’s time to honestly assess whether they can be helped. Think about their intentions and whether they’d want to change. Have you seen them ask for a different perspective or welcome critical feedback? This suggests that it’s possible to help them become more self-aware.

But the odds can be steep. Our survey found that although 70% of people with unaware colleagues have tried to help them improve, only 31% were successful or very successful. And among those who decided not to help, only 21% said they regretted their decision. So before you step in, ask yourself:

Am I the right messenger?

The number one reason our survey respondents gave for not helping an unaware person was that they didn’t think they were the right messenger. It’s true that when helping the unaware, providing good, constructive feedback only gets us part of the way. For someone to truly be open to critical feedback, they must trust us — they must fundamentally believe that we have their best interests at heart. When trust is present, the other person will feel more comfortable being vulnerable, a prerequisite to accept one’s unaware behavior.

So think about the relationship you have with your unaware colleague: have you gone out of your way to help or support them in the past? And are you confident they will see your feedback for what it is—a show of support to help them get better—rather than inferring a more nefarious motive? Or, are there others who might be better suited to deliver the feedback than you?

Am I willing to accept the worst-case scenario?

The second most common reason people decide not to help the unaware is that the risk is simply too high. As one of our study participants noted, “I may not be able to help and trying [might] just make them angry.” The consequences of help-gone-awry can range from uncomfortable (tears, the silent treatment, yelling) to career limiting (an employee might quit; a colleague may try to sabotage us; a boss could fire us).

Here, power differentials are a factor. For example, though unaware bosses have an especially detrimental impact on their employees’ job satisfaction, performance, and well-being, confronting one’s boss is inherently riskier because of the positional power she holds. Conversely, the risk is usually lower with peers, and lower still with direct reports (in fact, if you have an unaware employee, it is literally your job to help them). But regardless of their place on the organizational chart, we must be ready to accept the worst-case scenario should it occur.

If you believe you can help, then what’s the best way to do so? There are certainly many helpful resources on providing high-quality feedback, and most apply with the unaware. There are, however, three practices worth underscoring for these individuals.

First, talk to them in person (our research suggests those who provide feedback via email are 33% less successful). Second, instead of bringing up their behavior out of the blue, practice strategic patience. If possible, wait until your colleague expresses feelings of frustration or dissatisfaction that (unbeknownst to them) are being caused by their unawareness. Ask if you can offer an observation in the spirit of their success and wellbeing (using the word “feedback” risks defensiveness). Third, if they agree, focus on their specific, observable behavior and how it’s limiting their success. End the conversation by reaffirming your support and asking how you can help.

What to do if they don’t change

It’s easy to feel hopeless when you can’t help someone who is unaware. The good news is that although we can’t force insight on them, we can minimize their impact on us.

Mindfully reframe their behavior: The popular workplace practice of mindfulness can be an effective tool for dealing with the unaware. Specifically, noticing what we’re feeling in a given moment allows us to reframe the situation and be more resilient.

Here is one tool to notice but not get drawn in to our negative reactions to the unaware. I first came up with the “laugh track” when I had the misfortune of work­ing for an Aware-Don’t-Care boss. One day, after a particularly unpleas­ant encounter, I recalled my favorite TV show growing up, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Mary’s boss was a surly man named Lou Grant. On a good day, Lou was grumpy; on a bad day, he was downright abusive. But because his comments were followed by a canned laugh track, they became surprisingly endearing. I de­cided that the next time my boss said something horrible, I’d imagine a laugh track behind it instead. I was frequently surprised at how much less hurtful (and occasionally hilarious) this tool rendered him.

Find their humanity: As easy as it can be to forget, even the most unaware among us are still human. If we remember this, instead of flying off the handle when they’re behaving badly, we can recognize that, at the core, their unaware behavior is a sign that they are struggling. We can adopt the mindset of compassion without judgment.

Researchers have found that honing our compassion skills helps us remain calm in the face of difficult people and situations. As management professor Hooria Jazaieri points out, “there are [negative] consequences…when we are…thinking bad thoughts about someone” — compassion “allows us to let them go.”

Play the long game: When it comes to dealing with the unaware, one of the most important things to remember is that just because they’re that way now doesn’t mean they won’t change in the future. Unaware behaviors sometimes have to be pointed out multiple times before the feedback begins to stick — or, as one of our research participants noted, “Sometimes they have to bump their head enough times to finally see the light.”

In our research, we’ve studied people who made dramatic, transformational improvements in their self-awareness. Though it takes courage, commitment, and humility, it is indeed possible—and whether or not the people around us choose to improve their self-awareness, we have complete control over the choice to improve ours (find a quick, high-level assessment of your self-awareness here). At the end of the day, perhaps that’s where our energy is best spent.

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How to Take Criticism Well

Posted on by Turning Point Resolutions Inc.

Article originally posted at and written by Sabina Nawaz.

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to run an organization. I was excited about the possibilities ahead of us and the goals we could realize. However, instead of receiving unanimous enthusiasm for what I thought was an exciting vision, some team members found fault with my ideas and judged me personally. They said my agenda was too ambitious and self-serving. Some thought I wasn’t listening to what my constituents wanted.

Even though three-quarters of the team supported my vision, I fixated on the quarter that did not. I knew I was generally well-liked because I spent a large portion of my time and energy on pleasing others. The thought that some people didn’t like me felt like a punch in the gut. I lost sleep, couldn’t concentrate, and lost five pounds in one week (not how I wanted to lose those pounds). I started to consider how I could give in to what the naysayers wanted, even though it wasn’t the right thing for the organization.

Eventually, after a lot of hard work, I figured out how to be resilient when being criticized. This enabled me to stand my ground and take actions that benefited the organization, not just my self-worth. Here are the lessons I learned from that experience:

Be prepared; don’t freeze. Criticism is inevitable, especially if we invite diverse perspectives and boldly lay out a big vision. Unfortunately, our response to the disapproval of others may not be entirely within our control. Feeling “attacked” may trigger an involuntary fight-flight-or-freeze response in the amygdala. We may capitulate, cry, or lash out — actions we’ll probably regret later. We’ll probably also think of the perfect response but only after the fact. Instead of being caught off guard, prepare a list of three to five ways to respond to critics in the moment. Have these responses handy on your phone or a sticky note in case your brain draws a blank. For example, you might paraphrase what you heard to ensure you correctly understood what was said and demonstrate to the other person that you’re listening. Or you could say something like, “This is a new perspective. I appreciate your willingness to share a different point of view. I’d like to give this genuine consideration and get back to you.”

Calibrate; don’t catastrophize. If it’s very important to you that people like you and your ideas, you may be particularly sensitive to any form of censure. But try to keep things in perspective. For example, in a meeting, small gestures from the team such as throat clearing or focusing on a phone during your presentation may be the result of an allergy or distraction not negativity toward your ideas. Instead of jumping to conclusions, ask what’s going on. You might say, “I notice you’re frowning. Is it related to what we’ve been discussing?” If the person expresses a concern, make sure you understand the degree of intensity, importance, or urgency of their disapproval. You might say, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how frustrated are you about this?” or “How important is this to you?”

Accumulate; don’t react. If it’s the first time you’ve heard a certain judgment, become curious about the broader picture. Are you hearing this because this person is the canary in the proverbial coal mine and is the first to say something? Or is this a single instance, best set aside until you hear similar comments from others?

Apply the criticism to your role, not yourself. We often mistake our role for ourselves. We take things personally that are not personal at all; they are a condition of the job we’re in. For example, the head of sales might find fault with the head of products — no matter who occupies that position. Instead of conflating yourself and your role, determine whether the criticism is about you or the issues and tensions your role naturally evokes.

Connect with your personal board of directors; don’t isolate yourself. When we’re reeling from criticism, we tend to withdraw from others. Instead, reach out. Cultivate a diverse group of six to 12 people who are invested in your success and who will tell you the truth. Contact the members of this personal board of directors, share how the negative comments affected you, and seek their perspective and advice.

Take care of yourself; don’t try to push through. If your colleagues’ comments are particularly painful, it might take a psychological and physiological toll. You may find it hard to sleep or eat well. During these times, carve out more time for yourself. Identify two to three small rituals or practices that help renew your energy. It’s important that these actions are fairly simple so that you actually do them. Some examples might be taking a three-minute walk outdoors to get some fresh air, connecting with a friend on your drive home, journaling for five minutes at night, or waking up each morning and thinking about one person you’re grateful for in your life. (Bonus points if you then send that person a note expressing your gratitude.)

After many long walks, I realized that even though I’d spent most of my life trying to be likeable, it was an illusion to believe that I would be universally beloved. To move forward as a successful executive, I had to develop a stomach for criticism — even if it meant a bruised ego. In the end, I talked to the people in my organization and acknowledged their various opinions. Then I clearly stated what the plan would be going forward and told the group that I hoped they would join me in working wholeheartedly toward the goals I had presented. Most of them did. Over time, I increased my resilience by following the steps above. I’ve learned to face the realities and benefits of diverse opinions and to value the parts of myself that others may criticize.

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11 Ways to Deal With a Workplace Cyberbully

Posted on by Turning Point Resolutions Inc.

Article originally posted at and written by Sherri Gordon.

Most people consider cyberbullying a teenage issue, but the workplace is not immune to cyberbullying. In fact, workplace bullies often use cyberbullying to intimidate coworkers and control their environment. As a result, knowing how to respond is essential. While every situation is different, if you know in advance how to handle a workplace cyberbully, you should be able to get through the situation unscathed. Here are 11 ways to handle cyberbullying at work.

Do Not Respond Immediately

When a coworker or a supervisor says something inflammatory, posts something untrue or attacks you online, take a moment to gather your thoughts. No matter how much the words hurt you, do not respond in anger. Instead, take a deep breath and collect yourself. The goal is not to react but to respond in a reasonable manner. Sometimes there is no need to respond. Other times your job requires that you maintain contact with the person.

Keep Your Response Calm and Rational

Although it is usually best to ignore a cyberbully, sometimes work situations require that you respond to an email or other forms of communication. If you can respond in person rather than in writing do that. But do not get into a shouting match. It’s also not a good idea to lash out with angry words and accusations of your own. You do not want the entire office watching an exchange between you and another co-worker.

Tell the Cyberbully You Expect the Behavior to End

Remember, your interpretation of the written word may be different than intended. So be sure to communicate openly and honestly about what you found offensive. Do not resort to threats but instead, calmly indicate that you were offended. Be sure the cyberbully knows that you want the comments to stop. If your co-worker’s behavior doesn’t change and the cyberbullying continues, it’s time to move up the chain of command.

Print and Keep Copies of All the Harassment

Try to save all messages, comments, and posts as evidence. This includes emails, blog posts, social media posts, tweets, text messages and so on. Although your first reaction may be to delete everything, without evidence you have no proof of the cyberbullying.

Report the Cyberbullying to Your Employer

Include a copy of the emails or other correspondence for their files. It is important that you continue to report each incident that occurs. If your employer is unwilling to respond or address the cyberbullying, consider contacting the police to file a report. While they may not be able to do anything legally, having a report on file is important should the bullying escalate.

Report the Cyberbullying to Your Internet Service Provider (ISP)

When cyberbullying occurs on your personal accounts or happens at home, it’s important that you report the incidents. Be sure to forward copies of the cyberbullying to your ISP. If the bullying occurred on a social networking site, be sure to report it to them as well.

Contact the Police Immediately if the Cyberbullying Includes Threats

Threats of death, threats of physical violence or indications of stalking behaviors are against the law and should be reported immediately. You should also report any harassment that continues over an extended period of time as well as any correspondence that includes harassment based on race, religion or disability. The police will address these incidents.

Close the Doors of Communication to the Cyberbully

Cancel current social networking and personal email accounts and open new accounts. If the cyberbullying is happening via cell phone, change your cell number and get an unlisted number. Then, block the cyberbully from your new social networking sites, email accounts, and cell phones. Find out if your company’s email program has a filter that allows only those on your “safe” list to send you emails. And if possible limit your online communication at work too.

Report Anonymous Cyberbullying

Many times, the police can track down who is sending the emails and messages. Remember, you don’t have not have to put up with cyberbullying. Many times, cyberbullying will leave a clear trail of evidence that is reported to the appropriate authorities can go a long way in putting an end to it.

Take the High Road

No matter what the person says or does, try to maintain your composure at work. The goal is to remain calm and rational. If you get upset, post negative things or say something you later regret, this could hurt your position at work. Remember, the cyberbully is hoping to get a reaction out of you. Do not allow this to happen. Be as professional as possible at all times.

Find Support

Cyberbullying is a big issue that shouldn’t be handled alone. Be sure to surround yourself with supportive friends and family. Look for people who can understand what you are going through. Remember, it helps to talk to someone about what you are experiencing. So consider seeking professional help or counseling so that you can heal from the ordeal.


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Home for the Holidays-Tips for overcoming holiday anxiety and stress.

Posted on by Turning Point Resolutions Inc.


Article written by R. Morgan Griffin and originally posted on WebMD.

Controlling Holiday Stress

Experts say that the holidays can make people feel out of control. We feel at the mercy of our relatives or steamrolled by the sheer force of family tradition. But you have a say. The key is to take some control over the holidays, instead of letting them control you.

For instance, you may find the family obligations of the holidays overwhelming. You have to make the rum balls according to your grandmother’s recipe, even though you personally find them inedible. You have to go over to your aunt’s for the holiday dinner, even though she always drinks too much, makes a scene, and freaks out your kids. You have to leave a poinsettia on your grandfather’s grave, even though it’s three hours and two states away. You don’t exactly want to do any of these things. You just have to.

Duckworth encourages people to stop right there. Do you really have to?Related image

“Ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing things that make me miserable?’” Duckworth tells WebMD. “Think about the reasons.” He suggests that you draw up a list of reasons why you engage in these holiday traditions, and then a list of reasons why you shouldn’t. Just making a simple pro and con list will remind you that you do have a choice.

Changing Your Outlook

The next step is to challenge some of your assumptions. If you enjoyed the holidays differently this year, what would happen? What if you didn’t go to your aunt’s for dinner? What if you didn’t bring the poinsettias to your grandfather’s grave?

Your gut feeling might be: Calamity! Disaster! But get past that initial reaction. Think about what would really happen. Maybe your aunt would be annoyed. Is that really such a big deal? Could you make it up to her later with a brunch in February? Instead of trekking to your grandfather’s grave, could you honor him in a different way — lighting a candle or saying a prayer?

The key is to be conscious about what you’re doing. This holiday season, don’t unthinkingly do things the same way just because that’s how you always do them. If the old holiday traditions aren’t working, if they’re not making you happy and causing holiday stress, it’s time to do something different.

Tips for Beating Holiday Stress

Once you’ve taken a clear look at the holidays — about what works and what doesn’t — it’s time to make some changes. Focus on the holiday stresses that you can control. That includes making different plans and changing your responses to situations. Here are four key don’ts for the holidays.

  • Don’t do the same old thing. If the usual family gathering is causing holiday stress, try something else. If you’re too overwhelmed to host, discuss other possibilities with family members. Maybe a sibling could have the dinner this year.
  • Don’t expect miracles. If your holiday anxiety stems from a deeper history of family conflict, don’t expect that you’ll be able to resolve any big underlying issues now. Sure, it’s supposed to be a season of forgiveness and good will. But in the midst of a hectic holiday season, you can’t pin your hopes on leading family members to big emotional breakthroughs. You may be better off focusing on your own state of mind and confronting difficult issues during a less volatile time of year.
  • Don’t overdo it. To reduce holiday stress, you have to pace yourself. Long before the family gatherings actually happen, decide on some limits and stick to them. Stay one or two nights at your parents’ house instead of three or four. Plan to drop by the holiday party for a couple of hours instead of staying all night.
  • Don’t worry about how things should be. “There’s a lot of cultural pressure during the holidays,” says Duckworth. “We tend to compare ourselves with these idealized notions of perfect families and perfect holidays.” But in fact, most people have less than perfect holiday gatherings — they have family tension, melancholy, and dry turkey too. If you have negative feelings, don’t try to deny them. Remember that there’s nothing wrong or shameful or unusual about feeling down during the holidays.
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The Power of Silence

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Article written by Jim Fannin and originally posted on Huffington Post.

Silence is powerful.

It’s between the notes of some of the greatest songs ever recorded. We don’t always notice because multiple tracks of vocals, percussion, string and horns block it out. But silence is there. Without it, the recording would just be noise. Adjust silence and the song changes.

Silence is prevalent within the greatest speeches in the world. The dramatic pause has been mastered by the best orators of our time.

With strategically placed silence,

listening and retention increases 30-40%

Silence is an equalizer in an argument or verbal confrontation. Being silent and calm while the other person yells and screams is liberating. This goes against the grain of the normal reaction of yelling or screaming back.

Silence in a negotiation reigns supreme. Silence refuses to give away your hand. Silence with a confident look commands the room and exudes power.

Silence can produce intimacy. A look, touch or smile with verbal silence as the sidekick can set the tone for an amazing night of romance. Now when you speak, the impact can be immediate.

Go to silence immediately when you are faced with something you don’t like, want or enjoy. This could be anything from financial bad news, a missed 3-footer, a sick relative or a wrecked car. Keep silence with you, until you can remove emotion from your mind.

By being silent you can now read body language better. Approximately 70-80% of what’s communicated is non-verbal. With silence you can hear voice inflections, tonality changes, facial gestures and other body cues. Two ears and one mouth beckon you to listen twice as much as you speak.

Judiciously sprinkle silence throughout your meals and you’ll start eating slower. When dining in relative silence, you will be more prone to putting down your fork between bites. Now you can taste and smell your food. Stop loudly eating and start silently dining. This could help your waistline.

Silence is powerful.

Finding a place of silence is a great refuge for learning, creating, pondering and innovation.
Once a year for 43 years I find this place in Sedona, Arizona. Here…I’m silent and at one with my surroundings. My soul is replenished from my trek to the red rock beauty of this place. In fact, I’m there in one week. Yippee!

If Sedona isn’t on your bucket list (go there at least once) then find a silent room in your home. We have a white room and a Zen garden that both scream…S-I-L-E-N-C-E. I love to silently hang out there!

Set your phone alarm three to four times a day to signal 90-seconds of silence. You can even be silently alone in a crowd. Now the musical notes of your day with soar on a blanket of silence…and the Zone day arrives.

A friend of mine recently contracted laryngitis. He literally could not speak a word without strain and discomfort. Maybe his wife, co-workers and a few friends were happy, but he was not. After three days of verbal silence, he started feeling great. Also, he thought less. By force he understood the power of silence.

What would happen if you didn’t speak for one full day? Sometimes you really need to quiet your mind. With our conscious mind being bombarded from the Internet, TV, radio, co-workers, family and friends, it is no wonder we overthink, overreact and ultimately clutter our mind. This, of course can easily spawn worry, anxiety, fear and other mental maladies.

For 549 straight months, I’ve had a personal, monthly Silence Day. During these waking hours I speak and think the least of any day of the month.

Reduce your thoughts by 30 percent on your personal Silence Day. Speak only if necessary. This will energize you. Text. Email. Nothing more. This extreme measure will work for you. It’s only 12 times per year. Try it!

Non-verbal silence. Verbal silence. Mental silence. Physical silence. Spiritual silence. Romantic silence. Business silence. Sports silence. Less is more.

Commit to the power of silence.


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Why becoming more argumentative will make you smarter

Posted on by Turning Point Resolutions Inc.


Article written by Timandra Harkness and originally posted on BBC.

I’m sure you’ll agree with me if I suggest human beings generally want to avoid conflict.

“Most of the time we’re trying to get on with people,” says professor of conversation analysis at Loughborough University, Liz Stokoe. Even when we disagree, we try to signal that we want to stay on friendly terms, by our words, body language, and even rhythms of speech.

‘Having diversity of ideas means people will disagree’

“We’re trying to make concessions,” says Stokoe. “We’re constantly monitoring our conversations to try and put people in a position where it’s easy for them to agree with us.”

(Credit: Getty Images)

We’re especially inclined to avoid friction at work. Who wants to start a dispute with somebody you have to sit beside, eight hours a day? If your workmate is your boss, there’s even less incentive to dissent. But this may be entirely the wrong approach, according to Amy E. Gallo, author of The Harvard Business Review Guide To Dealing With Conflict At Work.

“Everyone thinks they want to work in this peaceful utopia where everyone gets along,” she says, “but if we don’t disagree, we’re not going to produce good work, it’s just not possible.”

‘Having diversity of ideas means people will disagree.’

“I see organizations all the time talk about wanting diverse perspectives, inclusive work environments,” says Gallo, “and when they stunt disagreements, they’re basically saying, ‘we don’t want to hear different opinions.’ It’s an important way to bring out different perspectives, and to create more successful work.”

In science, for example, new theories are not just tested by experiment, but also challenged by other researchers. Professor Stuart Firestein of Columbia University thinks these challenges are vital – even when he is on the receiving end.

 ‘Organisations talk about wanting diverse perspectives, inclusive work environments, when they stunt disagreements, they’re basically saying, ‘we don’t want to hear different opinions’’

“We have on many occasions in my laboratory submitted a manuscript for publication, and a reviewer has found some significant flaw in it,” he says. “I’m very thankful for that, because I could have gone ahead and published this, and been dead wrong in public. Now it’s just me and this reviewer who knew that I’m an idiot.”

‘You could call science a system for harnessing this testing process.’

“Science is a structure that is intended to permit disagreement,” says Firestein. “I can remember going to meetings with people yelling at each other, but then they’d go to the bar and drink, and that’s the way it’s supposed to work. There’s a relationship of respect in spite of how much you disagree with somebody.”

You may be thinking you’re not thick-skinned enough to endure this culture of perpetual challenge. However deep our commitment to a shared goal, whether that’s more innovative ideas, better problem solving, or the scientific pursuit of truth, nobody likes being wrong.

Let me try to persuade you that disagreement is worth the pain.

First, it tests your ideas against competing ideas. That’s a good thing, says Claire Fox of the Academy of Ideas.

“It’ll either help improve your side of the argument, because you’ll try and engage at the highest level with the best arguments coming from the opposition, so you’ll have to be better at your own argument,” Fox says. “Or, you never know, you might change your mind.”

Second, you can harness your egotistical side, instead of trying to deny it.

“Bias and dogmatism and stubbornness” are fuel for forging better ideas, says author Jonathan Rauch. “You don’t want people to walk into the room not feeling strongly convinced of things. All you want is that they submit their views to checking by other people. Then you harness the energy of their certainty, and their biases, and their disagreements.”

Third, quirks of human thinking that seem like flaws may turn out to be advantages after all. Take confirmation bias, our tendency to look harder for evidence that confirms our existing opinion.

(Credit: Getty Images)

  ‘Disagreement does not have to be unkind. It does not have to be mean. You can do it with empathy, compassion and kindness’

“If you’re on your own, or if you’re only talking with people who agree with you, then it is likely that you will have arguments piling up for your side,” says cognitive scientist Hugo Mercier, “ and that might lead to overconfidence and to polarisation.” With professor Dan Sperber, Mercier wrote The Enigma of Reason. They argue that apparent weaknesses in human reasoning become strengths when we’re arguing against others. We are better at assessing other people’s arguments than our own.

“If you’re in a good faith discussion with people from the other side of the political spectrum,” says Mercier, “they will shoot down your poor arguments, they will give you arguments for the other side, and things should end up working OK.” Argument, according to Mercier and Sperber, is the natural home of human reason.

Alone, we easily fall into lazy thinking and gather arguments to reinforce our assumptions. Only by setting yourself the challenge of convincing others, of finding the weaknesses in their arguments, and letting them seek out the faults in your arguments, can you test out ideas.

That’s why I’m arguing that you owe it to yourself, the people you work with, and society at large, to get into a good argument at least once a day. And by ‘good’, I mean both rigorous and respectful. As Gallo says, “Disagreement does not have to be unkind. It does not have to be mean. You can do it with empathy, compassion and kindness.”

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8 things successful people do when they don’t like someone

Posted on by Turning Point Resolutions Inc.


Article written by Lindsay Dodgson and originally posted on Business Insider Nordic.

Pixabay / Unsplash - CC0

Unless you’re a genetic anomaly, it’s likely you will meet people you don’t like throughout your lifetime. Whether it’s your mother-in-law or one of your colleagues, you’re bound to come across someone you simply don’t click with.

According to Deep Patel, author of the book A Paperboy’s Fable: The 11 Principles of Success, it helps to remember nobody’s perfect. That includes you.

In a blog post for, Patel highlights some tips successful people use to deal with people they don’t get along with. After all, it’s unlikely you’ll simply be able to avoid people you don’t like — in fact, Patel argues if you restrict who you can work with, you are only limiting yourself.

Instead of burying your head in the sand, try and shift your perspective in the ways successful people do. Here are some tips from Patel and other sources such as Psychology Today.

1. Accept that you can’t get on with everyone.

As much as we hope to like everyone we meet, it often simply isn’t the case. Patel says the first step to dealing with the people you don’t click with is accepting nobody gets on with everyone, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, and it doesn’t mean they are either (not necessarily, anyway.)

According to psychologist Dr Susan Krauss in a blog post on Psychology Today, it’s likely that you and the person just aren’t a good fit. Consultant and author Beverly D. Flaxington explains in another blog post on Psychology Today that our behavioural styles can get come between people. Some are dominant, whereas others are timid. Some people are optimists and others consider themselves “realists.”

A research paper by Hamstra et al looked at something called “regulatory fit,” which translates as: we are much more likely to put effort into the things we like doing. Chances are you don’t enjoy interacting with the people you don’t like, and so you don’t put much effort in. Over time, this lack of effort can turn into contempt.

2. Try and put a positive spin on what they are saying.

Krauss says you could try and look at how people are acting differently. Your in-laws might not have meant to imply that you aren’t smart, and your co-worker may not actually be trying to sabotage you.

Even if the person you’re having difficulty with is aggravating you on purpose, getting angry about it will probably just make you look bad. So try and give them the benefit of the doubt.

3. Be aware of your own emotions.

Patel says it’s important to remember your own emotions matter, but ultimately you alone have control over how you react to situations. People will only drive you crazy if you allow them to. So don’t let your anger spin out of control.

If someone is rubbing you the wrong way, recognise those feelings and then let them go without engaging with the person. Sometimes just smiling and nodding will do the trick.

The key, Patel says, is in treating everyone you meet with the same level of respect. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with a person you don’t like or go along with what they say, but you should act civilised and be polite. In doing this, you can remain firm on your issues but not come across like you’re attacking someone personally, which should give you the upper hand.

4. Don’t take it personally and get some space.

More often than not a disagreement is probably a misunderstanding. If not, and you really do fundamentally disagree with someone, then try and see it from their perspective.

Try not to overreact, because they may overreact in return, meaning things escalate quickly and fiercely. Try to rise above it all by focusing on facts, and try to ignore how the other person is reacting, no matter how ridiculous or irrational. Concentrate on the issue, Patel says, not the person.

If you need some space, take it. You’re perfectly within your rights to establish boundaries and decide when you interact with someone. If you feel yourself getting worked up, take a time-out and get some breathing space. President of TalentSmart Dr. Travis Bradberry explains it simply in a post on LinkedIn: if they were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? No, you’d move away and get some fresh air.

5. Express your feelings calmly and consider using a referee.

Usually, the way we communicate is more important than what we actually say. If someone is repeatedly annoying you and it’s leading to bigger problems, Patel says it’s probably time to say something.

However, confrontation doesn’t have to be aggressive. Patel recommends you use “I” statements, such as “I feel annoyed when you do this, so could you please do this instead.”

Being as specific as possible will make it more likely the person will take what you’re saying on board. It will also give them a better opportunity to share their side of the story.

Krauss says it might be a good idea to use another person as a mediator in these discussions because they can bring a level of objectivity to a situation. You may not end up as friends, but you might find out a way to communicate and work together in an effective way. She says learning to work with people you find difficult is a very fulfilling experience, and it could become one more way of showing how well you overcome barriers.

6. Pick your battles.

Sometimes it might just be easier to let things go. Not everything is worth your time and attention. You have to ask yourself whether you really want to engage with the person, or your effort might be better spent just getting on with your work, or whatever else you’re doing.

Patel says the best way to figure this out is weighing up whether the issue is situational. Will it go away in time, or could it get worse? If it’s the latter, it might be better expending energy into sorting it out sooner or later. If it’s just a matter of circumstance, you’ll probably get over it fairly quickly.

7. Don’t be defensive.

If you find someone is constantly belittling you or focusing on your flaws, don’t bite. The worst thing you can do is be defensive. Patel says this will only give them more power. Instead, turn the spotlight on them and start asking them probing questions, such as what in particular their problem is with what you’re doing.

If they start bullying you, call them out on it. If they want you to treat them with respect, they have to earn it by being civil to you, too. Dr Berit Brogaard, a neuroscientist, explains in a blog post on Psychology Today that workplace gossip and bullying can be a method of power play, or a way of bullying others into submission.

If you want to be sneaky to get someone to agree with you, there are psychological tricks you can use. Research suggests you should speak faster when disagreeing with someone so they have less time to process what you’re saying. If you think they might be agreeing with you, then slow down so they have time to take in your message.

8. Ultimately, remember you are in control of your own happiness.

If someone is really getting on your nerves, it can be difficult to see the bigger picture. However, you should never let someone else limit your happiness or success.

If you’re finding their comments are really getting to you, ask yourself why that is. Are you self-conscious about something, or are you anxious about something at work? If so, focus on this instead of listening to other people’s complaints.

You alone have control over your feelings, so stop comparing yourself to anyone else. Instead, remind yourself of all your achievements, and don’t let someone gain power over you just because they momentarily darken your day.

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