Connect with your colleagues on a compassionate level, even if you don’t see eye to eye

colleagues connecting with each other
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There are often people that we don’t see eye to eye with, sometimes you don’t know why but you just don’t like them.

Working with them is frustrating, having to see them each day is a challenge, everything about them is annoying and even their voice grates at you; sound familiar?

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we all liked each other and got on? Given that there are just over 7 billion people on the planet, it is impossible for us to like everyone we meet and for everyone to like us. We all have different values, beliefs and widely different perspectives of what is acceptable. All of our differences are bound to create some kind of disagreements.

The majority of us spend more time at work with colleagues than the people we love and care about. If you work with people you don’t like and would never invite to a dinner party or go for a coffee with, how do you begin to connect to those colleagues on a compassionate level?

Gaining new insights

Having a different opinion and viewpoint from colleagues can actually be a good thing. The outcome of a difference of opinion is frequently conflict and confrontation, which can help you see a different perspective, if we are willing to loosen the grip on our own points of view and become the observer. This ‘enlightened’ way of seeing differences in opinion and viewpoints leads us to new insights.

You do not have to agree with the insights, you can agree to disagree.

Easing the tension

When we don’t like someone our own response to another persons frustrating or irritating behaviour is something we have full control over. It is not uncommon for people who don’t like one another to respond habitually, from our inbuilt fight or flight mechanism. The issue with triggering our fight or flight response regularly is that we end up increasing the level of cortisol in our blood and are consequently left feeling stressed.

Changing the way that you respond is helpful for both parties as you will ease your own stress as well as the built up tension between you and your colleague, this having a positive impact on the wider team.

An easy exercise to try is perceptual positioning. It allows us to become the observer of our own reactions and changes that happen in our own body as we speak to this person (for example does your breathing change when you speak to them? Does your posture change when you interact with this person you dislike, as opposed to someone you like?). This gives you the space to assess exactly what you can do to ease the tension next time you interact with this person. You will be surprised by how altering your tone or posture and relaxing into yourself when speaking with someone you dislike, can lead to a far less stressful outcome for all.

Be respectful

You may dislike one or several of your colleagues that have a different view point to you, but this is not an excuse to behave poorly towards them. Being rude or curt with someone is disrespectful.

When we learn to see the other as a human, with all the complexities and baggage that come along with that, it allows us to be civil and be more empathetic.

Communicate what annoys you in a way that can be clearly understood

We don’t often give people who we dislike the chance to even explain their behaviour because we use blaming language when we speak with them. Shaming someone is not the best way to get a good outcome, using language that is along the lines of, ‘you did XYZ so therefore I’s your fault’ or ‘He said….’,’ She said…’ will only give you a poor outcome. When we learn to express ourselves well and really communicate how we feel without the targeting blame, it gives people a chance to explain their behaviour or become more aware of their actions.

I had a habit of interrupting others mid sentence and I’d take control of finishing the story. It was because I got really excited and enthusiastic about it all and not because I didn’t value or like the way the other person was relaying the story. I didn’t know that I had a habit of doing this until someone very gently and kindly pointed out to me that they felt I was being disrespectful by interrupting. It was a light bulb moment for me; I didn’t intend for them to feel that way and it allowed me to be mindful of my actions in other interactions.

No-one’s perfect, not even you are perfect and there will be people who dislike you too. It takes a lot of perseverance to connect to people you dislike in this way. The effort is worth it, connecting to your human-ness and get comfortable with your vulnerabilities. It is a human-ness beyond what we link to our identity of your position or seniority within an organisation, academic, financial or social background. Connecting compassionately eases any unnecessary additional tension and stress.

About the Author:

Kavitha Chahel is the founder and MD of Compassionism Ltd, a leadership coaching and training company focusing on helping business leaders create profitable businesses through highly engaged teams and by getting comfortable with their fear and vulnerability to connect with their compassion.

She is an experienced business coach and company director. For nearly 20 years she has worked in business development, marketing, business leadership and strategy across the corporate, public and charitable sectors. She is also a non-executive director of Asha Projects, a charity that provides safe housing to women and children fleeing domestic violence. She has worked with clients across EMEA, the Americas and APAC. Recently Kavitha published her new book ‘Compassionism’ which you can find here:

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