When silence has become unhealthy, we need ways to hear each other again...
We all know the uncomfortable sensation of unspoken words that causes heaviness. Why do so many teams lack the courage to address sensitive interpersonal issues? A common cause of the heavy silence is the fear of hurting the other person. It must be admitted, that there is a strong risk to cause pain and even end up in discord when addressing tensions without knowing how to do it in a constructive way.
Professional ways to deal with tensions in teams
In addition to your operational and strategic meetings, you need a separate meeting type dedicated ONLY to your interpersonal issues. It is up to you to figure out at what intervals this makes sense for your team. In any case, you need the competence to moderate delicate (relationship) topics. If you don't have a super leader at hand who can do this, you can find out which of your team has fun and talent to take over. Maybe there are several of you. They can then take turns playing a ROLE in the team, calling and facilitating meetings on relationship issues. Maybe it makes sense to invest in the development of moderation skills. You can also hire an Expert to moderate interpersonal topics. The important thing is that dealing with interpersonal tensions becomes a natural part of your working life.
Tension between two of you
There are tensions that only concern two people, and cannot be solved among the team. That doesn't mean you have to hire a mediator. You can probably do it all on your own, but it's important to "break" with your usual way of addressing emotional issues. There is a high risk that one gets drawn into a pattern of reaction striving to be "right". Usually one wants to get all the problems off the table immediately. Instead of a satisfying solution we get caught in accusations and justifications.
Winners produce losers
To ensure that no one of your team is the looser, you must overcome the urge for a quick fix on interpersonal issues. With a clear strategy and the discipline to stick to it, there can be ONE winner only: Your "WE”. This requires its own way of listening.
Ways of listening
Ways of listening are first of all one thing: unfamiliar! We are trained to show all kinds of reactions if someone talks to us. Engaging in a dialogue, we become immediately busy reacting and sharing our views. Following a proper way of listening we break these dynamics. One person SHARES their subjective perception, the other person mirrors just what she/he HEARD. The question "Did I hear you?" and the assurance "Yes, you heard me!" is emotionally touching and creates connection.
Thus, at a time when there is not yet an agreement at the table, the tension may already have been released. The emotional basis for a sustainable, joint solution has been created.
This means that the tension may already have been resolved before having found a solution. But emotionally there is a common ground for finding agreements that fit all.
If you decide to these dialogues to become a permanent permanent part of your team routine, differences and diversities will be a valuable part of your team power. Because strong teams are diverse and not homogeneous. It is helpful to be able to not only understand but even use these differences to develop your strengths. How does this work? We will deal with this in the next article: "Work Life begins at the end of toxic homogeneity".
Mag. Reingard Winter-Hager