Surprise! Good relationships at work do NOT help us feel more satisfied. But they do HELP us feel LESS dissatisfied. Can you see the difference? The absence of unhealthy relationships doesn’t distract us from our main activity at work – our job, it doesn’t drain our energy, it doesn’t demotivate us.
So when we have a good work relationship nothing holds us back to perform well and to enjoy the process. That’s why good relationships at the workplace are one of the essential factors of a productive environment. Still, in many companies, this is considered as somewhat optional.
If you are searching for the person who can improve the work environment, you might want to take a look in the mirror. You will be the first in line to benefit the most from a friendly and supportive environment that you create without waiting for others to do it. The benefits are multiple, from a good mood and higher productivity to greater overall life satisfaction.
So what can you do?
1. CONTACT WITH YOURSELF
Self-awareness is like a dashboard, it tells us what is going on outside and inside of us. Emotions signal us about deep desires, needs, or values that want our attention at this moment.
We are taught mathematics, physics, finances but not taught emotions and feelings. We learn to drive cars, manage organizations, send space ships to other planets, but we do not know how to manage our own emotions. We deal with emotions in our habitual way that we learned in early childhood. Six out of nine Enneagram types suppress their negative emotions using different behavioral strategies. The other three types are more expressive, but people around them wish they were not so expressive, especially type 8, the Boss, as when his/her does, it is like a bombshell. Each of us developed one of the nine strategies in early childhood that helped us get needed resources (love and protection) and avoid pain. The problem is that we still use only this learned strategy, thus becoming its hostage rather than a master.
For example, you feel angry after a conflict with your colleague, who was irrational, uncooperative, and nonconstructive. But you quickly suppress your anger: “It’s wrong to show your anger.” That’s how you are used to dealing with anger. Maybe because when you were a child, parents punished you or at least repelled you for expressing your anger. So you decided to suppress it. By doing it time after time, you formed a habit of automatically contain anger as it arose.
But it takes effort to resist the natural flow of emotions. By not expressing your anger, by “locking” it in your body, you create tension. Anger builds pressure in you, trying to get out. Others somehow feel certain tension. They might not know why. Their self-preservation instinct whispers them that it’s better to stay away from you, or at least be cautious as they sense dangerous tension.
So the habit of suppressing anger doesn’t allow you to be open, authentic, establish a good rapport with others. At least not during those times when you try to stuff your anger.
Mindfulness helps us be in contact with our emotions and needs that stand behind them, recognizing their value, allowing emotions to naturally flow through us without losing energy in an attempt to contain them. By expressing them ecologically as they arise we create the environment for authentic, sincere relationships with others.
2. CONTACT WITH OTHERS
Contact is something that arises from the interaction between the people. Communication is only part of it. Besides being authentic, open for the contact it’s also important to be curious, understanding, and accepting towards your counterpart. When we are too much in our heads, trying to analyze, judge the other, we lose the possibility for bigger traction without which the contact will be superficial and the relationship formal. If we do want to make a better world for ourselves and the others, we should be genuinely attentive and curious about the others as we create unique type of contact with each person. For example, if you are Enneagram type 7, the Enthusiast, you’re cheerful, upbeat, creative, enthusiastic. Your contact with one colleague, for example, type 1, the Perfectionist is very different from the contact with the other colleague, type 4, the Individualist. You probably prefer to be in contact with type 4 the Individualist, expressive, emotional, introspective, moody, only when he or she is in high spirits, appreciating his/her creativity, aesthetic artistic personality, yet avoiding him or her like a plague when he/she is not in the mood.
On the other hand interaction with type 1, the Perfectionist most probably puts pressure on you, as this type might be quite often a bit too serious, strict, judgmental, critical, for a fun-oriented person like you. By being attentive and genuinely interested, we can learn from each other, enriching our lives with new strategies, broadening our skills.
Let me give you an example. One of my clients, let’s call him John, confident, assertive, bossy manager in a large company after learning about Enneagram and discovering, that he is type 8, the Boss, realized that he had the biggest difficulty in interacting with type 9, the Peacemaker, friendly, emphatic, diplomatic people, who can hardly say “No” to anyone as they try to avoid conflicts at all costs, so they choose passive-aggressive behavior by stubbornly procrastinate. This made result- and satisfaction-oriented and somewhat aggressive type 8 crazy, causing his destructive blasts of anger. But if with others it worked with type 9 it was like a storm against the unyielding mountain.
So by observing his unhealthy pattern during the habitual angry interactions with type 9 colleagues, John discovered that behind his strong aspiration for success there was fear of failure and vulnerability. By learning to be in contact with this fear he decreased the tension created by his anger. Besides by understanding that his aggressive behavior caused a defensive stubborn resistance of his type 9 coworkers he realized the futility of his strategy. By understanding their defensive strategy he started looking for more productive and pleasant ways to collaborate with them. His progress was not always linear, sometimes falling into the trap of habitual emotional reactions. Eventually, their teamwork fine-tuned as John would initiate activities, while his type 9 colleagues carried out more routine processes. He succeeded in inspiring them for extra efforts without them feeling overwhelmed. They felt protected rather than pressured. In fact, the relationship with all his colleagues improved as many had been annoyed by the explosive style of his communication. And not only colleagues. This ability to control his anger put a spin on his intimate relationship. After a while, John’s boss appreciated his ability to grow out of unhealthy reactive patterns and promoted him.
A good relationship takes two. You do your part by being in genuine contact with your Self and the others. By doing so you not only reap the benefits of living a more satisfying life but also create a positive ripple effect in your environment.
If you want to share your thought about it, leave your comments below.
If you don’t know what Enneagram is, you can read about it here.
If you want to determine your typical unconscious emotional, mental, and behavioral reactions, book a session with me here.