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"Where Seldom Is Heard A Discouraging Word, And..."

by Rhoberta Shaler, Ph.D

Are you at home on the range? Do you seldom hear a discouraging word at work? That would be the ideal.

Because I did not just crawl out from under a rock, I know that workplaces can be filled with frustration, and frustration breeds discontent.

It's no surprise a recent survey found that, aside from more money or higher position, most folks leave their jobs because of expressed or unexpressed interpersonal conflict. Maybe you have considered moving your little doggie along to a new range for that very reason.

Conflict management, sometimes optimistically called "conflict resolution", is not at the top of most folks skills set.

There is much that can be learned about the five necessary approaches to conflict and the time for each. I write much about that in my recent book, Wrestling Rhinos: Conquering Conflict in the Wilds of Work, now in its 2nd edition. There are things we can do to reduce the likelihood of conflict arising on the cattle drive.

Focus On The Positive

Do a quick self-check:

  • Do I look for faults first?
  • Am I more likely to criticize than praise?
  • Do I move things forward or backward?
  • Where is my focus: what's right or what's wrong?

If there is even a tiny tendency in you to look for what's not working first, you can make a huge shift in your own daily joy by turning that around.

Look for what's working. Notice what you like. Focus on contributions. And, comment only on these things for the next week. You'll feel better.

Ok, you're thinking that your job is to make things work and, therefore, you have to notice what isn't working.

I'm not suggesting you become blind or brain-dead to things that could be improved. You will simply save your entire organization time, energy and likely, money, by turning your focus to what is working.

If you do not want to believe it can be that simple, learn about the process of appreciative inquiry. David Cooperrider, author of the book Appreciative Inquiry, wrote, "Appreciative enquiry is the cooperative search for the best in people, their organizations, and the world around them. It involves systematic discovery of what gives a system 'life' when it is most effective and capable in economic, ecological and human terms."

Are you involved in finding the best in people? Just making that decision can add huge impact to your day. Even the look on your face will change.

Express Your Appreciation

It's not enough to change your focus. You must let people know the good things that you see.

You do not need to gush or become all touchy-feely. Liberal sprinklings of these types of phrases will do:

  • Thank you.
  • I appreciated your input on _________.
  • I like your approach to ___________.
  • Thanks for speaking up on that.
  • When you did ________, it made my job/life/decision easier.

...and, of course, a genuine compliment seldom goes amiss.

Save Energy

Simple facts:

  • When your shoulders are not at your earlobes, you save valuable energy.
  • When you smile rather than frown, you use fewer muscles.
  • When you think or say something positive, you use less energy understanding and being understood. The brain is said to use 48% less energy to understand a positive statement than a negative one.
  • When you stay in the current moment, you use your energy more wisely than dwelling on the past or daydreaming about the future.

So, stay positive, express your appreciate, save energy and be happier at work. It's simple. Give it a try.

Dr. Rhoberta Shaler solves "people problems" at work by making it easier to talk about difficult things. Dr. Shaler speaks to, trains and coaches executives and entrepreneurs worldwide in the communication skills essential to creating powerful conversations that reduce conflict and anger, build trust, and streamline negotiation. The rewards: stronger teams, optimized productivity and increased profits. Author of over a dozen books and audio programs, Dr. Shaler's new book, "Wrestling Rhinos: Conquering Conflict in the Wilds of Work" is receiving rave reviews for "helping people to play nicely in the company sandbox". She is the founder of the Optimize! Institute in Escondido, CA. Visit the Institute's website for information on upcoming teleseminars and programs and to subscribe to Rhoberta's free newsletter.


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