Discover how to communicate clearly and build lasting relationships.

team recognition

Most of us have struggled at some point with understanding and connecting with people who are very different from us.  Team orientation versus individual advantage is one area in which that can be particularly difficult.   Those who are very focused on team success might be uncomfortable around someone who asks, “What do I have to do to get promoted?” or “When should I expect my next raise?”  Such questions could trigger a judgmental thought like, “Don’t they care about the team?”

Both And

It can be helpful to recognize that these individuals may be asking for more feedback.  They can care about the team and be motivated by knowing how they contributed to the team’s success.  For these people, the team leader needs to provide individual as well as team recognition – both “me” and “we”.

Me First

A personality assessment like Birkman is a great tool for helping us be aware of our own needs and triggers, so we can stay out of judgment and focus on helping team members get what they need.

You’ve tried to explain your point of view and the other person just won’t listen.  You know you’re right so why should you waste time asking what they think?  If this isn’t you, you have probably experienced a communication breakdown with someone who takes this approach.

Do Your Homework

The first step in resolving a communication breakdown is taking time to reflect.  While this might make some people uncomfortable, feelings are involved.  The Gottman Institute recommends considering the following:

  • Feelings: Examine how you felt
  • Realities: Explore your perceptions, what you saw and heard and what you needed
  • Triggers: Identify previous experiences that might have escalated your reaction and why
  • Responsibility: Acknowledge your own role in the communication breakdown

Move Forward

When you’ve completed your homework, try utilizing The Imago Dialogue format to move the conversation in a new direction with these tools:

  1. Mirroring what you heard
  2. Validating the other person’s perspective even though you may not agree with it
  3. Empathizing with their feelings


Be an MVP

You can be a Most Valuable Partner if you practice MVE (Mirroring, Validating and Empathizing) using this script:

  • Agree on a good time to talk
  • Mirror: “What I heard you say is…Do I have that right?”
  • Other person says “Yes” or corrects your statement
  • Validate: “That makes sense”
  • Empathize: “I can imagine you might be feeling…” This List of Emotions can help.
  • Other person says “Yes” and/or shares other feelings – none are right or wrong
  • Ask the other person whether they are ready to practice MVE or agree on another time in the next 24 hours

As with anything new, this approach takes practice.  You’ll know you’re getting better when your goal is to understand the other person’s perspective – not to defend your position – and when both parties feel heard.

I’ve always struggled with disappointment from unmet expectations.  I’m still on the journey of learning to accept things I can’t change because I’m hardwired to make things better.  Since I can’t control all the variables that affect my expectations of what  “better” looks like, should I give up hoping for it?

The Difference between Hope and Expectation

Hope is a positive feeling that originates within. It is related to a desire that something might happen.  Expectation is a similar desire but primarily depends on others to be fulfilled.  An example would be hoping someone will attend your party versus expecting her to come and then being upset when she doesn’t.

How to Avoid Disappointment

In her newest book Atlas of the Heart, Brené Brown identifies a way to reduce disappointment while remaining hopeful:  examining and expressing our expectations.  When we share the movie playing in our heads about how we want something to go, people have a better chance of meeting our expectations.

I invite you to examine your expectations and share them with others.  Then let go of those expectations and hold onto hope.  As my coach Grace Durfee suggests, “Leave room for something better to happen by not getting too fixed on your desired outcome.”

Asian businessman and young female executive bowing

Whatever your generation, you probably know Aretha Franklin’s famous lyric, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  Find out what it means to me.”

The topic of respect often comes up in my work with teams when we discuss what each person needs to be most productive.  Although everyone agrees conceptually that respect is important, it is essential to find out the specifics.

Why and How

As this Indeed article highlights, respect reduces stress, increases productivity and collaboration, improves employee satisfaction, and creates a fair environment.  Indeed lists these general ways to show respect:

  1. Listen to what everyone has to say
  2. Pay attention to nonverbal communication
  3. Practice transparency
  4. Recognize the strengths and accomplishments of others
  5. Value the time and workloads of others
  6. Delegate meaningful work
  7. Practice common courtesy and politeness
  8. Prevent bias (even implicit bias)
  9. Include everyone in meetings, discussions and celebrations
  10. Consider how others view you and your actions
  11. Help your peers

Customize to Maximize Impact

In addition to the general ways of showing respect, Brené Brown recommends the “paint done” approach:  ask someone to describe what their desired outcome looks, sounds and feels like.  For some people, respect looks like eye contact, sounds like being heard and feels like their perspective matters.  For others, it looks like giving them space, sounds like silence until they are ready to talk and feels like they aren’t being pressured.

How would you describe what respect means to you?

Every single one of my clients has struggled with a difficult relationship – personal, professional or both.  Do you know anyone who hasn’t?  Sometimes we give up because nothing seems to work.  And then…we come back to a place where we decide it’s worth trying again because the relationship is too important.  What can we change in ourselves to achieve a better outcome?

How You Can Reconcile Differences

These steps are essential to reconciling differences and moving forward:

  1. Be clear — about what you want and what you’re willing to do
  2. Be aware — of the boundaries you need to define so you both feel safe
  3. Be brave — make the first move
  4. Be honest — acknowledge your part of what isn’t working
  5. Be open — listen without judgement
  6. Be accountable – do what you say you’ll do
  7. Be imperfect – apologize when you fail and keep trying

Do Your Homework First

Any attempt at reconciliation has a better chance of success if you first spend some time reflecting on each  step.  Picture a flight attendant demonstrating the importance of putting your oxygen mask on before trying to assist someone else.  You’re ready when you can let go of your expectations and the need to be right.  Contact to find out how coaching can support you in this process.

In 2015, Archbishop Desmond Tutu traveled to the Dalai Lama’s home in Dharamsala, India to celebrate His Holiness’s 80th birthday and share perspectives on finding joy in the midst of suffering.  The Book of Joy chronicles their conversations and their agreement that our greatest joy comes from doing good for others.

Taking the Focus Off Ourselves

The Dalai Lama pointed out that we cannot survive without other people so we must build trust by showing genuine concern for their well-being.  Research suggests that cultivating joy by taking the focus off our own suffering helps us to be available to others.  In a wonderful circle, the more we turn toward others, the more joy we experience, and the more joy we can bring to others.

Meaningful Ways to Do Good

We are individually and collectively experiencing suffering beyond what most of us could ever have imagined.  I am challenging myself and you to find more meaningful ways to do good, consider the other person’s perspective when we’re feeling sorry for ourselves, and spread joy.  That might be speaking up as an ally for someone who is treated unfairly or listening without judgement to understand opinions different from our own.

As Archbishop Tutu said, “We grow in kindness when our kindness is tested.”