written by: Andrea Campbell•edited by: Ginny Edwards•updated: 5/14/2011
While we may like our job, we don’t have input into who we work with, what colleagues we share a project with or how to change a poor methodology that makes customers angry. The only thing we can control is how we react to tense situations and what we can do to move from anxiety to feeling better.
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The Reality of Relationships
The wear and tear of today’s business climate can be mildly enervating to downright debilitating and much work stress has to do with the more than usual, in-your-face conflict people face. Whether that stress comes from customers and clients, or coworkers in the office, tuning up your relationship skills with others will go a long way for stress relief. It will be your interpersonal skills and the ability to diffuse tense situations that will propel you into success. People want to align themselves with someone who is successful and your ability to ease tension and relate to others is key for not only career advancement, but for stress management that will help to keep you sane and productive.
The following are some tips for easing tensions at work that you may have not thought of.
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Be a Face Reader
According to Daniel Goleman, author of the book Emotional Intelligence, people who can effectively read and interpret nonverbal communication and manage how others perceive them, will enjoy greater success in life than individuals who lack this skill. Take some time to watch and understand the signals that people put out to you, rather than just feed on your own thoughts.
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Be a Student of Collaboration
Try to really understand how to engage your coworkers or employees in positive interactions. Don’t accept negativity or let it creep into the system. The “win-win" philosophy may sound trite but it became a popular truism for a reason. Look for ways to collaborate where everyone will have some part of coming out ahead.
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Be an Enabler
People need to feel important and know that what they do has value. Giving individuals a chance to share in the responsibility helps to keep them engaged and adds building blocks to self-worth.
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Be a Listener
Try not to meet confrontation with more tension. Sometimes people butt heads for the stupidest of reasons. Understand that daily successful interaction is best won by someone who is supportive and has style and charm enough to disarm hostility and does not abandon a colleague regardless who is right or wrong. The watchword here is diplomacy.
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Spend some time studying human behavior, listening to self-development tapes, taking a stress management questionnaire, or enrolling in a course in business and human resources management. Not only will it validate what you know but will teach you more skills for dealing with pressure.
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People have idiosyncrasies. No one likes the manager who takes the high road, and makes everyone feel like he’s better than them. Value diversity and welcome ideas from other cultures and races. Being accepting of others not only teaches patience, but signals to coworkers that you have respect for all ideas.
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Take a few minutes to learn something personal about everyone you meet. This helps to bridge conversations, gives you a touchstone for universal feelings and makes you someone people can relate to—a plus with subordinates for sure.
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Sometimes honesty can be delivered with humor. Other times the only way out is to skirt the issue by being civil, moving out quickly or refusing to share gossip or entertain other hostilities.
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Managers often need to remind workers about the expectations and boundaries of a project, strategy or assignment. By clarifying in a memo or email what’s required, you not only reiterate the task, but help to lessen anxiety over a procedure or even serve as a reminder for someone who is having trouble focusing. Then remember to follow up the finished project with kudos or “thanks for a job well done."
A combination of these stress management techniques, coupled with new skills in interpersonal relationships should go a long way to helping to handle and diffuse tense work situations no matter the cause and help to provide you with stress relief as well.
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Reference & Resource
Beck, Sam Leonard. “Working with Difficult Colleagues" http://www.r-e-a.com/docs/WorkingwithDifficultColleagues.pdf