As the end of the year approaches, many of us find ourselves in an “introspective space”. What did we accomplish this year? What could have gone better? How will we do better next time? While we may look back on our achievements (business or otherwise), it’s also important to take inventory of those personal relationships that define our work and family lives. Yes, hindsight is always 20/20. No, none of us are mind readers. AND, our ability as human beings to incorporate change into our relationship patterns can be a saving grace.
It happens all the time. Methods of relating and communicating between individuals wear patterns into relationships. (Think of the river waters cutting into rock over the passage of time.) It’s easy to become “locked in” to relationship patterns that evolve into action-and-reaction chains. And like chains, our behavior patterns can trap or restrict us from experiencing positive interactions. Being aware of evolving patterns is the key here.
Relationship patterns occur at every level:
- Between parent and child
- Between siblings
- Between spouses
- Between student and teacher
- And most certainly between work colleagues and associates
Not all relationship patterns are negative or unproductive; after all, we count on the positive patterns of our most cherished relationships to sustain us throughout our lives. However, if we are experiencing a less than satisfactory relationship, the first component to analyze is our own behavior and interaction style. After all, our own actions are the only ones we can hope to actually change. (Believing that we can control someone else’s impressions or behavior is a mistake that usually leads to a negative place. Don’t take that road!)
While incorporating change into our own established behavior patterns can be challenging, a proactive approach is usually successful. A good strategy is to start small. Change one thing, do one thing differently.
- If you habitually lock horns with a colleague over budget issues, resolve to find one thing you will be able to compromise on.
- Do you tend to be the extraverted personality in the room? Prepare to ask the opinion of an associate who rarely offers an opinionâ€¦and listen to what they have to say.
- Do you hate meetings? Do you tend to sit through meetings scrolling through your cell phone waiting for the nearest opportunity to bolt? Participate in the next meeting you attend; share an idea or compliment someone else on theirs.
- When was the last time you offered quality time to a younger, less experienced co-worker? Invite one or two of them to lunch and ask them about their jobs.
- How do you share yourself with friends and family? Are you the one who typically reaches out to schedule activities? If not, be that person this week.
- How would you rate your attention span when a younger person is talking about their school dayâ€¦do you find your mind wandering back to things that happened at work? Resolve to focus completely on that child and not think about work.
The small, behavioral shifts we are able to make in our relationships create a domino effect. When we change the way we interact with the people in our lives – they in turn experience us in a different way. As they experience the difference in us, the old pattern is broken and a new relationship pattern is free to develop.
Not all behavior shifts are easy. Sometimes we need to “Fake It until We Make It”. As with any new skill or approach, NEW will feel strange until we become familiar with a different way of relating. The pay off? The opportunity to break the old chains and improve the relationships around us. Give it a try in the New Year. Start by doing one thing differently.
Article provided MKS&H’s Human Capital Management Division.
McLean, Koehler, Sparks & Hammond (MKS&H) is a professional service firm with offices in Hunt Valley and Frederick. MKS&H helps owners and organizational leaders become more successful by advising them regarding their financial, technology and human capital management needs.