Taking Down Fences

Have you ever tried to introduce a new initiative only to be met by groans and rolling eyes, instead of the excitement and motivation that you were hoping for? It can be a discouraging thing when you are passionate about improvement, and you are surrounded by people who are lazy naysayers who either actively undermine your efforts, or sit back and wait for you to fail so that they can say “I told you so!”

But are these folks really the terrible people that we think they are?

The second side of the Restitution Triangle tells us to validate the need that is behind people’s behaviour. People don’t do things for no reason – and when we understand the reasons, more effective solutions appear. Instead of simply telling a child to “stop” when they hit another child, we are much more effective when we understand that the child hit because he wanted his friend to listen to him, and we ask “Is what you did to make him listen working? Is there a way you could get your ideas heard and still be a kind person?”

And yet, when it comes to dealing with colleagues, instead of seeking the need that is behind their behaviour, we tend to label their behaviour as lazy, unmotivated or unintelligent.

If we apply the same thinking to our colleagues’ behaviour as we do to our kids’ behaviour, we will find that there is purpose in their reticence to new initiatives. I know that I’ve been caught before when I’ve plowed ahead with a new idea, only to find out that I’ve dismantled something without realizing the impact my actions have had.

dont take down the fence

Perhaps instead of seeing our colleagues as difficult, we should seek to understand their hesitancy. If we respect that they might have a perspective that can inform us, we can make more effective changes without the unintended consequences that can occur when we only consider one viewpoint. Similar to the way we can help that child find a way to meet competing needs, perhaps there is a way to say “How can we find a way to address your concerns, and still move forward and make things better?”

Perhaps those people who annoy you so much are your most valuable resource.


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