The keynote speaker at Symposium 2009 in San Antonio will be Robert Pennington, Ph.D. Dr. Pennington is an expert in leadership and cooperation in organizations. The following is the first in a series of articles prior to the Symposium.
Getting the Cooperation You Need to Succeed
By Robert Pennington & Stephen Haslam
This article series addresses the challenges of understanding and accepting differences between individuals and gaining cooperation from other divisions in their own organizations. It was written by Robert Pennington and Stephen Haslam partners with Resource International, and includes links to additional materials that can be useful to anyone who must depend on cooperation from others to succeed at their job.
The first segment explores why we take things personally when other people do things that get on our nerves, and why this habitual reaction can actually make getting the cooperation of others more difficult.
Why We Take Things Personally
Most people were raised in families in which, whenever there was disagreement, they did not end up closer; instead, they ended up further apart. So most people had to develop unconscious, automatic defense mechanisms to avoid potentially painful disagreements and conflicts. As we all know, for some people the best defense is a good offense.
We learned to react to most differences or conflicts with discomfort and judgment:
1. We feel uncomfortable when people don’t do what we want.
2. We make an instant negative judgment about their behavior, and also about their motives.
3. We take it personally!
4. We react unconsciously and automatically in ways that usually make them uncomfortable.
Whenever you ask people to do things that are outside of their normal way of doing things or go against what’s familiar to them, you are asking them to make a change. Unfortunately, most people resist change. So it is likely they will feel some level of discomfort with what you want them to do, even if it would be helpful to you and in their own best interest. They will tend to make a negative judgment about you and about your motives. As described previously, they will take your request personally and think, "You don’t understand how difficult/challenging/wrong the change you are asking is." They will react unconsciously in ways that will make you even more uncomfortable.
Cycle of Conflicts
As a result, both of you can become stuck in a Cycle of Conflict. Their negative judgments about you and your request (Thoughts) influence how uncomfortable they feel (Emotions) which affects how they communicate (Behavior) back to you. This in turn sends a corresponding wave through you causing you to behave in ways that can actually reinforce their defensiveness. But there is another way for you to respond. You could learn to recognize that their response is not personal - it’s just difficult.
Take time right now to listen online to a 10-minute video of a ‘real life’ example described by Rob Pennington that follows this cycle of conflict and provides additional insights into habits that sabotage success.
Think about one of these people who gets on your nerves or doesn’t do what you want. Think about some of the habits they have. Isn’t it true that they would be the way they are, whether you were there or not? So, it’s not personal. They are not "doing this to you," they are just being themselves.
But even though it isn’t personal, it can still be difficult. We all have to learn how to handle differences better. One way is to realize that other people’s behavior always tells you more about them than it does about you. It’s not personal even when they mean it to be.
Could It All Just Be A Misunderstanding?
When we take another person’s behavior personally we are misunderstanding what is really happening. We believe the other person is being this way just to make our job difficult, or to get on our nerves. But upon reflection it becomes obvious that the other person will be the way they are whether we are there or not. It was a misunderstanding on our part to take it personally. Given that, what other misunderstandings might be happening?
Consider this question: What percentage of all the disagreements and conflicts that we experience do you think might be caused by misunderstandings? There is no statistically correct answer. Just get a number in mind for what you believe is true.
Now, focus only on that group of disagreements that are actually caused by misunderstandings, whatever percentage you have decided that it is. Ask yourself, "What percentage of those are caused because I misunderstand?" What number comes to mind this time? For most people it’s a much lower number!
In your better moments you may think you have some responsibility for the misunderstanding. But in the moment of the disagreement or argument, what do you believe about your position? What do you always believe about your point of view in every argument? That it’s right, right?
And when you know you’re right, if they disagree with you what do you know about their point of view? They’re wrong, of course!
When you know you are right, and you know they are wrong, what is your job? Isn’t it to point out just how wrong they are? Just trying to be helpful!
When you know you are right and you do point out that they are wrong, what percentage of the time are they grateful? Zero! But what percentage of the time do you do it? 100%! Hmmm. There’s something irrational about this. This is because we tend to take their disagreement personally, so we act unconsciously and automatically, and that only makes things worse. Fortunately there are better ways.
If all this sounds familiar and these approaches make sense, then consider contacting Rob and Stephen to discuss how they could help your organization. Contact them at 713-305-5117 or get more information on their web site at: www.resource-i.com