Dissatisfaction in our interpersonal relationships often spills over into our work. Especially when it is with our managers or coworkers.
I remember the first time I was a part of a big sales team my freshman year in college. I dreaded going into work and attending company functions, and avoided awkward encounters with coworkers at all costs. As a new face in the company, and someone quickly climbing the ranks as the Top Manager in Colorado, many of my coworkers had trouble welcoming me. I was constantly being undermined or seen as a threat and found myself in conflict with others.
That summer, everything shifted. The change was so significant that my team went from earning $1M to $6M in a span of just six months. Why? We started focusing on our relationships, welcoming different perspectives and seeing each other as more than just coworkers, but as people, which made executing easy.
Studies show a clear link between strong employee ties and a business’s overall output. As team bonds strengthen, productivity and sales increase—31 to 37% on average, says the Harvard Business Review.
So how do you build stronger relationships with your coworkers?
Meet Sean Wilkinson, John Thompson, and Jordan Myska Allen, the founders of Circling Europe, a company based on the relational practice of circling that has grown in over 20 countries in just the last few years through in-person workshops and online courses that foster deeper presence, self-awareness, and connection. Tens of thousands worldwide practice circling, including many big Silicon Valley tech companies as their secret weapon in working through conflict and building trust.
“The basis of the practice is it’s an interpersonal meditation—trying to make room for whatever’s present in the connection in the moment,” says Thompson.
This week on the Unconventional Life Podcast, Wilkinson, Thompson, and Myska Allen share how you can master the five pillars of circling in order to build rock-solid relationships at work that promote productivity and job satisfaction.
1. Be Committed Through Connection.
While it’s often easier to just disconnect or hit the “eject” button when you’re in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, there is tremendous value in weathering the situation through the discomfort. You’ll find that in your willingness to be with discomfort, you’ll grow more connected to others.
When a situation arises that has you feeling uncomfortable, wanting to leave, or modify it somehow, choose to stay in the situation exactly how it is. For example, if you’re experiencing conflict with a coworker, don’t try to appease the other person. Instead, allow the other person and yourself to feel hurt, frustrated, or whatever is real. Use these emotions as a gateway to grow closer to one another. In feeling, hearing, and witnessing the other person’s authentic expression, you create trust and safety in your relationship. Conflict becomes easier; instead of avoiding it, it becomes welcome terrain and an inquiry for deeper connection.
2. Trust Your Experience.
We live in a world of “shoulds”—how we should act in a given situation, what’s appropriate, and how we should feel. As a result, we often feel conflicted when how we actually feel isn’t how we think we’re supposed to.
Wilkinson, Thompson, and Myska Allen recommend letting go completely of the notion of “should,” as it often prevents your real emotions from being expressed or having permission to be there. Instead, trust that what you’re feeling is exactly what you’re supposed to be feeling. Allow yourself to express authentically and you will allow others to connect to you more intimately. For those that keep trusting a whole new world of intuition and flow is possible.
3. Be With The Other Person In Their World.
Psychology tells us that empathy and understanding build bridges between ourselves and others. In imagining yourself in the other person’s shoes, you acknowledge their experience and demonstrate care for them.
Pay attention to your coworkers’ expressions, gestures, and body language when you interact with them. In noticing the subtleties of their expression, you will become more attuned to them, enhancing nonverbal communication and promoting relational closeness. With guidance and practice this can become like an adventure in what it is to be human in connection with others.
4. Own Your Experience.
Take responsibility for your emotions and in the same way, hold others responsible for their emotions. Recognize that you can’t “make” anyone else feel a certain way, but rather how they feel is a choice. The more you can take responsibility for what you are feeling and name it in it’s most accurate form without blaming others the more powerful your communication will be .
Oftentimes we hold back from sharing the truth of how we feel with others because we don’t want to cause them pain or we want to avoid conflict. But withholding things denies you both the opportunity of genuine connection. In a work environment, feeling unable to share everything with your team members contributes to distance, lack of cohesion, and ultimately a team that is less effective. Commit to being honest with your coworkers and create an environment where everyone feels safe to speak up, especially when it’s hard. Cultivate the art of being both honest and sensitive by sharing your truth in a way that is respectful and considerate.
5. Stay At The Level of Sensation.
Wilkinson, Thompson, and Myska Allen say the gold standard for communication occurs at the level of the body. Focus on how you feel. Ask yourself, what is going on in my body in this moment?
If you feel tightness in your chest when you’re interacting with someone, use that as a cue that there may be more to explore with the other person. Be honest about your experience, and invite the other person into your world. In staying in your body, you’ll remain connected to your emotions and be able to experience the flourishing of your relationships on a visceral level. This is then a gateway to a more rich experience of yourself, others and the world.
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