Q. I’ve been doing training in communications for two years. I’m noticing most of my co-workers think communication is where one person complains, the other person offers sympathy, and then they switch roles.
Q. I’ve been doing training in communications for two years. I’m noticing most of my co-workers think communication is where one person complains, the other person offers sympathy, and then they switch roles. When I ask questions about my co-workers’ contribution to a problem or ask them what they plan to do, they just get mad. Isn’t communication about finding solutions?
A. No, some people would rather believe they are “victims of a cruel world” than notice they have any responsibility for their problems.
You’re correctly observing that many people believe listening to each other’s tales of woe and expressing pity is an effective relationship. You’re also correct that many people’s conversation is limited to expressing distress and receiving sympathy or listening to distress and expressing sympathy.
I find people who have done extensive therapy, effective coaching or communication training are uninterested in pity but highly interested in empathy. Because you’re experiencing empathy for your co-workers you’d like to assist them in changing their painful circumstances.
There are two problems with your current approach.
1. You haven’t realized that in order to fix a problem, we have to be willing to acknowledge the ways in which we’re contributing. Most people get confused between responsibility and blame.
If your co-workers see the ways they are part of the problem, they now have the power to make a solution more likely. But, along with this power comes the uncomfortable awareness of any mistakes they’re making. It’s often easier and more comfortable to feel like a victim than to notice anything we’re doing or saying that perpetuates our pain.
2. You haven’t asked whether your co-workers would like to move out of victimization and into accountability and action. Something like, “Fred, you said you wanted that promotion but that your boss was unfair. Did you want to talk about how you might position yourself better or do you believe it’s hopeless?”
We all feel like victims when we’re frustrated, and our anger can be gas in our career tank to do something new. However, if someone you work with has no interest in accountability or action after they vent, your encouragement and wise words are wasted.
Sometimes the best teacher in life and work is suffering until we’re finally willing to take a good long look at our best friend or enemy - ourselves!
Q. I just interviewed for a new job, fell immediately in love with the position and know it’s the right job for me. Should I give my notice now?
A. No, falling in love at first sight in or out of the workplace is inherently hazardous to your future. Wait until you get more information and an offer.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D. speaker, executive coach, trainer and psychotherapist can be reached at 1420 NW Gilman Blvd, #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027 by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at www.interpersonaledge.com.
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