This is not an article about the work place. But, think about the worst work environment you have experienced and what you learned from surviving it. That will be your point of reference for what follows.
Most people in America (roughly half) are working for someone they don’t respect or who is causing them undue emotional stress. Toxic bosses are described as those agents in the organization that hinder progress for the company and cause undue stress to their employees.
Travis Bradberry, an expert on emotional intelligence, describes toxic bosses as making up about 60% of bosses in government positions. Their hallmarks include being self centered, demanding, impulsive and interruptive. These folks are not easy to get along with. On his site, Bradberry goes into detail about 6 tropes for the toxic boss and how to address them.
Most of us work for or with someone who is causing us emotional stress because they work counterproductive to our goals. And yet, not everyone quits their job. This is often out of necessity and convenience. Leaving a toxic boss or a frustrating group of colleagues is not always an option. We have to deal with the hand we are dealt, and preserve our mental well being. That is our responsibility. And if we are fortunate, circumstances change, we find a new boss, or a new job presents itself and we move on.
But sometimes, we stay and adapt for longer stretches and learn how to “disagree agreeably” and find common ground with people we find disagreeable. And research shows us that workplaces with diverse perspectives and ideas have a competitive advantage over those who do not. Disagreeing with how things are going is not just good, its advantageous for the bottom line and attracts top talent. So “getting along” is not just good for your sanity, it’s good for business.
Stressors at home
Now, for the real life application:
In the recent political climate, many of us have found that we are in social situations that we would rather not be in. We find ourselves confronted with uncomfortable, if not disagreeable perspectives at the dinner table, at the doctor’s office, and frequently in online forums. Just like that job that you have to put up with (that makes you and the company stronger, more empathetic, and resilient), you can use those stressful social situations to make you a better person. If you can find common ground and move forward in your professional life, you can disagree agreeably in your personal life too.
- Delete people from your social media circles
- Stop hanging around those who think differently than you
- Invalidate or dismiss opposing perspectives
Question: What does the successful, and emotionally resilient person do in these situations? Answer: Play the hand you are dealt. Address your suspicions of counter-productivity with active listening and authentic dialogue.
- Work on your active listening skills
Dale Carnegie’s Secrets of Success (The Golden Book) is a quick list of mental challenges for building your people skills. You can download the Golden Book, and find out more about Dale Carnegie workshops and coaching from their website and learning centers. This is the Clifs Notes version:
- Don’t argue.
- Listen more.
- Be friendly.
- Have respect.
- Honestly try to see someone else’s perspective.
- Be noble.
- Be vivid.
- Be bold.
- Whatever you do, don’t quit.
Works well with others, plays well with others
You’ll notice the exercises above are a short list of how to be an active and respectful listener. Just pretend that every person that you disagree with is a challenging boss or disagreeable co worker. What tone would you adopt? How many questions would you ask? What solutions or compromises would you offer? If you can take with you the same diplomacy you would exercise at work into your social interactions outside of work, you may find yourself understanding more, stressing less, and ultimately becoming a more attractive person to be around. And that’s good for you at work and in life.