Do you know when you’ve crossed the line? Researchers at Washington University have defined four indicators of relationship failure, which they claim can predict a relationship failure with 93 per cent accuracy. Whilst they were working with married couples, emotional intelligence writer Travis Bradberry has translated their findings to professional life, and MBN has summarized the key points.
Criticism of character
You can’t just avoid criticism – giving feedback is an essential part of business life. And of course criticism is obviously better when it’s more constructive. However the real problem arises when you attack the person, not their work, i.e. ‘you are a terrible salesperson’ as opposed to ‘that was a terrible pitch’. If you find yourself tempted to attack people, then don’t give feedback immediately. Write down important points, focusing on one type of behaviour only. Then tone down your language, and deliver your points in a calm atmosphere.
Abuse and contempt
We all pretend that workplaces are generally respectful, but it’s very easy to show contempt – rolling of the eyes, insults veiled by humour as well as direct abuse. As Bradberry notes, contempt can ‘surface unexpectedly’, usually because a relationship has ceased to be interesting or productive. Rather than develop a real dislike for someone, it might be best to try and take the relationship forward.
Defensiveness and avoiding the point
Common examples include denying responsibility, making excuses and meeting one complaint with another. The basic problem is they move you further away from the core points of argument, towards ever pettier disagreements. To avoid going down this route, at least one party needs to start listening to the other. If you’re not able to agree with them, then at least separate their complaint from their wider perspective. For that, Bradbery argues “it’s critical you remain calm”, because your counterpart may not.
Stonewalling and avoiding discussion
Ranging from the silent treatment to emotional distance, this is a type of behaviour ostensibly intended to reduce conflict which only ends up annoying people. Stonewalling therefore makes it very difficult to resolve the original conflict. The obvious answer is discussion, and body language plays an important role here. Lean forward, maintain eye contact and visibly acknowledge the other person’s points, even if you don’t have anything to say in return.
You can read Travis Bradbury’s original article here
There are four types of behaviour that account for almost all falling-outs; here’s how to avoid them.