The 3 R's of positive working relationships: Respect, Rapport, Reflection
Updated: Jul 25
The subject of relationships is always a popular one - either to "squeeze out" unhealthy ones, or create ones that boost us up. Most of you may be familiar with my easiest tip to look at both:
Every night for a week think of 3 people you are grateful to have in your life and identify WHY
Work to live the same values yourself (like attracts like)
Recognise which names come up the most regularly (and which don't)
Seek to spend more time with the people in the first part of 3, and you'll be able to say, quite legitimately, to the others "sorry, I don't have time" - OR if you have to see them, you won't feel as drained, because you've been able to re-energise from the champions in your life.
But there also comes a point where - as lovely as our long standing friends are, we may need to make new ones, because of changes in our lifestyle or workplace. This doesn't mean "neglect the old", but as humans (even if it's just one person to confide in) - we do need others so these are three ways to retro-fit healthy relationships into your life - and notably in the workplace (as we return!):
1. RESPECT is not the same as friendship
Just because you respect someone for something they might do, be or are capable of, it doesn't have to translate into friendships. Similarly, just because you might have a personality clash with someone, doesn't mean you cannot respect them enough to collaborate with them to get a project or task done.
Everyone has the right to dignity and respect as a human being, but we also need to remember, that we still have the power of choice as to how long we need to spend with that person outside any stipulated time.
So try this:
- If you are struggling to find something to "like", focus instead on their contribution or ability.
- If you find someone "difficult" practice empathy* so you can at least understand where they are coming from.
* NOTE: "empathy" is NOT about thinking "what would I do in that situation" but rather seeking to learn why THEY are doing what they do; it isn't just about warmth and forgiveness, it is about understanding and learning.
- Remember, especially when it comes to working together (which is often where respect may need to outweigh enjoyment) - you only need to collaborate until the common goal is achieved.
2. RAPPORT is essential to progress (and again does not need to result in friendship)
Seidman said "In a connected world, individuals and organisations that make the strongest connections win...how we behave and interact is the ultimate differentiator...the qualities once thought of as "soft" [are often]...the hard currency of success."
While I am not advocating that all relationships are to be "a means to an end", I wish to, once again, re-emphasise that you can have collaborators who are (or become) friends, and you might choose to work with your friends - but they can be mutually exclusive. Making a "great team" in one context doesn't mean you have to be a great team in others...as many "show-mances" have found out when the curtains have closed.
But, being able to "get along" often means greater co-operation and greater success (essential because we cannot do everything alone - and even if we could, imagine how much better we could be with two or more people with our dedication, drive, and talents in complimentary fields!?)
In their book "Rapport" interrogators Emily Alison and Laurence Alison set out the four key tenets of building rapport with anyone:
It is also no simple co-incidence that this forms the word "HEAR" because listening (not to speak, pre-judge, problem-solve nor make it about you) is the key to all four points.
So today, try to listen to others - simply to understand why they think, say or act as they are.
3. REFLECTION - Successful relationships are TWO WAY - we contribute ourselves.
Self reflection is an important part of growth in any case. Being self-aware gives us insight into our own actions and behaviours. It is, in fact, the original kernel of psychology - a means to understand and study our own mind and body and (perhaps) be able to form predictions through generalisation and through that affect outcomes.
However, it is notable, that as psychology developed (now spanning to different schools of through to explain behaviour, to measure it, and to predict it) the concept that "...we do not know how things are "in themselves" but only as we experience them" (Collin et al, 2012) - which is the foundation of Gestalt therapy, is - for me - the concept that pervades through any self-development work that I deliver. In the same way that technology is pithily seen as "science made useful"; self-development is the way that I use psychological study to fulfil a function.
Self reflection is a great way to understand, predict or understand ourselves - and use that knowledge to best effect our growth.
Therefore, if an interaction does not go as you might have expected or hoped, consider (as well as the above) your contribution to that outcome. Taking responsibility is not about assuming blame, but identifying any areas in which you have the power to make changes for the future!
...and yes, this does sound like a lot of effort - but perhaps when it comes to any self-improvement, we could perhaps see ourselves in the way we would a useful object in our lives - our car, our phone, our computer. Yes, we can leave it as it is, but isn't it nicer when it is working more smoothly, more efficiently, more easily? If we would put in the effort (time and money often) to make that happen for something to help us, why would we not do the same to simply help ourselves?
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author with a specialty in the "how to take action", rather than just giving explanation and advice. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience.