Five Questions for Testing Relationship Barriers

It’s not usually our own business expertise that keeps us from career success.  More often than not what hinders our success are relationship barriers.  And some of those barriers may be of our own creation.We live in a world of our own created beliefs, beliefs which are largely untested.  We adopt those beliefs because they are based on conclusions which we’ve created from what we observe, plus our past experiences.  What keeps us from the results and achievements we truly desire is limited by our feelings that:  Our beliefs are the real truth.The truth is obvious.Our beliefs are based on facts.The facts we choose are the real facts.For example, I’m standing in front of a project team, trying to get everyone’s insight and buy-in for an important issue.  The team members are all involved, except for Mark.  Mark, at the other end of the table seems bored out of his mind.  He turns his eyes away from me and puts his hand over his mouth.  When I’m almost done with some ideas, he breaks in and says, “I think we should ask for a full report.”  In this organization, that typically means, “Let’s move on.”  My teammates start shuffling their papers, and putting their notes away.  Mark obviously thinks I’m incompetent, which is a shame because my ideas are exactly what the team needs.  Obviously, Mark is a power-hungry Jerk.  In no time, I made a number of decisions.  I’m not going to include Mark in my team any longer.  I’m not going to add anything to the team decision that will benefit Mark.  It’s frustrating that I’ve got an enemy in this guy.In those few seconds, I’ve created a barrier.  It all seems so reasonable and it happens so quickly that I’m not even aware that I’ve done it.  Furthermore, all this took place in my head.  Mark might have been useful to my team, but since I’ve decided who he really is, I’ll be asking for very little from him.  I’ve created my own opinion of who he is, and it’ll take an awful lot to dislodge that opinion.I’ve made up a story about Mark, and created a mental model that will determine my future behaviors around him.  If you read between the lines, all of those conclusions about Mark were mine, and no one else’s.  I’ve got a lot of emotion going.  No one can listen in and so no one can dispute my conclusions.But, what if none of my conclusions are true?  In Latting and Ramsey’s new book, Reframing Change, they show me how to test my conclusions about Mark by simply asking, “what if?”Here are five terrific questions that will force me to rethink my conclusions about Mark.  They’re five questions that help me deal with my own creation of relationship barriers:What if the other person is right?What if I didn’t perceive things correctly?What if there are cultural differences affecting this situation that I don’t know about?What if my strong emotional reactions are keeping me from seeing other possibilities?What is there is another explanation for the problem?Embedded in our personal practice, these questions become a very healthy tool.  You’ll find that you can often surprise yourself, keep the barriers from going up and end up with a real colleague and teammate.
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