You may be thinking this is a terrible way to start a blog post about how we can work better together; however, unfortunately, sometimes in the process of working with others we face opposition and struggle. We may have taken action – or in action (see last week’s post) in order to help our team work better together. Rather than every member of the team supporting this action and celebrating your great leadership, you may be experiencing opposition and facing unpleasant conversations by some of your team members.
I don’t know about you, but when I experience this type of struggle, my first instinct is to get frustrated or get defensive. Sometimes I want to give up on the team altogether or quit trying to do things to help the overall team. I would prefer to figure out a way to just make life more pleasant, particularly for myself and the other members of the team who are not in opposition. I do think it is important to face the uncomfortableness, process the situation and negative emotions that are associated with it. THEN….we have to find a way to move forward through the situation. Sometimes it may involve ending a team or a partnership, but most of the time it involves addressing the opposition and uncomfortableness with calmness, grace and the ability to see beyond the short-term pain to long-term positive outcomes that may result. How in the world do we do this?
Here are 6 steps we can take to move forward positively when we feel like our good intentions have created unintended opposition.
- Pause. Our tendency is to want to react immediately and respond with our best defense, but usually the best thing to do is to pause. For me, I take time to pray during the pause and ask God for wisdom in how to move forward. You may also want to try meditating, going for a walk or run, or focusing on something else or someone else for a time.
- Listen to your opposition. Oh, this one is SO hard! We really want to defend our good deeds and are ready with a thousand reasons why we did what we did, but Stephen Covey had it right when he suggested in 7 Habit of Highly Effective People that we “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” I encourage you to take time – after you have paused – to ask questions and try to understand the opposition. You may not agree with it and don’t have to agree with it, but you will be able to move forward more positively if you first seek to understand.
- Share your perspective. After listening and really trying to understand your opposition, share your perspective in light of that understanding. Frame your conversation and discussion in a way that addresses the opposition and concerns as best you can. Try to be calm, clear and genuine in your response. Interestingly, today’s “verse of the day” on my Bible app is Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”
- Find common ground. Recognize that you and the other person or people may continue to see things differently, but there may be areas where you can agree and figure out ways to move forward together. Take the time to discuss what those may be as well as what those might not be. See if there are things you can agree upon in order to move forward together.
- Decide on next steps. Figure out if you can move forward together. There are situations where it really makes the most sense to move in different directions. The opposition or disagreement may have helped you realize that you really need to go in a completely different direction. In other situations, you can decide on a collective action to take together based on your common ground. Or maybe you wait to take specific action and schedule time to check back in with this other person. Our marriage counselor has given us good advice that can apply here as well. He suggests that if you can’t decide on something, then maybe you decide to wait until things become more clear.
- Write it down. Regardless of whether you are taking collective action or deciding to wait until things are clearer, write down your plan and schedule the follow-up associated with your next steps. Most of the time, this can be as simple as an email, and the purpose is to help both parties to commit to moving forward together.
So what about you? What do you need to do next to face the uncomfortable opposition that has come from good intentions?
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