I recently attended a conference with health promotion and human resources staff from colleges and universities across Canada. What an amazing opportunity! Nothing beats engaging with people who are incredibly energized and passionate about the work that they do.
Some of these colleagues I met for the first time, while others I have had the pleasure of developing personal and professional relationships with over the past five years. Though we may only see each other in person once a year, we have created a strong and supportive community of practice.
The theme of relationships came up repeatedly in our conversations and made me realize how the strength of our relationships relies heavily on managing our own expectations. Our thoughts, assumptions, biases and frustrations can often interfere with our ability to create and maintain healthy and supportive relationships in life and in the workplace.
Here are a few examples that I feel help to illustrate this.
Example 1: Attribution Bias
If I trip over a power cord in the office, who can I blame? I might curse the cord and whoever left it lying on the floor. If I see someone else trip over this cord, I might think “slow down!” or “what a klutz”.
Also known as the fundamental attribution error, attribution bias is where we place emphasis on internal factors to explain someone else’s behaviour without considering external situational factors (as we might to justify our own behaviour and actions).
Example 2: Try on a different pair of shoes
Think about someone with whom you have interacted or experienced a challenging situation recently. Remember that moment and think back to the emotions you were feeling at the time (frustration, anger etc.).
Now, imagine that you went to sleep last night and woke up this morning to discover that you had switched places with this person.
Put yourself back in that challenging situation, but as the other person. What emotions are you experiencing now? Is there a reason for your behaviour?
Momentarily taking ourselves out of our own experience to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes helps create empathy. Trying to identify with someone else’s feelings and emotions can help us better understand their behavior and perhaps approach a situation or relationship differently.
Example 3: Challenging assumptions
Take a look at the posters below. They come from an anti-stigma campaign from Healthy Minds Canada.
It’s obvious that we would never treat people with heart disease and cancer this way. However, the stigmas that persist around mental illness is very real and these posters expose a double standards that exist. They are a great example of how we can place our personal assumptions and judgments on others, creating a false basis for the relationship before it even really begins.
This month’s newsletter theme is healthy relationships and I hope that these examples will help you to look at the way that you approach your relationships with others going forward. Supportive and nurturing relationships are key to our individual and professional success.
Be curious, be open and be understanding.
All my best,
Want to learn more about ways to foster positive relationships in the workplace?
Attend our upcoming session to learn more about the 2016 Not Myself Today Campaign:
Not Myself Today Information Session, July 12 @ 12pm
Learn about the campaign and how your department can be involved; discover support tools and resources; learn more about mental health and become involved in fostering safe, open and supportive work environments.