Each of us has problems and we all need a listening ear. Maybe it’s a friend, spouse, or parent. Either way, it’s nice to know that you have someone to talk to when you’re feeling down.
Further, the boundaries between work and home are increasingly intertwined The past two years. In these cases, turning to a colleague can be helpful† In particular Susan Cain, author of Bittersweet: how sadness and longing make us wholefound that this could result in stronger peer connections and increased productivity.
In her book, Cain cites the example of a company that normalized the sharing of personal problems. The billing division of Midwest Billing, a community hospital in Jackson, Michigan, created a culture that believed that every employee had a personal problem. Rather than being seen as a problem, teammates showed compassion by sharing their problems. Employees helped each other through divorces, domestic violence, deaths in the family and even when someone was sick.
Not only was sharing problems good for you mental health, but it was also good for business. “During the five years leading up to the survey, Midwest Billing’s bills were collected more than twice as fast as before, exceeding industry standards,” Cain writes. “The unit turnover rate was just 2%, compared to an average of 25% across the Midwest Health System, and a significantly higher rate in the medical billing industry.”
Frankly, that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Why talking about our problems helps
Talking about our problems helps us a lot, according to previous research.
In UCLA . research“affect labeling” is a method of putting feelings into words so that the amygdala is less triggered when confronted by shocking things. This way you can slow down your stress response over time.
For example, being in a car after a car accident can be emotionally overwhelming. But as you talk through the situation, articulate your feelings, and process what happened, you won’t feel that way when you get back in the car.
Additionally, studying at Southern Methodist University found that writing about traumatic experiences or undergoing talk therapy helped patients’ immune systems and health. It turned out that suppressing thoughts and emotions increases stress. Either way, the negative feelings are there, but you have to work on suppressing them. When your brain and body are overworked, you are more prone to getting sick or feeling miserable.
How to solve your problems at work
While you may feel uncomfortable sharing your problems with your teammates, here are some tips for doing so.
Think about whether it’s a topic to discuss.
Work may seem like the perfect place to vent, but it isn’t. Never share what you are personally going through at work† The exception? When an issue affects your career, sharing personal information should be reserved.
In fact, this kind of sharing can sometimes help strengthen working relationships. Some examples of suitable personal topics to share are:
- A disease that affects your performance.
- You have a family problem that affects your work schedule or your ability to work.
On the other hand, you should avoid discussing the following:
- Financial worries.
- Problems with your children include drugs, arrests and problems at school.
- Relationship problems of any kind.
- Lawsuits, neighbor wars, car breakdown.
Avoiding these conversations will prevent you from being labeled as someone who has so many problems that it hinders your career.
And one last thing. If you have a serious medical problem or a family emergency, it’s probably best to discuss it with your boss. You can then brainstorm possible solutions such as: a leave of absence or a flexible work schedule†
Talk to the right people.
In the past, if you’ve shared with someone how you felt and seemed to get nowhere, it could be because you weren’t talking to the right person. The support of someone you trust (without allowing bad habits like co-rumination) is critical.
Find someone who has had the same problem and hopefully you solve it. For example, if you’re having trouble meeting deadlines or understanding the scope of a project, ask a colleague for help. Hopefully they can time management tips or clarify the work with you.
What should you do if you need a lot of time to talk? Perhaps you can schedule a recurring bi-weekly check-in. Or divide your conversations among several people. A comprehensive social support system allows you to distribute the load if one is worn out.
Schedule the right time and place to talk.
Even if it’s a serious problem, it’s not worth letting it fester and linger. But at the same time, you also don’t want to pour out your heart when your colleagues rush to a meeting. So if you know when they are less busy, pick a time that works for you.
Also choose a time when they are alone. After all, you do not want to report a medical problem, for example at the water cooler or during a team meeting.
The easiest way to handle this? Share your calendar with them† This way they can see when you are available. From there, they can book a time to chat whenever they are free. You can even add a location, such as a nearby coffee shop, to the invitation to prevent other colleagues from eavesdropping.
Use “I” sentences.
Thomas Gordon introduced “I statements” in the 1960s as a way to help children understand emotions and behavior during play therapy. However, they can have many advantages during communication, including:
- Emotional statements are a way of expressing assertiveness without arousing blame, accusation, feelings of defensiveness, or guilt in other people.
- It’s easy to resolve conflicts without putting people on the defensive. This focuses the conversation on solving a problem rather than assigning blame by focusing on the speaker’s feelings and needs.
- Using I messages can also be an excellent way to give constructive feedback to others. The conversation focuses on the speaker’s feelings rather than how he feels about them.
Of course, not every situation requires the use of “I” statements. However, they can be useful in the following situations:
- If we have to call someone to account for their behavior.
- Feelings of injustice when others mistreat us.
- When we feel angry or defensive.
- If someone is mad at us.
At the same time there are possible disadvantages of ‘I’ statements† These include being seen as an expression of emotionality, weakness, and what is best for you.
Despite these concerns, when you problems with a colleague, they can be productive. For example, let’s say you work with them and they have a habit of not providing updates on their progress. You might say, “I get nervous if I don’t get updates.”
Take action on solutions.
“Solving problems makes you feel better, but getting things off your chest doesn’t make you feel better,” advises Kristin Behfar, Ph.D. So keep multiple solutions in your back pocket, whether you’re giving advice or asking for it.
Your next step should be to trade. This way you avoid complaining for the sake of complaining.
Putting this into practice is of course not always easy. Here is a 10-step process devised by: Brian Tracy to put your plans into action:
- Visualize the problem positively.
- Clearly define the situation or problem.
- Take different approaches to the problem using critical thinking.
- Determine the ideal solution to the problem.
- Choose the most suitable solution for your challenge.
- Prepare for and overcome the worst possible outcome.
- Track your progress.
- Take full responsibility for your decision†
- Set a deadline to solve the problem.
- Solve your problem by taking action.
Set time limits.
If a co-worker has taken the time to listen to you, you should show them the same respect. How? By respecting their precious time.
The first place to start is to set time limits. It is unreasonable for them to take three hours out of their day to listen to your life story. So instead, a 30 minutes should suffice.
To keep you on track, preparing an agenda – just like you would with a meeting. That means focusing on the work problem that is causing you the most distress. After you identify this problem, write down and practice what you want to say to keep the conversation concise.
Also, just like when scheduling a meeting, leave a few minutes for possible responses and brainstorming.
Anything else to keep in mind? Be on time. If you’ve scheduled this interview for Friday at 11 a.m., make sure you’re on time.
What role do leaders play?
Setting a good example is often the first step in create a sharing culture† Cain tells the story of Rick Fox, one of the leaders of a Shell Oil oil rig business in the Gulf of Mexico. Fox hired Lara Nuer, co-founder of Learning as Leadership, to troubleshoot drilling schedules and oil production numbers. After speaking to Fox, Nuer revealed that his biggest problem was anxiety. The work was not only dangerous, but also directing people and ensuring their safety.
As they worked together, Nuer encouraged them to talk to each other about their fears, including their personal issues. During the transition from a macho culture to one where men supported each other, the culture of hiding weaknesses or asking questions shifted.
“There were fewer accidents because the guys on the rig were more comfortable not knowing how to do something or understanding how something worked,” Cain says.
However, leaders may find it difficult to share their own struggles, notes Cain. “At least a study suggests that entrusting your problems to subordinates can cause them to lose trust and comfort in you,” she says. “At the same time, the best way to change a culture is to put leadership first.”
Leaders don’t have to share all their problems. “They don’t have to talk to their employees the same way they talk to their therapist,” Cain adds. “It’s enough to move in the direction of frankness.”
Image credit: Kindel Media; Pexels Thank you!
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