How do we get better at interacting with our work colleagues? Performance expert Dr Adam Fraser has some interesting advice

Q. I often feel that my relationships at work are not as good as I would like them to be. Is there a simple way to improve this? –Zoe, Melbourne

In my corporate presentations I talk about human performance – how do we get better? Depending on the group I may talk about productivity, teamwork or leadership. No matter the subject, the most common response is about how my talk applies to someone else – I so often hear ‘Oh if only my partner was here, they need this stuff’ or ‘If only my team was here, they are all dysfunctional… I mean I am fine, but they are dysfunctional’. No-one has ever come up to and said ‘Wow, I just realised how much I have to change’. After working in the corporate world for 11 years I have realised that we have a default mindset I call ‘It’s not Me, It’s You’.

This translates to overrating our own aptitude for relating. In a survey, about two thirds of Australian leaders rated themselves as good or excellent at leadership, but 61 per cent of their teams rated their leadership as poor or terrible. In fact, 53 per cent of people said they would sack their manager if they could. My point is that we often show up very differently to how we think we show up. Why does this happen? Because we judge our behaviour on our intention, while other people judge our behaviour on our behaviour. You can have beautiful intentions, yet have dysfunctional behaviours.

On a personal level, we do this when we have an argument with a friend or partner and turn into the victim, thinking ‘they did this to me, they caused me to feel this way, if they would just do this or that’. But if you really want your life and relationships to improve, you need to swap the ‘It’s not me, it’s you’ reaction for ‘How did my behaviour contribute to this situation?’. This will cultivate self-awareness about how you affect each interaction you have. The upshot is that when you have the attitude of constantly trying to learn about your behaviour, and the courage to admit when you have behaved poorly, I guarantee your work  and personal relationships will flourish.

Dr Adam Fraser is a performance expert and author of The Third Space.

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