People can be so frustrating, at times. Colleagues, family members, friends and yes, yours truly! We’re all capable of doing or saying things that can cause angst or irritation; learning to negotiate conflict with tact and respect is one of the great challenges in life.

If frustrations aren’t resolved early they sometimes escalate, resulting in an outburst of emotion that can be unpleasant, to say the least. Then comes guilt, “Why did I say that?” “I should have known better!” Another common scenario is tip toeing around the other party, doing everything you can to keep out of their way, so you don’t cause a stir. This is often followed by regret, “Why didn’t I say something?”  “I shouldn’t have to put up with that”. Either way, it’s hardly a win-win situation. In one case, you walk around bottling up your feelings until it all becomes too much and then erupt; in the other you find yourself taking responsibility for the other person’s emotional state – trying to make sure you don’t do anything that will create conflict or upset them.

Last week I was talking with a young woman who was finding a situation at her workplace extra challenging. Her co-worker is a micro manager, wanting to direct her every move and make all the decisions, unwilling to listen to suggestions that may be more efficient or more sensible. I think you’d likely agree, this would be pretty frustrating for someone who is capable of working independently.  So, what can you do when someone says something like, “This needs to be done this way, just because I say so!”. What would you do? A conflict avoider is likely to quit their job to get away from the person who frustrates them or else just zip their lips at work and complain to family and friends about how much they dislike going to work. Someone who relishes conflict may tackle their co-worker head on and tell them that they’re being ridiculous. You can imagine how that is going to go. More conflict! Either way, no win-win.

Is there another way to manage this? What if we could accept that each person has their own reasons for behaving the way they do and that they’re often unaware of how they are affecting others, particularly when people have been in the habit of pandering to their insecurity or bad behaviour in the past. We can’t blame them for continuing to behave the way they do if it has worked for them until now.

In order to enjoy the best relationships at home and at work it’s important to be honest and respectful, so here are 4 steps using the acronym BARE to try the next time you feel like screaming (or quitting your job!) because someone is being difficult to get along with.

B – Breathe – count to 7 and give your rational brain time to engage

A – Acknowledge how you are feeling – it’s ok and perfectly valid

R – Respectfully suggest an alternative behaviour or outcome – be specific

E – Enlist the help of others if needed – follow any protocols in the workplace

So what would this sound like in real life? The next time you want to pull out your hair with a colleague, you could try saying something like this:

“I know you’ve been managing this area for a long time and it’s tricky to include a new team member, but I feel like my ideas and my contribution have no value if I don’t have the opportunity to provide input. I’d love to share some ideas I have and I’m wondering if you would be willing to let me?”

Of course the response will depend on a number of factors (receptiveness, mood at the time, timing etc.) but you’re almost certain to feel better because you’ve expressed how you feel. If there is no change, despite inviting discussion and respectfully suggesting a way to move forward, then it’s appropriate to request the help of a supervisor. Simply explaining how you feel will avoid placing any blame and encourages cooperation. Your tactfulness will be appreciated and others will thank you too!

Wishing you a week of win-win,

Laurie