Five Ways to Strengthen a Work Relationship



How do you turn an unkept promise into a learning opportunity and strengthen a work relationship?

How do you turn a promise fulfilled into a memorable experience?

In Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner write about how to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives and strengthen work relationships.

When Someone Does Something They Promised

How do you turn a promise kept or a task completed into a memorable experience?

Brinkman and Kirschner recommend the following actions:

  1. Tell them what they did right, as specifically as possible. Don’t tell them what your opinion of it is, just the facts. "Teri, you promised to pull together the proposal for the presentation, and you did exactly what you promised."
  2. Tell them how others were affected to the best of your
    . "As a result, the client decided to do business with us. The ‘old man’ is as happy as can be and we made Ms. Rooklyn look real good. "
  3. Tell them how you feel about it … pleased, impressed, grateful. "I am grateful that you took care of this. I’m also impressed with the design of hte whole proposal! The graphics were great. You made a whole lot of information easy to absorb. The presentation couldn’t have worked out as well as it did without your involvement. Thank you for your caring."
  4. Project positive intent. Tell them, "That’s one of the things I like about you." You’re wanting to build their mental association with keeping their word. "You know I really like that about you. When you do something, you do it right. That was really terrific!"
  5. Let them know you are looking forward to more of the same in the
    . "It’s been a real pleasure getting to work with you on this, and I’m looking forward to more opportunities in the future to team up with you."

When Someone Doesn’t Do Something They Promised

How do you turn a broken promise or uncompleted task into a learning opportunity?

Brinkman and Kirschner recommend the following actions:

  1. Tell them what they did, describing what happened as specifically as possible. Don’t give them your opinion, but do give them the facts. Make sure you do this with caring and sincerity.
  2. Tell them how other people were affected, to the best of your
    . "As a result we looked bad in front of an important client. Ms. Rooklyn and the ‘old man’ were disappointed. They lost confidence in us.
  3. Tell them how they feel about it … disappointed, angry, frustrated, and so on. Don’t exaggerate, but do be honest. "Quite honestly, I’m disappointed and very frustrated over this.
  4. Project positive intent. Tell them, "That’s not like you." Even if it is like them. Rather than denying positive projects, people consistently attempt to fullfill them. "That’s not like you to let all those people down. I know you care about doing great work and being part of the team, and I know you’re capable of doing what you say. I also know that you don’t have to make promises you can’t keep."
  5. Ask what they learned from the experience, or what they would do differently if given the chance to do it again. This is called a learning moment, and it changes negative memories into useful experiences. "So, tell me, what would you do differently if you could do it again?" Using this method, you can turn a failure into a success for both of you.

Key Take Aways

Here are my key take aways:

  • Be specific. Details and precision help over precision. Rather than vague connections to positive or negative behavior, specifics help clarify any ambiguity. Fleshing out details also helps make it real and more memorable.
  • Point out the impact. Often times negative behavior isn’t intentional. It can be behavior blindness. Pointing out the impact helps the person gain perspective and reflect. Pointing out the impact of positive impact, helps reenforce the good behavior you’re looking for.
  • Use questions to help reflection. Unsolicited advice falls on deaf ears. Invovle the person in the process. Asking solution focused questions helps them internalize.

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  1. […] Strengthen the relationship. Promote the idea of a better future for both of you as a result of the person’s honesty with you. Be willing to take a few moments from time to time and listen to the Maybe Person’s concerns. Talk on a personal level with the person, and help him or her learn the decision-making process whenever the opportunity arises. If you are willing to patiently invest a little time in this kind of guidance, the Maybe Person will never want to let you down. See Five Ways to Strengthen a Relationship. […]

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