Communicate to Collaborate

One of the most difficult aspects of any job is working with someone who
communicates through conflict rather than collaboration. They communicate in absolute terms and it may feel that there is no room for discussion or cooperation. This frequently occurs in the dissemination of policy changes from a person in a position of authority or a peer when providing feedback.

The immediate reaction of the recipient of this message is to become defensive and resist. They recipient may feel resentful, frustrated, and respond by lashing out or countering the message they are receiving. The conversation becomes a conflict instead of a collaboration.

Working through a conflict is much more challenging than having a collaborative discussion. Conflict cannot always be avoided, but it should never be the preferred path.

Communication through collaboration will be a much more successful path. This requires more thinking, emotional intelligence, and tact from both parties. The conversation will create a shared understanding as the parties seek to understand each other’s perspective. A resolution will be reached only through this shared understanding. Otherwise, resentment lingers and conflict surfaces.

When communicating at work, or anywhere for that matter, ask yourself how you are working to collaborate and try to actively avoid generating an unnecessary conflict.

Step outside your comfort zone

Change is scary. At least, that is what my brain thinks when I think about change. When pushed too far outside my comfort zone I become anxious. Self-doubt creeps in and I tell myself I should not have done something differently or tried something new. My brain lies. Usually, anyway.

This past month I had the opportunity to participate in a AI hackathon for work in Budapest. I signed up without hesitation. AI technology has seemingly exploded within the past six months and has become accessible to those with a basic understanding of it as I had. This would be a great opportunity to learn about AI and learn directly from colleagues using it in production. In addition, my manager is in Budapest and we collaborate with folks in that office so it would be great to connect and network with them.

As the date approached, that resistance to change began to set in:

  • Worry about traveling to a new country where I did not speak the language.
  • Fear that I was not good enough to fit in and participate.
  • Concern that we would not be able to deliver our project and I would be exposed as an imposter.

I was also excited. I was being joined by great co-workers. I wanted to learn more about AI after seeing its applications that truly astounded me. I wanted to travel somewhere that I did not know the language. I wanted to try and build something, even if it was bad or I failed.

My brain lies.

I had a fantastic time. I met colleagues and was able to connect with them in ways that would not be possible strictly through video. I had fun exploring with teammates and will have fond memories of spending time together on this trip. We stumbled at the start of our application building but worked together and had fun building something that actually worked! We learned and grew. Even if we had failed it would have been a great learning experience.

Step outside your comfort zone and try new things every now and again. That is the way we learn and grow. The end result is usually a better you, whether or not it worked out exactly the way you planned.