Relate Well! Blog

Addressing the all-important and often perplexing topics and issues related to enhancing your personal growth and professional development

10 Tips for Giving Effective Feedback

Giving feedback is a critically important part of the communication process within the workplace. Most people find it easy to offer positive comments but avoid giving negative feedback because they fear confrontation and conflict.

While criticism isn’t easy for anyone, it is necessary to receive honest appraisals from those you work with in order to better understand where you stand with your co-workers and supervisors. Unfortunately, the need for improvement is not always conveyed or responded to in a constructive fashion.

Giving feedback requires specific skills you can learn if you practice. Below is a list of suggestions that can greatly improve your communication and result in better interpersonal relationships and performance at work.

1. Provide information that is descriptive and objective. When describing your thoughts stick to the facts rather than bringing in your personal interpretation as much as possible.

2. Avoid using labels to describe behavior such as...

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5 C’s for Inspiring Your Team

If it’s your job to lead a team of employees or volunteers, it can be a bit unnerving to know that the buck stops on your desk, but the group members are the ones who make you successful – or not. One of the leader’s most important functions is to inspire their team so everyone succeeds. Here are five principles to keep people motivated to do their best.

Create consensus & unity in purpose – People enjoy being part of something good, strong, and purposeful. Be sure your team meets together early on as you begin any project, so everyone hears the vision at the same time and has the opportunity to discuss ideas and ask questions.  This ensures no team member is going into their assignment without adequate knowledge of what goal needs to be met or with a “lone ranger” attitude.

Celebrate diversity & unique contribution – The strength of a team lies in the combination of multiple sets of skills, talent, and experience working...

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Do the Right Thing

In the business world we often hear terms and strategies for doing business that are predatory, aggressive, and even deceptive in order to make the sale or increase profits. Words like shark, war, and guerrilla come up in the vernacular. But I’ve been watching people over the years, and find that, in the long run, people who are willing to cheat or compromise often lose out on true success. People who do the right things for the right reasons have more satisfying careers and happier lives.

So, let’s explore this a little further: Have you ever met someone that you consider to be, or to have been, a really good person? I would imagine that you could probably name at least a few. What character traits do you think describe a “good” man or a good woman in our society today? Perhaps words such as kind, thoughtful, generous, giving, and unselfish top your list. If so, I would agree – these are traits we would all expect a good person to...

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The Power of Listening

Q: What do you think is one of the most common complaints expressed in the workplace today?

A: The habit of NOT LISTENING. (Perhaps the title was a good clue!) Poor listening is considered one of the rudest of all office behaviors. After all, the messages you send, whether intended or not, come across loud and clear when you don’t listen or pay attention:

• I don’t care about you.
• I don’t understand you.
• You’re wrong.
• What you have to say isn’t important.
• You’re wasting my time.

Most people don’t realize just how powerful listening can be, and they often miss out on its valuable benefits.

What about you? When someone talks to you at work, are you really attentive? I’m not talking about merely hearing the sound of their words, but truly paying close attention to body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Real listening, the type that produces accurate understanding and empathy, often...

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The Sherlock Strategy: Guaranteed to Improve Communication

Do you want your personal and professional relationships to be stronger and more satisfying? If, like most people, your answer is “of course”, then I want to share a very powerful communication tool that has the potential to transform your relationships.

I refer to this communication tool as the Sherlock Strategy.  Named after the famed detective, this practice of effective inquiry simply involves the ability to ask timely and relevant open-ended questions for the purpose of increasing accurate understanding of another person’s thoughts, feelings, and needs.  The great Sherlock Holmes could always dig past the obvious to see what was really going on. 

Every human being shares a common desire and need to be understood.  Unfortunately, when it comes to our high-stake (most important) relationships we often feel misunderstood, especially when it comes to important and sensitive issues.

When communicating we too often assume we understand what...

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5 Tips for Dealing with a Bull Terrier Boss

Most people have at some point in their lives had to deal with someone who refuses to lose. No matter how unreasonable their position and how obviously wrong they may be, they clamp down their jaw as instinctively as a bull terrier in a dogfight – and it seems nothing short of death will loosen it.

It’s often not that complicated to deal with this sort of person at a dinner party, where the simplest strategy may be to avoid them or to feign agreement for a couple of hours until you can escape after dessert. But in the workplace, this is seldom possible, and if the bulldog is your superior, you can come away from discussions frustrated, angry and hurt. 

William Ury, author of Getting Past No, provides five steps to surviving an encounter with a bull terrier boss, based on understanding the underlying motivations for their unreasonable decisions and resistance to cooperation. Here are five tips to help you achieve a win-win situation.

1. Control...

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Why Most People Avoid Conflict... and Why You Shouldn't

If you can think and talk, and if you ever encounter other people, there is the potential for conflict. Conflict is an inevitable, completely normal part of the human condition, yet most people readily admit that they intentionally avoid anything that even remotely resembles disagreement or confrontation.  In fact, much of my work in therapy and coaching involves helping people to understand – and even embrace – the value of conflict and overcome the fears that feed their aversion.

There are many factors that can influence conflict avoidance, such as self-doubt, lack of assertiveness, inadequate communication skills, fear of rejection, disapproval, criticism, or loss of security and more.  In other words, people avoid conflict to minimize perceived threats to their self-esteem and sense of well-being. 

Let me be clear – I’m all for avoiding real danger and I never recommend that anyone intentionally subject themselves to hostile conflict or...

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Making Your Employees Jolly During the Holidays

I get it – the holidays may be the busiest, most frustrating time of the year for your business. Demand for products and services skyrockets as gift-buying escalates. As lines get long, tempers can get short – on both sides of the counter. Your customers are under pressure to finish their holiday preparations, deal with kids bouncing off the walls and meet all their “joyful” obligations. You need your staff to be extra patient, extra friendly and extra efficient. The reality is, you need them to be at their best when they have all the same pressures, time constraints, plans and problems your customers have.

So, what can you do to help them have a jolly holiday despite the hassles? It doesn’t take a lot of time, money, or effort to keep employees feeling positive about working for you, even during the busiest season – a little of each goes a long way toward job satisfaction and loyalty.

Thank them – When you know your staff is hustling to...

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Principles for Effective Listening - Part II

In our last blog, we shared Part I of Principles for Effective Listening.  We addressed the “how-to” of listening. If you’ve been practicing the techniques outlined, congratulations! Now that you have started on the path to better listening, here are some barriers and obstacles to watch for – and avoid.

Barriers to Empathic Listening 

• Lecturing, Blaming, Moralizing, Interrupting
• Venting, Defending, Explaining, Questioning
• Generalizing, Disagreeing, Fixing, Reassuring
• Changing the subject, Warning, Pretending

Obstacles to Effective Listening

• Drawing premature conclusions

“I’ve heard this all before; it’s always the same story.”
“Now he’s going to tell me it’s all my fault.” 
“This is the part where she says I shouldn’t go out with my friends.” 
“Here comes the same lame excuse he always uses.”

• Reading into...

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Are You Putting on an Act?

Lights! Camera! Action! When the spotlight of life is focused on you, what do people see? Are you an actor just playing a role or are you the “real thing?” Are you willing to let people see who you really are? Hollywood actors are paid big bucks to portray a make-believe character on the screen, but there are many people outside of “Tinsel Town” who put on a very convincing act every day without ever being paid a dime. In fact, many of them pay a high price. 

You don’t have to be a Hollywood star or public figure to be concerned with the way others perceive you. All of us are involved in personal image management to some degree, and in most cases, this is perfectly normal. In fact, thinking about who you will be with and what you will be doing is a reasonable way to determine what “image” to put on by dressing and behaving appropriately in a given situation. 

There is nothing inherently wrong with putting your best foot forward in...

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