Use Common Goals to Defuse a Disrespectful Colleague
What to do when someone repeatedly disrespects you
You’re not the only one who’s been driven loopy by disrespect. Since the “loop” you describe often shows up in small, intermittent outbreaks at first, the tendency is to tolerate it initially. “It’s just that once,” you tell yourself, “it probably won’t happen again.” Until it does. And then you’re stuck with it—at least that’s the way it feels. And as you well know, repeated violations of respect cause the conversation to come to a halt as we shift to trying to preserve or regain respect.
But for those who understand this axiom, there’s hope: when people don’t feel safe, they don’t dialogue. This is true regardless of how much power you have in any given situation. When you don’t feel safe, you look for ways to use your power to control the outcome. Your silence is an attempt to control a situation in which you don’t feel safe. But if you can make it safe, you can talk to almost anyone about almost anything. Which means there’s hope.
Feeling safe in a conversation is a byproduct of feeling a sense of mutuality. In other words, when I believe we have mutual purpose—common goals, objectives, and interests—I’ll enter the conversation. And when I feel that you respect me, I’m willing to continue in a conversation even when it turns crucial. The two conditions are essential to maintaining dialogue in the face of disagreement.
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