A Simple Trick to Let Go of Interpersonal Tension at the Office
Ever felt unfairly passed over for a promotion? Snubbed by a co-worker? Let down in a group project? While the office is full of opportunities to get ahead, personality conflicts with difficult co-workers can hold you back, draining your energy and distracting you from your goals.
Do yourself a favor and bury the hatchet on old grudges at the office. These conflicts only add stress and anxiety to your life, and they’re not worth wasting a precious moment of your energy on.
Of course, if someone is genuinely harassing you or keeping you from doing your job, then you should take other steps, like escalating the issue to HR or finding ways to work around them. But if it’s really just a personality conflict or residual tension from past incidents, then do yourself a favor and learn to let go.
How do you get out of the old rut of irritation, you ask? Try this trick, which many of my clients have found success with:
3 Steps to Let Go of Interpersonal Tension at the Office
1. Jot down a few of the most irritating qualities of your work nemesis. Really get yourself in touch with why and how they annoy you so much– don’t hold back! This is your chance to vent and get it all out.
2. Then, for each negative point you listed, challenge yourself to list three things that are actually likable about the person. It can be anything from a charming smile to a simple fact like they are at least always on time with work assignments. If you can’t find three things you like about the person, then at least list five things you have in common with the person. Focusing on what we have in common helps us to build bridges and work as a productive team, which is really your bottom line goal in the workplace.
3. Next time you see the person, mentally challenge yourself to recall the items on your list. This gives your brain a little game to distract itself from whatever is irritating you. The game’s focus on commonalities and likable qualities will boost your ability to build a bridge and work together with the person, which is really your bottom-line goal when trying to get things done at the office.
It may feel unnatural to practice this trick at first, since you’re not used to associating this person with any positive thoughts. But challenge yourself to keep trying this proven technique on a daily basis. Remember, you’re doing this as a favor for yourself, not them. The goal is not to become best friends with the person, but to remove the tension so it doesn’t chip away at your peace of mind and distract you from your goal of a smooth and productive workday.
Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and stress management expert who has taught cognitive behavioral therapy techniques for anxiety reduction at Fortune 500 companies and her private practice. Her new series of online tools allows her clients to master CBT techniques for anxiety on their own schedule.