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Healthy behaviors in professional settings

PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. -- The warm and sunny days of summer are slowly beginning to cool, and are hinting of the approaching fall season. In this month's article another type of cooling will be discussed: Lowering our temperature during times of disagreement or impasse in the workplace.

A healthy way to stay cool is to consider a few important ways of managing your behavior during challenging times with supervisors, coworkers or others you are at odds with.

Start by practicing the elements of good communication which were highlighted last month including listening, paying attention to the message, thinking about your non-verbal communication, establishing meaning and respecting one another; simple essential ingredients for healthy communication.

Consider the impasse at hand as two valid and reasonable yet different points of view instead of "him against me." It is not combat it is communication. Hopefully there are not winners or losers, but well-reasoned outcomes. Even if you consider the other person to be way off base and completely off the mark, let that be their shortcoming and don't make it yours by becoming irrational.

Whether supervisor, supervisee or coworker, treat others as you would hope to be treated regardless of the problem at hand. When you take this approach you are acting professionally, responsibly and treating others with respect.

Check your ego at the door. It is amazing how many times a person will come completely apart defending a flawed position. Sometimes it seems as though the argument itself is taking on a meaning far greater than the problem itself; and this is quite possibly true. Intense and emotionally strong disagreements often have less to do with the problem at hand and more to do with greater wrongs that have occurred over time between individuals. A strong ego can often be healthy within our military culture, but it can also wreak havoc interpersonally when used inappropriately.

Seek compromise as a means to reach common ground. When individuals exercise give and take during disagreements, the result is movement which is the catalyst for change or getting "unstuck."

Finally, a few words regarding electronic communication: Email and other electronic messaging systems enable us to communicate quickly and efficiently together. These methods can also create hardship. There is little non-verbal communication in electronic communication save smiley faces and other brief symbols or notations such as OMG and LOL. When we rely completely rely upon electronic communication to carry the full meaning of our thoughts and feelings we are falling way short. At times these communications can actually create or contribute to impasse. Quite simply keep electronic correspondence for direct no-frills communication and more personal interactions for all else!

This is certainly not an all-inclusive list to build better professional relationships, but a few ways to navigate differences of opinion without losing your cool. Next month the emotional component of relationships will be explored a bit further ... Stay cool and kind regards, Doc