Picture: iStock
Picture: iStock

Words you should never say at work

WHETHER it's a horrible boss or a colleague you just can't stand, conflict at work is pretty much inevitable.

But according to communication specialist Georgia Murch, there are some surprisingly simple ways to manage that conflict - and get the outcome you want.

Ms Murch, who has also written Feedback Flow: The Ultimate Illustrated Guide to Embed Change to help make giving and receiving feedback a more positive experience, said there was one technique that was all but guaranteed to make others see your point of view.

She said when we feel hurt or angry due to someone else's words or actions, we tend to respond by mirroring their behaviour and stooping to their level.

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"When we deal with people we don't respect, we fall down to their level. We become a b*tch, or we shut them out because they shut us out. It becomes a loop that keeps happening over and over again," she explained.

"We'll never get anywhere in a conversation unless we take responsibility for our reactions."

The solution? Firstly, decide what you want to change in the relationship.

"The key is working on you first - ask yourself what's your intent in this relationship? Do I actually want to improve it so we can work better together?" Ms Murch said.

The next step is to discuss the other person's problem behaviour using facts, not opinions.

"Opinions are not facts - they are true for you, but they are not the truth … and that's not enough to give feedback because you end up having an opinion war," she said.

"You really need to focus on facts instead of trying to prove your opinion with lots of other opinions, by saying things like 'you're never on time, 'you're always rude'.

"Instead, you should give examples of when the person was late, what they said that was rude - give the person so much data including dates and times that the other person can't refute the fact that it happened."

She said facts took the emotion out of the conversation, making it more likely to reach a compromise.

"The more facts you have, the easier it is for the other person to understand. They're more likely to take your feedback on board and it dramatically reduces their reaction - they are more likely to understand why you think what they said was rude," she said.

"It's not enough to say 'you always', 'you never', 'everyone thinks', 'I'm just being honest' - you've got to prove it. Any opinion you are prepared to share has to have facts to back it up.

Communication specialist and Feedback Flow author Georgia Murch. Picture: Supplied
Communication specialist and Feedback Flow author Georgia Murch. Picture: Supplied

"You don't offend people as much when you educate them - it's better to say 'I have an opinion about this and here are my examples so you can understand where I'm coming from'."

Ms Murch said this technique could be used when dealing with anyone at work, regardless of their seniority.

She said another tip was to try not to take the person's words personally.

"Just because a colleague is nasty to you, it doesn't mean they are not nasty to others. In general, whether it's a boss, colleague or customer, how they make you feel might also be how they make others feel," Mr Murch said.

"We choose to take it personally because it feels personal."

Ms Murch said people tended to react poorly to situations that mirrored traumatic experiences they've previously experienced during their life.

But she said conflict should never be avoided.

"People often have a really unhealthy relationship with conflict, but if you want to move things forward, conflict is inevitable - but combat is optional. It's when we make it personal that is becomes unhealthy," she said.

"Unless you say something, nothing will change. If you don't talk about it, you'll act [your feelings] out and the other person will still experience how you feel about them."

She said everyone would benefit from mindfulness and from being more self-aware of their reactions.

"When it comes to giving feedback, all we know is our opinions and our facts - I know how you make me feel, but I don't know your truth. There could be times where I've triggered them by things that I've done, which has contributed to making the relationship difficult," she said.

She suggested starting a difficult conversation with a boss or colleague with a solutions-focused attitude rather than simply insisting you are in the right.

alexis.carey@news.com.au



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