We’ve all had the experience of interacting with someone who has different values or beliefs. These differences can create communication problems, but there are several steps we can take to improve our relationships with people who have values different from our own. Here are the first three:
1. Focus on ‘business issues’ rather than ‘personal issues’. In my travels as a consultant, one of the most common causes of workplace conflict pertains to value differences. People have deeply held beliefs about a variety of topics and sometimes, are happy to share those beliefs. Of course, conflict can occur with those who have different belief systems. These conflicts can often be prevented if people focus on work issues and not issues of a more personal nature. This is easier said than done because we bring who we are to our jobs. However, you can minimize conflict by limiting discussion of personal issues and by focusing your conversations on the business at hand.
2. Clarify the value differences. If the value differences you have with a colleague are having an impact on communication, clarify these differences and how they are affecting your interactions. In other words, be clear about how and why the value differences are creating problems. Come to a mutually satisfying agreement on how you will manage these differences by describing what each of you will do to improve the situation.
3. Be empathetic and genuinely try to understand the other person. When value differences arise, it is important that you make a sincere effort to understand where the other person is coming from. Empathy can be described as stepping into another person’s shoes and experiencing the world from his or her perspective. You don’t have to agree with the other person’s beliefs, but you should try to understand them (and help the person understand your beliefs as well).
NEXT POST – December 24, 2008
How to Communicate When Your Values are Different: Part 2