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Friction in the Workplace

What can I do to avoid the friction I've been having with one of my associates at work, and to open better lines of communication with this person?

The quickest and surest solution to such communication problems is so simple that it's often overlooked: One person needs to stop trying to communicate what's on his or her mind long enough to listen to what the other person has to say.

People like to talk, express themselves, be heard. People also need to feel needed, that what they have to contribute is significant and worthwhile. When you take time to listen attentively, even if you don't necessarily agree with everything the other person is saying, you convey consideration and respect. Do that with the colleagues you're having trouble communicating with, and you'll probably be surprised at how positively they respond and how open they are to your ideas and suggestions.

How do you become a better listener? First of all, you must want to listen. You must sincerely have a desire to hear what the other person has to say.

If you already see yourself as one who likes to listen, you might be thinking of social situations--the give-and-take chitchat when interesting little tidbits are being exchanged. But it is at times when the other person expresses an opinion contrary to your own that listening is most difficult but most important. This is unselfish listening.

Unselfish listening is putting the brakes on that compelling desire to express yourself. You need to demonstrate a sincere desire to hear and evaluate what the other person has to say, before countering with your own position.

Good listening takes effort. Notice the traits of the people whom you enjoy talking to, the good listeners. They show their interest with their eyes, posture, and the ways they react. It's a sort of indescribable mood that says, "I enjoy listening to you. You're important to me." A calmness and patience about them tells you, "Take your time. I have nothing more vital to do at the moment than to hear what you have to say."

Listening is one way to better fulfill the "law of Christ," which the Bible sums up as "loving your neighbor as yourself" (Galatians 5:14; Matthew 22:37-39).