Once upon a time, in a land not very far away, there were two colleagues who had a communication issue. Let’s call them Sally and Annette. Sally definitely had an issue. She was really not certain if Annette would agree that there was an issue. But Sally knew that if she felt that there was an issue, there was an issueAfter thinking about it for quite a bit (obsessing over it, really). Sally wondered if their challenges came from a combination of personality type, communication style and conflict resolution styles. Sally knew she was introverted, and that she tended to think quite a bit before she spoke and that in conflict she preferred to collaborate. Annette had a tendency to blurt things out and to take a very controlling approach to situations and communications.
Their difference in approaches surfaced while planning a team-building event. When they sat down to plan the event, Annette announced, “Well of course we are going to make this a themed costume party event.” Sally had no such plans and actually hated the idea. Still, she wanted to be open and perhaps a themed costume party would be fun for the team. Annette continued with, “And anyone without a costume cannot attend. YOU should help me write guidelines so that everyone knows the difference between a good costume and a bad one.” Sally could not believe her ears and although she could along with a themed costume party as a team-building event, she could not get on board with being the ‘costume police’.
Sally looked at Annette and said, “I am NOT going to write costume guidelines. Let’s keep it open so that everyone feels like they can attend. EVEN the people who might not want to wear costumes.” Sally said this in a calm and matter of fact manner, but inwardly Sally was annoyed. And that was the problem that Sally was experiencing. Sally found that frequently when Sally responded to Annette she disliked feeling like she was arguing or even defending herself. Annette seemed to accept this answer and moved on to planning the event. Annette had no idea that Sally was annoyed.
“We need to have contests and games and everyone needs to be assigned roles for how to participate during the contests and the games. Nobody gets to sit by the sidelines.” Proclaimed Annette. Sally began to wonder if she could skip the event. Sally knew that she would rather cheer others on from the sidelines than be forced to play musical chairs or some other party game.
“During the event I think YOU should walk around and make sure people participate, I will give everyone directions on how to play the games.” This was Annette’s next order. Sally looked at Annette and said, “You know this is supposed to be a party and celebration, not another project. Why don’t we let people enter contests if they wish or cheer from the sidelines if they prefer?” Annette responded with, “You can’t do that, you have to tell people what to do if you want them to have a good time.”
“Well the demands you are making on our team members make me want to call in sick the day of the event. “ Replied Sally. Annette ignored her and continued on with the planning. The conversation continued in the same way, Annette issuing commands and Sally deflecting many of them in order to avoid feeling like she was being ordered around and in order to create a more balanced team-building event.
When it was over Sally felt a huge sense of relief. She had survived! Yet, when it was over Annette turned to Sally and said, “Let’s work together on the next event, I really think we make a terrific team.” Sally did not even know what to say.
Can you help Sally? What advice do you have for her? Please post your advice as a comment below.
Looking forward to your wise advice!