Life Leadership – Part 4 – Transform your relating style

Are you someone people take for granted?  Or someone who inadvertently burns through people and relationships to meet your goals? Or someone who is just too gun-shy to even relate to people openly.  Whatever your pre-dominant style of relating, if you are not relating with others effectively – it has a significant bearing on your overall happiness and quality of life.

The first three parts in the series were about understanding ourselves.  Once we understand ourselves clearly around our gifts, fear, and limiting beliefs, we have to relating with the outside world and mainly other people to express ourselves and create the life we want.  This is when the aspect of inter-dependency comes into play. How we select, develop, nurture, and sustain our relationships has the most impact on our overall happiness and quality of life.

Relating Styles

One of the most powerful conflict resolution model I learnt in a workshop was from from Johnson (1981).  I found it quite powerful not just for conflicts but also our approach to communication and day-to-day relating with others and situations. While each one of us may  have a default or primary relating style, our power of relating comes from having awareness and flexibility of changing our style based on the situation and our goals.

These styles are defined based on:

  • what takes priority in our relating – the relationship or the goals
  • how much we believe that we have the power to create better outcomes for all involved

What style we use depends on many factors including:

  • the setting, we could be different at work versus say with friends or at home
  • our mental state and awareness level
  • the other party’s willingness to work with us; and our history with others

The Turtle: Avoidance

These people avoid facing conflicts, and relate passively.  The assumption they may have is that the situation may solve itself. They may deny, minimize or be passively resistant to changes that they may be fearing.  This style may be useful to diffuse certain volatile situations, however if do not change style after volatile situation is over, they can breed frustration in others.

The Teddy Bear: Accommodation

For this person, being likable is more important than their goals in the situation.  They are likely to allow others to get away with things that don’t work for them.  This can create a lot of internal frustration for the person and they can start feeling taken for granted over time.

This style is effective, in situations where the goal is not important and making the other person feel loved is important.  Of course, if that is the primary style and others do not understand the person’s goals it can become an issue and actually weaken the relationship in the long run.  This works best with people who are tuned to your needs.

The Shark: Competition

This person is a very goal focused and does not pay attention  to relationships.  In the short run they may achieve their goals but it is likely that the burnt relationships come and weaken the whole process because of the rampant ill will created.  This style is a take charge style which may work in crisis situation or to get some momentum on some critical goals. However, in most day to day life this style can lead to long-term frustration and failure.

The Fox: Compromise

50:50 is their mantra.  These people do not believe in creating additional value, and may manipulate others towards crafty intermediate solutions.  I can’t think of too many situations in which this style is ideal.

The struggles are deceptiveness and manipulation. People may feel “outfoxed” and cheated by foxes.

The Owl: Collaboration

Owls believe in the relationships and also have the courage to work towards mutual goal.  They have a certain creativity in creating solutions that not only give more to both parties but also strengthen the relationship in how they manage the process. They are all about creating win-win in as many situations as they can.

For owls to be effective, the other party has to understand collaboration.  If not, owl’s may be forced to adapt their styles until other party comes to collaborative mode.

For this style to be effective, both sides need high level of communication skills and emotional intelligence.  It is a good default or primary style to have compared to other styles.

Choose your style wisely

While you may be able to justify a “Shark” style in some situations, be careful not to let its immediate success fool you.  While the “Bear” style may please people around you, it may not mean that it will lead to better relations in the long run.

If you are in your shell  and predominantly a “Turtle” understand that you could prevent some issues but won’t be able to create joy and abundance.  Work to be an “Owl” as much as possible, and life will be more joyful and abundant.

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