Source: HBR, Dec 2015
The best antidote to this destructive dynamic is mindfulness. Being aware of the assumptions you’re making gives you an opportunity to reverse the ill effects of your prejudices.
Each time you feel yourself reacting, stop and think about what’s going on with you.
- What are you assuming or inferring that is leading to the negative reaction? Notice that the most intense reactions are triggered when you assume things about the other person’s character or motives or make inferences about what the person thinks of your character or capability.
- Did you assume that your teammate is a jerk, or stupid, or out to get you?
- Did you interpret his comments as suggesting that you’re not smart enough, not likeable, or not going to make it?
Just becoming aware of your negative assumptions will be a valuable (if somewhat uncomfortable) step.
Once you’re aware of your default conclusion, try a more productive hypothesis. The simplest approach is to replace an assumption about the person’s character with an attribution about the situation. Instead of “He’s a jerk for pointing out the mistakes,” you might instead think, “Maybe the importance of this presentation caused him to have especially high standards.” This will make you more generous and empathetic and generate a better conversation.
Show outwardly the curiosity you’re modeling internally. Ask a question to demonstrate your openness to your colleague’s perspective: “You think I should take the presentation in a different direction. What is your vision for where to take the story?” Or “You disagree with me about a couple of the data points in the document. What are you basing your numbers on?”