The theme of attitude has popped up in a number of cases I have mediated recently. The corollary is that it is possible to be good – really good – at ones job but have an attitude that stinks. However, it is likely – more than likely – that you will become unstuck at some point in the future if this is the case. No one wants to work with someone with a bad attitude.
In my first book, The Definitive Guide to Workplace Mediation published in 2009, I wrote the following…
The last competency area, social skills, incorporates areas such as influencing and communication. Thinking about how we choose to communicate or influence can take time. In the information age in which we now live, it is all too easy to communicate with someone by text, email or online messenger. Taking an extra five or ten minutes can make the difference between preserving a long term relationship or not. Developing the social skills competency will also help think about how we can adapt our own style based on the environment in which we find ourselves. Some behaviours that fall within this critical area include tone of voice, questioning style, body language and listening ability.
In some ways, adults would do well to hold on to some of the behaviour we once displayed as children. I can imagine how this idea may not immediately recommend itself to you, so let me elaborate. I recall recently helping my six year old daughter get ready for bed. I gave her some instructions on what to do while I popped out of the room. When I returned a few moments later, she hadn’t started to do what I had asked. I was annoyed and reprimanded her for her inactivity. She then explained that she could not follow through my instructions as she needed my help to tie her hair back first. I should have known this, but hadn’t realised. I quickly apologised for my hastiness in telling her off. Less than 10 minutes later while supervising her brush her teeth I was still feeling guilty and regretful. I apologised again. Her response shocked me. She said, “Sorry for what dad?” She had genuinely blanked out the incident that had taken place just a moment before.
It struck me that as adults we can develop a long memory for wrongs done against us. Children easily put us to shame by their ability to be able to forgive and move on to more important things in their life. Conversely as adults, we might spend hours, days, weeks, months or even years plotting our revenge and retaliation against our opponents. Whilst this is happening we lose precious moments of our lives and may even become ill as the toxic thoughts of payback seep into our body.
Here is another thought on the topic of childlike behaviour. As a child, you may remember singing nursery rhymes or repeating phrases in the school playground. One such phrase went like this: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”. How erroneous this quote is. I acknowledge that it is possible for the person being called a disparaging name or some other unhelpful remark to rise above the weakness of the perpetrator. It is likely, however, that the experience will wound the target. They may need to spend some time contemplating how they can move on without suffering any long term damage. Our tongue may be one of the smaller members of our anatomy, but can often lead us to be responsible for causing distressing and sustained damage to other members of the human race. Recently, I was introduced to the music of song writer and singer India Arie. At the advanced level music can be a very powerful tool when applied to the theory of conflict resolution. Cole Porter once said “How strange the change from major to minor, every time we say goodbye”. One of the songs Ms. Arie sings is entitled ’Get it together’. Whilst writing this part of the book and thinking about the harm our tongues can do, this song took on a new meaning. I’ll quote some of the words from the first two verses and chorus here:
One shot to your heart without breaking your skin
No one has the power to hurt you like your kin
Kept it inside, didn’t tell no one else
Didn’t even want to admit it to yourself
And now your chest burns and your back aches
From 15 years of holding the pain
And now you only have yourself to blame
If you continue to live this way
Dark future ahead of me
That’s what they said
I’d be starving if I ate all the lies they fed
Cause I’ve been redeemed from your anguish and pain
A miracle child, I’m floating on a cloud
Cause the words that come from your mouth
You’re the first to hear
Speak words of beauty and you will be there
No matter what anybody says
What matters most is what you think of yourself
Attitude. You work on yours and I’ll work on mine.