Difficult relationship? Try this.
Long ago and far away I worked with this French guy. We’ll call him Pierre. And it wasn’t working.
I found Pierre aggressive, unhelpful and devious.
Is it possible that he found me difficult as well? What, me?! Well, yes, probably.
What to do?
I did three things.
Firstly, I always expected the best of him.
Never gave up on him. And when Pierre did or said something good, I recognised it. “Thanks Pierre. That was really helpful”. Turns out psychologists call this Unconditional Positive Regard. UPR. Who knew?
Secondly, I tried to see the world from his point of view.
I empathised. “Sheesh Pierre, it must be tough working with a Brit like me. And I guess I do interfere with your role a bit. Tough for us both isn’t it?”.
Thirdly, I retained my Integrity.
I behaved as well as I could. And I was honest. If Pierre did something I didn’t like, there was none of that “Well, I felt like saying….” but saying nothing. More like “Hey Pierre, back off mate. You’ve gone too far there”. Lines drawn, and if crossed, appropriate response given.
And it worked! It took 12 months, but it worked. The relationship came good. It was almost as if one day, it just clicked.
I’ve used the same model successfully many times since. Still using it today.
And I’ve seen clients use it. One was able to change a relationship virtually overnight recently. Some are working on a longer timescale. One is trying to use the model to change a complete organisational interface.
Anybody who has studied counselling will recognise the model.
UPR. Empathy. Integrity.
The three core attributes of a great counsellor.
But the combo works in transforming relationships as well.
Sometimes overnight. Sometimes it takes weeks, months, or maybe even a year or two. Takes patience then.