What do I do when I get caught between two people who won’t talk to each other?
My client found herself in a situation where a friend or colleague complained to her about someone who has upset them. For whatever reason, her colleague would not speak directly to the person who had offended or hurt them and instead wanted to complain to my client. My client was inadvertently being caught up in a form of communication called ‘triangling’ where she is playing `piggy in the middle’ in what should be a direct communication between two people. In organisations this type of communication creates a toxic work environment where suspicion and mistrust grows and team work suffers. I coached my client not to be a part of a `triangle’ and instead encourage her colleague to talk face to face to the person concerned and offer any help they need to develop the courage and the skills to do that. Alternatively she could offer to facilitate a meeting to help the parties sort it out. Here is another common situation where a boss is caught in a communication triangle. Helen is upset with her colleague George. Helen doesn’t speak to George and instead goes to her boss, Felicity, to complain about George’s behaviour. Now Felicity is caught in a communication triangle. It gets worse when Helen says `by the way, please keep this confidential’. If Felicity agrees to confidentiality she has just bought herself a greater burden. This type of dysfunctional communication is rife and causes no end of problems in organisations. It causes deepening communication misunderstandings and breakdowns. If Felicity agrees to confidentiality, she is hamstrung because she can’t reveal her source to George. George becomes suspicious, and of course he demands to know who is complaining about him. Now Felicity has a mess on her hands. My recommendation to Felicity is to say to Helen `I strongly encourage you to talk directly to George. If someone is complaining about you I am sure you would want to be the first to know. You need to be courageous and speak to George directly, or if you can’t do that I will facilitate a meeting between you two, or call a mediator. By asking for confidentiality, you are passing a burden on to me that I can’t easily resolve. What stops you talking to George about this and what can I do to build your skills and confidence to talk to him?
If you want to learn how to approach a difficult discussion my Courageous Conversations workshop teaches powerful tools for how to front up to problems, communicate well face to face, in a way that preserves the relationship and reaches agreements.
The next course is on Sept 3rd and 4th 2014.
For more information click here.