How to Fix a Communication Breakdown
Help! A colleague leaves you off an important e-mail at work. Then your boss wants an update on a project you never heard of. How do you get in the loop? People often worry about things happening behind their back at work. But instead of giving in to paranoia, start a conversation about roles. Ask your boss, "What are my responsibilities? What decisions should I be involved in? How do I ensure that I get the information I need to do what I'm expected to?" These are questions you can ask in a neutral and safe way. Also ask, "Is there any advice you can give that would prevent this from happening again?" If anyone is out to sabotage you, this will make clear that you're not willing to go along with that dynamic.
Help! Your friend loves complaining to you but never asks how you're doing. How do you stop being the designated Dumpster? Chances are, you pick up the phone and—boom!—she talks, you listen. So at the beginning of your next chat, establish a new structure. Say, "Hey, it's great to hear from you. I have about 30 minutes, and there's a lot I'd like to catch you up on. Maybe we can each take 15 minutes to tell each other what's going on." You can also raise the issue directly: "I value our relationship, and I want to be there to listen. I just sometimes feel that it's harder for me to share with you. Do you have suggestions about how to do that?" This way, you're not accusing; you're inviting help.
This story is part of O's Live Your Best Year Toolkit
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Daniel L. Shapiro, PhD, is on the faculty at Harvard University and is the coauthor of Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate (Penguin).