I say tomato!

leadership Oct 12, 2020

I say tomato (tom-ah-to) and you say tomato (tom-ay-to)!  Same word, pronounced differently.

As a mediator, I get people to tell me their story. What has happened to lead to the break down in the relationship? So people often tell me the same story in great detail but it often sounds like two incredibly different stories that don’t bear any resemblance to each other because of each person’s perspective.  

If two people like each other, they often see the same situation quite similarly and they often use the same language; but when we fall 'out of' love with a work colleague or a partner, we can then view the same situation quite differently. 

We go looking for all the things that prove that person is bad; improper, rude, intolerant etc… Our confirmation bias sets in and correlates all our beliefs as to why we don’t like that person. 

It’s hard to turn off our confirmation bias; particularly when it is so impressive and so loud in our heads. We want to believe our bias so badly.  

I have found that one way to get our brains to turn down the confirmation bias is to humanise the person who is now 'the enemy'.  We need to find ways to share experiences and connect in a way that taps into our humanity. In the workplace, we need to find ways to socialise and spend time with our colleagues in a way that is not threatening and which is fun.   

Spending time at the beginning of team meetings checking in and sharing non-threatening personal information, like the first concert you ever went to or your favourite activity as a child, is a way for the team members to connect without ever mentioning work or the issues within the relationships. 

As leaders, we have a responsibility to help our team members connect and to see each other’s humanity.  Without that, we risk creating an unsafe environment where people spend more time looking for certain people to make mistakes rather than focusing on the good work everyone is doing. 


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