Friday, July 15, 2011

Change Artist Challenge #4: changing a relationship

Your fourth challenge will be to undertake changing a relationship. The purpose is to apply some of your learnings about congruence and conflict.

The Challenge
Choose one relationship you have with another person that's not all you would like it to be. It could be a good friend with whom there's one thing that annoys you but you've suppressed it, or something you like that you'd like more of. It could be a work associate with whom you're not on the terms you'd like to be. Again, don't start by tackling the most difficult relationship you have. If you finish changing one relationship, you are free to do another, and another..., so don't worry that it's too small.

As before, find an interested change artist, or associate, or some willing person, meet with the person and explain the change you want to make. Seek assistance in planning how to go about changing this relationship—assistance with ideas, in checking your ideas, and possibly in practicing in a role play. Then carry out your plan with the actual person.

This challenge will especially give you a chance to confront the difficulties you have in the presence of strong (or potentially strong) emotions in others. After all, you won't know in advance how the other person will respond to your attempt to change the relationship. They might cry, or go into Chaos, or get involved in a conflict with you over it, or become incongruent in a variety of ways. How will you handle yourself in those situations? Will you fail to take a risk because you anticipate one of these reactions?


1. I decided to get to know my boss better as a person, and not just as a "boss." I asked her to lunch. She was a bit taken aback, but once we agreed it would be Dutch treat, she was okay with it. We found out that we both have a passion for softball, but play in different leagues. That gave us a lot to talk about, and since then I've given her the benefit of the doubt when she comes out with some edict I don't understand.

2. I'm responsible for upgrading all the Mac software for my department, and one of the users has been a pain in the derriere for me ever since I got this job. I decided to sit down with him and ask him how he felt about the service he'd been getting. He said that people seemed to avoid him when he had problems, and he was pleased that I'd take the time to sit down with him. I was able to show him a few things that prevented trouble, and cured some things he hadn't even bothered to complain about. He's still a pain, but just in the neck, and I can deal with it. At least it's a little higher up. (smiles)

3. I have an employee who drinks excessively. I had been avoiding the topic because I didn't really know what to do. I paid a visit to our employee assistance program, and they gave me some booklets and some coaching. Next time he came in to work drunk, I knew what to do, and didn't pretend it wasn't happening. He had to confront the impact he's having on his job, and he's now working with employee assistance. He may not solve his drinking problem, but if not, I can handle it.

4. I did this a little backward. I decided to change a relationship back to what it was before. Grace and I worked together for a couple of years, and were very good friends. Then I took a transfer to a different project and moved to another building. I guess I was feeling guilty, like I deserted her—which isn't the way a good friend should behave—so I avoided seeing her or even calling her. I decided just to go over and pay her a visit, like we used to do when we were in neighboring cubes. She wondered where I'd been, and we're back to being great friends. All "her" feelings about me "leaving" were in my imagination.

5. I'd been playing golf with our hardware salesman for a couple of years—him taking me to his country club almost every Saturday. I never felt good about it, like it was somewhat unethical. So I told him that I couldn't play with him anymore unless I paid my way. He objected, saying it wasn't costing him anything, since his company was paying for it. I told him that was the point. He said okay. Now we still play golf, but I feel a lot better about it.

6. I'd been locked in a struggle with Harmon for almost a year over which CASE tool we should use in the organization. I decided to approach him from the point of view that our conflict was only helping those reprobates who didn't want to use any CASE tool. We made a pact that we would join forces to get some CASE tool going, somewhere. We actually flipped a coin to see who would help whom. I lost, so I swallowed my pride and helped him sell his team on using the tool he liked. Once we joined forces, they were a pushover. He was going to help me sell my team on the tool I liked, but by this time I like his tool just as well—actually a little better.


Remember, these challenges are taken from my book, Becoming a Change Artist.

I've wanted to put up a cover picture, but nothing I've tried seems to work with Blogger.

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