How to Stop Spinning Your Wheels with Someone Who Irritates You

One of the most difficult dynamics I found myself in was a situation where I worked with someone who really irritated me.

Whenever I’d consult with her about a project, she’d respond with what I believed were tangential thoughts… followed by a series of ideas that it was too late to implement. Then she’d point out all of the potential pitfalls we were facing. And to top it all off, we never seemed to get to any concrete solutions.

Our interactions would typically end with mutual feelings of disappointment and deflation… coupled with a nice little side of “Why on earth did I put myself through that… AGAIN?!?!?”

We spent months feeling like we were spinning our wheels. The work wasn’t getting done effectively and we both began dreading our interactions.

Then one day we decided to just sit back, set everything aside, and really try to figure out what the problem between us was.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

But when the work’s piling in… and you think you know best… slowing down and taking the time to have a difficult conversation isn’t really at the top of your list.

So possibly out of sheer frustration, we decided to take a different approach that day.

I asked questions, instead of pushing my perspective forward.

And I listened differently… I listened below the surface.

I wanted to know what was really important for her, underneath it all? What were her core values in the workplace? What did she need from me? And most importantly, what was her mindset when it came to the projects we worked on together?

And she did the same for me.

On that day, we finally bridged the communication gap that we’d been stuck in for months.

I learned that she was a big-picture ideas person who had the “eagle-vision” needed to see all of the potential risks down the line that no one else was thinking about. She really enjoyed coming up with creative options and then analyzing what might go wrong with them.

And she learned that I was a detail-oriented implementer. I needed to know that there was some sort of process in place for moving forward at the end of the day.

I realized that although I was great at implementing, I struggled with coming up with innovative ideas. And she realized that although she was great at out-of-the box thinking, she felt confined by any implementation process… and this fear kept her stuck up in the clouds.

So of course we were rubbing each other the wrong way!

We had been speaking to each other from our own lenses, instead of stepping into each other’s shoes to bridge the communication impasse that we were stuck in.

I also learned that up until then she had been feeling just as irritated with me… but for different reasons… for not seeing the big picture when this was so critical to success. My need to keep moving things along, even if we weren’t going in the right direction, was certainly not endearing to her.

She’d been trying for months to help me see the pieces that I was missing. We just hadn’t been able to tune into each others’ frequencies until that day.

The irony of it all, of course, was that her strengths were my weaknesses and vice versa.

Ultimately we both wanted the same thing – to produce high quality work.

Once we figured all this out, everything almost magically clicked into place.

I started to eagerly meet with her before beginning any big project because I wanted to tap into her knack for coming up with innovative ideas and outlining their risks. We even came up with a code word for the superpower that she brought to the table… “flying.”

So I’d stroll into her office and jokingly say, “Let’s fly for a bit.” We’d brainstorm together and after a while we’d decide that it was time to land.

We’d agree upon a path forward and I’d take the lead on mapping it out… That’s my superpower – taking big ideas, breaking them down into super simple steps, and making sure that it all gets done.

It was truly the most beautiful synergy. And many of our meetings ended up taking half the time that they used to take, with infinitely better results than before.

But we could have never gotten there if we’d stayed stuck in our dynamic.

Sometimes one tiny shift in your approach can make a world of difference.

Does this always happen?

Certainly not…

But with time, patience, and lots of practice, it happens more and more… and even the conversations that don’t go so well start to feel A LOT better because you approach them differently.

I’ll share more about how to make that happen in upcoming posts… so stay tuned!

And by the way, this is exactly what I help my clients do… make little shifts so that they can learn to resolve difficult workplace situations without sacrificing their serenity.

So now I want to get to know you a bit better too! Let me know something about the difficult conversations that you’ve had on your journey.