In my many years of work I have spent some years as an independent practitioner and many years in clinics and offices. Today, as a college professor I do both. I find that it can be ideal to have both settings in my life because I love helping but when independent I do not have real relationships with people (therapy is a special type of relationship). When I add on a workplace, I can develop more relationships that are significantly different from other relationships.
Relationships in the Workplace
In my 30+ years of work I have had workplace relationship issues twice. Once about 25 years ago. I was a clinical supervisor at a clinic and I was young and advancing quickly. That was a formula for trouble and I had not the experience to deal with the ensuing politics. After a while I was miserable and eventually I had to leave. Politics at work can ruin relationships.
Today there is also a particular person who has some issue with me. But I am happy at work. It has absolutely no effects. How is that? What have I learned and what can I share about relationships?
There are actually three aspects that I have learned and are applicable in every person’s life. One relates to how to perceive the negative and two relate to positive aspects.
I Do Not Own Problems in Relationships
To change perception of the negative in relationships is not easy and is one of the skills people learn in traditional psychotherapy. There is a person who was upset with me. Of course, she blamed and accused me of some “terrible” deed. I never thought that there was any truth to whatever she was thinking, but I never tried to convince her of anything. I just assumed that she had a problem and it was not my problem. She had a problem and wanted nothing to do with me. I obliged. I spend a lot of time helping people with their problems but not if they want my help.
Positive Ways of Dealing with Negative Relationships
On the other hand, when relationships in one area of life get screwed up there are also positive actions, steps that can be taken.
Relationships are extremely important but they are not the only way to enhance positivity in life. As an instructor I have my students to be concerned about. I cannot make real relationships with them but I can be dedicated to their success. I focus on achieving an academic goal. Every student who achieves a good grade gives me a sense of achievement. As I put more time into improving my work I have less time to be involved in office politics.
But it is the people and relationships that are important in my life. So to spend 40-50 hours a week without positive human relationships can be overwhelming. So I have learned to select a few people and nurture a positive relationship with them. I go out of my way to say hello and share positive experiences with them. I avoid sharing the negative unless they are ready to be a “dumping ground” and they know that I am only getting things off my chest without animosity. That builds a positive aura around me that enhances my hours at work. And since I am doing it mindfully, it is not really that difficult. I am proactively building relationships, not reactively.
The second path to make up for a substandard relationships at work is to focus on non-work relationships. For me this is easy since I am blessed with six children and 12 grandchildren. That takes time to dedicate to them. People who can’t easily build relationships with family usually focus on friends. But then those relationships needs to be family-like. That can take some work and sometimes some help. But then you also gain achievement.
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