I had a recent chat with a friend who’s a firefighter about relationships at work, which drifted into something related to a standoff. She said that in most work environments, “the ‘crucial conversation’ model is promoted…and they mostly get to see each other at their best because people can usually hold it together for 8 hours on any given day.”

She continued…

“In fire service, our turnover is low, and I know that I’ll be working and living with the same people for the next 20-ish years. So, if we fight one day and can’t get over it, I’m looking at really awkward moments inside a fire, on a medical call, eating with them in the firehouse…for the next 20 years. And eventually, that 2 A.M. call rolls around, and your coworkers will see you at your worst.”

She was talking about the spillover effects from a standoff. In fire service, it’s a priority to resolve tension, conflict, and differences.

Most of us have been in standoffs in our personal lives, and I’d bet the same amount have been in professional standoffs, too. Times when you and another person are in a gridlock, not budging. Even though it’s a professional standoff, the mental and emotional spillover into your personal life can be pretty terrible. I’ve recently talked to clients saying they’re losing sleep or they’ve been for months, “dealing with a difficult person, and it’s not getting better.”

You might think about a time like this and say, “They weren’t being reasonable.” Or flexible, or negotiable, or agreeable, or nice.

We often get here because of an assumption we’re making about the other person’s intent. Maybe we feel we’re being undermined. Or judged. Or the person makes us feel threatened.

It’s in those standoff moments where our interests turn into positions. Positions that are dropped into concrete surrounded by a moat, and we’re the guard dog.

What if during the next time you’re in a standoff moment, you ask yourself, “Am I sharing my interests or guarding my position?” That reflection might help you creatively come up with the next move, whether it’s owning your side of the confusion or getting personal as to how this is affecting you – and you can be the one to end the gridlock.

Think of sharing interests like contributing to a meal, as an intentional, perfectly selected ingredient. Your contribution can make the dish inedible, which pushes everyone away from the table, or make it inviting, which could help prevent a standoff before it starts.

Are you currently in a standoff and want to chat about it? Feel free to grab a time here, I’d love to support you.

Here are a few related resources that I’ve been sharing recently:

1 // “Service is black and white. Hospitality is color.” Will Guidara was on a recent podcast episode of A Bit of Optimism, talking about principles from his book Unreasonable Hospitality, and how Eleven Madison Park became the world’s greatest restaurant by focusing on hospitality not only to guests but to each other. (~30 min podcast)

2 // Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s story of growing up in Nigeria, her love of reading, and “the danger of a single story” is incredible. It has me thinking of the danger of a single story we attach to a person, and how it could hold us back from something great with someone else. (<20 min video)

3 // Do you see or feel murmuring effects of someone else and what they bring to work? What does our “emotional wifi” have to do with it? And how can we bring a generative murmuration to work as a leader? This post by Reboot talks about all of this. (<10 min read)

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