Mental tricks to mend work relationships

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In a demanding and high-risk workplace like the healthcare setting, flare-ups among coworkers can escalate very quickly. So how do you navigate the different personalities and specific stresses of the day to keep the peace and focus on the patients’ well-being?

“Dialectal Behavioral Therapy” techniques can give nurses efficient and easy-to-use ways to communicate effectively, build relationships and set limits while on the go. The acronyms for each skill make them even easier to use in high-conflict situations.

How to Get What You Need
Need something from your manager or a tough-to-approach doctor? Ask him or her for what you need by using the DEARMAN skill:

Describe the facts—facts that both you and the other person can agree upon.
Express how you’re feeling.
Assert your needs or make a request.
Reinforce for the other person why it would benefit him or her to do this for you. People usually want to know what’s in it for them.
Mindfulness—stay focused on the topic; take a break if things get difficult.
Appear confident (make eye contact, don’t apologize, be clear).
Negotiate (if needed, try to work with how the other person thinks this problem can be solved).

How to Repair a Relationship
So there was a flare-up between you and a fellow nurse. No one wants to feel the tension resulting from the incident every shift thereafter. You can repair or maintain your relationship with that coworker by using a skill called (perhaps not by accident) the GIVE skill:

Gentleness. Be gentle to start. Patients, coworkers and others will respond more readily to gentleness than harshness.
Interest. Be interested in the other person. Listen to what he or she has to say, be sensitive to what’s important to this person and be an active listener. People tend to feel better and respond positively when you are interested in their experiences and give them the time and space to respond to you.
Validate the other person’s feelings, wants, difficulties and opinions about the situation. It’s not necessary to agree with them; it’s only necessary to acknowledge the validity of the other person’s experience.
Easy manner. Use an easy manner—smile, be lighthearted and use a little humor. Remember that no one likes to be bullied.

How to Set Limits
Keeping burnout at bay takes planning. Know how to manage the day-to-day demands placed on you by your team by setting a limit and maintaining your self-respect by using the FAST skill:

Fairness. Be fair to yourself and to the other person.
Avoid excessive apologies. No apologizing for being alive, making a request or having an opinion.
Stick to your values. Be clear in what you believe and what your values are, and don’t sell out your own sense of integrity.
Truthfulness. Be truthful to the other person. Over time, lying about your values or opinions will erode your sense of self-respect.

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Jason Evan Mihalko

Dr. Jason Evan Mihalko is a licensed psychologist in Cambridge Massachusetts with a private practice in the heart of Harvard Square. He received advanced training in cognitive-behavioral, gestalt, relational/cultural, dialectal behavioral therapies, existential psychoanalysis, and clinical hypnosis. His clinical practice is grounded in mindfulness, informed by the relational/cultural model developed by the Stone Center at Wellesley College, and integrates both cognitive behavioral and psychodynamic therapies. Dr. Mihalko works with a wide range of people who are coping with a variety of life issues. He has a particular affinity for working with issues related to anxiety and depression as well as self-injurious and addictive behaviors that limit the freedom of human desire. He is the author of two blogs - Irreverent Psychologist and Therpay Dog and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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One Response to Mental tricks to mend work relationships

  1. Dianna

    Dear Mr Mihalko,

    You make some excellent suggestions. Thank you. A lot of women in the work place, others nurses and staff find and report that working with other women is especially tough. They all report working with men is easier.

    Women are sometimes seldom happy for another to move forward or be noticed for doing excellent work. When I worked in a facility (while in nursing school) … as a CNA I was treated disrespectfully at times by other CNAs and nurses who knew I was nearly finished with school and close to becoming a nurse. I just found out I passed my state boards. As I look for work I want to avoid added stress at work from this type of thing.

    One of the things I noticed was that I was the only CNA at the time who consistently wore ironed and pressed scrubs with a little makeup and made an effort to look professional. I did this in my nursing clinicals as well. I addressed people as sir and mam often trying to be respectful. This actually brought negative treatment from my team that as a whole did not do this. One fellow member said because I kept my nails groomed short and clean with a french tip manicure (do it myself, as a student who can afford weekly manicures right?) one student said sarcastically ” what, are you like going and getting your hands loved on by Chinese women every week?” It is shocking the degree of cattiness you can encounter in a workplace as a women from other women if you stand out.

    Tony Robbins has a great clip on you tube about our deepest fears. He talks about not shrinking back to make others around you feel less insecure. In my heart I want to be excellent in my work, appearance and attitude, but as a Christian I want to be humble.

    What do you think?

    Thank You

    Very Respectfully,