Interpersonal Edge: Relief at last

By Dr. Daneen Skube

Tribune Content Agency
Q: I keep reading about pandemic fatigue and I've got it! The future looks like a dark difficult slog. When you look at our current social, economic, and political circumstances how optimistic do you feel about us turning any corners?
A: I'm optimistic that our darkest days in and out of our workplaces will be fading as this year ends. We have some certainty about who is leading our country and a top priority with the new administration will be handling both COVID-19 and the economy.
The three central issues we are facing are: 1) COVID-19.  2) The economy struggling due to COVID-19. 3) And social unrest made worse by #1 and #2.
By scientifically and medically tackling COVID-19 most of our adversities are bound to improve. By the end of December we'll have a good guess on a start for distribution of a vaccine. The infrastructure for distribution is already in place.
A Biden administration will also likely get smart, medical, scientific, and economic advisers together and do what these experts recommend. When human beings chose polarization and distraction by ego or hatred we suffer. When we unify and bring our collective wisdom to the table we're capable of miracles.
I recently watched a Netflix documentary, “Inside Bill's Brain,” discussing Bill Gates. Gates tackles any problem with the idea that, “the difficult takes a long time and the impossible just a little longer.” He doesn't back down from huge problems. He starts by reading everything on a topic, then gathers the smartest people to discuss the problem. Watching these group discussion on fire with brilliant thinking shows what's possible through cooperation.
There's no lack of agreement among us that our species faces unprecedented problems not limited to COVID-19. However, many of us never learned the interpersonal skills to collaborate.
The old saying, “United we stand, divided we fall,” has never been more true. No you cannot make anyone else collaborate but you can look at your own biases, judgments, and potential to demonize those that disagree with you.
In my corporate consulting, I find the people most in conflict with each other are also the people that together can see a problem comprehensively. People in conflict are often both right. When they put their perspectives together innovation and productivity is the result.
My corporate clients often praise my brilliant problem solving but the truth is all I do is get their interpersonal skills on track so they can solve their own problems. I make sure the interpersonal behaviors that are getting in the way of problem solving are replaced with effective skills.
There's an old folk tale describing heaven and hell. There are two rooms. In each there's a bubbling cauldron of soup. In each room, the people gathered around the cauldron have wooden spoons too long to feed themselves. In heaven, the people solve the problem by feeding each other. In hell, the people fight to get the spoon into their own mouths and are starving.
I think 2021 gives us the opportunity to start feeding each other, to refuse to let kindness be a casualty of fear, and to see the “we” in the word “me.” In all selfishness if you want to be well you have to work to leave each person you meet better than you found them. The path forward requires all of us working together and that is perhaps the most “unprecedented” potential achievement we've ever accomplished as a species.
As Martin Luther King Jr. concisely observed, “I have decided to stick with love, hate is too great a burden to bear.” Turns out using love as a verb in actionable cooperation may be the choice and skill that saves us all.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's “Workplace Guru.”. She's the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006).