Cooperation, Collaboration, and Connection

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all get along? I had often asked myself this question – during my childhood when my family was conflicted or, as an adult, when I was working with high-conflict divorce families. Marital discord, sibling rivalry, and competing needs are what most of us experienced during our formative years. The model we have been brought up with, and see all around us, is conflict, competition, chaos, and crisis.  To reduce the conflict, we learned how to pick and choose our battles, withdraw, isolate, or accommodate.

It sounds wonderful to live and work with others – to cooperate, collaborate and connect, yet most individuals, families, and companies have a difficult time achieving this.  In many cases it’s because we haven’t experienced in our own upbringing a good model – where care and compassion for the individuals and the whole are valued.

How can you expect to be able to do something that’s the opposite of what you know?

If you would like to experience cooperation, collaboration, and connection in your life and work, here are three considerations to get you started.

First, become aware of how you handle conflict, or if you avoid it. Conflict can be scary, especially when it escalates. Do you feel safe to speak up? Does it feel okay to disagree? Or suggest new ideas? I’ve worked with adults who don’t feel listened to, heard or respected – a pattern that was instilled in childhood – so they do not feel comfortable with conflict. 

Second, learn and practice new ways to interact with others, such as brainstorming, active listening, offering thoughts and ideas, and asking questions. Everyone involved needs to be able to contribute and allow others to as well, without judgment or criticism. Only then will everyone feel safe to share.

Third, tame your desire to solve problems quickly and to come to conclusions YOU think are RIGHT. When someone jumps in with what looks like an “obvious” solution, everyone misses out on the process of coming up with possibilities that could be better.

Cooperation, collaboration, and connection are worth striving for – and possible to achieve. There is a synergistic effect that happens, and the outcome is often something greater than one person could have come up with on their own.

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