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The other day I was all geared up to address a growing conflict in my life. Then I asked the other party a simple question, and suddenly everything was ok.
Our back lawn hadn’t been cut in three weeks, and the grass was so tall that our cats almost disappeared when they walked into it.
If I still lived with my parents, my dad would not have been happy with me.
Since I don’t, and since I’m a bit too busy to mow our fast-growing lawn every week, I was the one that wasn’t very happy with the guys I’d recently hired to do that for me. Apparently, they’d only been taking care of our front lawn and bushes lately.
I mentioned this to a friend of mine, and his response was,“fire them. If they’re only doing half the work you’re paying them for, they’re taking advantage of you.”
I agreed that I needed to talk to them, but with a different approach. So the next time they showed up, I walked out to greet them.
After saying hi, and with respectful and polite assertiveness, I asked them, “so is there a reason you guys haven’t mowed the back lawn lately?”
Now, I’ll admit that mentally I was prepared for, and almost expecting, anything between a vague excuse and down-right indifference. But instead, they told me that they were doing it to fix the “bald spots” on our lawn, where grass hasn’t grown for years.
Apparently, if the kind of grass we have is kept too short for too long, those tend to form. And to help the grass grow back, it needs to be longer than we keep it, and it needs to grow freely for longer than we usually let it. (And I did later confirm this with a gardener friend.)
So it turns out that what I had seen as a problem and poor workmanship was actually them doing a better job than the company we used before them.
Had I listened to my friend’s advice I might’ve lost these skilled workers my business and kept damaging our lawn. And even if they would’ve been able to explain things and convince me not to fire them, I would’ve still risked souring our relationship and causing stress and frustration for them, as well as potential embarrassment for myself.
But since I followed the number one rule of conflict management (to make sure you fully and genuinely understand the other person’s reasons), I didn’t just keep our relationship intact, but I experienced an increased trust in this company as well.
Granted, they could have (and should have) let me know beforehand why they were letting my grass grow so long. But we can’t always depend on other people to communicate perfectly. And when they don’t, it is up to us to do a better job of communicating if we want better results.
When we do, we not only reduce misunderstandings, conflicts ,and negative experiences – but we tend to increase trust and respect as well.
So please, when you have issues with someone that you need to deal with, start by asking the questions that will help you fully understand their side of the situation.
This habit will improve your communication, your relationships, and even your social comfort and confidence.
Hi, I'm TJ Guttormsen.
Since 2009 I’ve coached clients ranging from Olympic gold medalists and billionaires, to people who simply want more out life.
I’ve done over 100 national media appearances, published books, and created online courses that have earned several “Highest Rated” titles from their 11 000+ members.
Today I coach clients from all over the world, and teach seminars for business and events from my home in Las Vegas.
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