You support people in a resilient way by creating relationships that are effective, satisfying, and intimate. You can accomplish this even when the relationship involves healthy goal-striving or mentoring. In consistent patterns of destructive competition and overprotec- tion, however, supportive connections break down. This under- mines all parties, and if unchanged through supportive actions like assistance and encouragement, relationships take a downward turn. Forming supportive work relationships is more doable than it may sound, and the effort is more than worth it. Resiliency is positively connected to employee and employer effectiveness through its link to citizenship behavior. 1 Let’s start by considering what makes someone a ‘‘significant other.’’ At work, your significant others are the people you interact with regularly in order to get tasks done. This certainly includes your team members, supervisors, and supervisees. Depending on the company organization, it may also include fellow committee members, consulting experts, and even peers, if you and they in- fluence each other. The defining characteristic of a significant relationship is that you and the person regularly influence each other’s performance effectiveness, self-worth, self-definition, and sense of common cause in the company. Outside of work, but often relevant to it, are your immediate family members, and even less immediate ones, if you interact with them regularly in a way that influences your functioning. Also relevant are your close friends and perhaps an occasional fellow member of organizations important to you, like religious congre- gations and community groups. Social relationships outside of work affect our performance and health. Therefore, we must con- sider our influence on the self-definition, worth, and performance of fellow coworkers, friends, and family, as well as their influences on us. You are definitely fortunate if you and your significant others are already exchanging assistance and encouragement, without any further effort on your part. But, if your relationships are char- acterized by competition or overprotection, you will have to initi- ate the steps toward resolving the existing conflicts. If you take the initiative, this greatly increases the probability that the other peo- ple will join in constructively. It does not help to point out insis- tently everything that other people are doing wrong, however valid this may seem. This kind of critical confrontation, even if accurate, will engender defensiveness in them, defensiveness that may actu- ally worsen the situation. Then, you will get into a never-ending spiral of stressful criticisms, without much good coming of it. Of course, someone can always decide to end the relationship. But, for coworkers this may have negative consequences and for family members, devastating ones. As we have said before, the form of assertiveness that is best for fostering trust, cooperation, respect, and closeness in relationships that are problematic is more unilat- eral disarmament than attack. In order to help you build resilience at work (and outside of work) through social support, we present here a three-step plan that encourages you to examine your relationships, to develop a way of solving the conflicts in these relationships, and to put your plan into action, one relationship at a time.
STEP ONE CREATE A SOCIAL INTERACTION MAP
Write down the names of all the individuals who, through the roles you play in each other’s lives, are important to you. Your map will certainly include your fellow employees with whom you must interact in order to get the company’s work done. It will also include your immediate family members. There may also be other people, such as friends and more-remote family members, on your map. Then, for each person on your list, indicate what it is that brings you into contact and what defines your relationship. You can do this by answering the following questions and specifying the connection between you as completely as you can. In answer- ing these questions, you are recording for yourself the degree to which the people on your list are significant to you. Identifying Significant Others in Your Life In the case of fellow employees: 1. Are you in the same team or department? 2. Is the person your supervisor? 3. Is the person your supervisee? 4. Does the person have a consulting function for you (such as legal or computer expert)? 5. Are there also more informal connections between you (such as sharing church membership or having regular lunches to- gether)? In the case of family members: 1. Is the person your spouse or child? 2. Is the person your parent or sibling? 3. Is the person a more distant relation, such as your uncle, aunt, or cousin? 4. Is the person related to you by blood? 5. Do you live in the same home as the person? 6. Do you meet with the person regularly? 7. Do you have only occasional contact, such as by telephone or at celebrations? In the case of friends or fellow members of organizations: 1. Is the relationship emotionally intimate? 2. Is the relationship physically intimate? 3. Do you interact with this person every day? 4. Do you interact with this person regularly, yet not every day? 5. Do you interact with this person only occasionally? 6. Do you interact with this person only sporadically? You now have the personal information to see just how close each person on your list comes to being a significant other in your life. As to fellow employees, if your job requires that you work together, they qualify as significant others. If you supplement work requirements with additional interaction, this intensifies the tie be- tween you. For family members and friends, if you live together, you qualify as significant others. Once again, if you supplement the living arrangements with regular, intimate interactions, this also intensifies the tie between you. Do Your Relationships Involve Conflict? How well our lives progress is importantly influenced by how sup- portive the ongoing relationships are with the people we are close to. Now that you have clearly identified these people, you are ready for an additional, important process of reflection. Specifi- cally, you need to recognize whether there is conflict in the rela- tionship between you and each of your significant others. Please be as discerning and honest as you can in answering the questions that follow, as your insights and conclusions are crucial in the attempt to improve your relationships. It will be helpful to you, in answering the questions, to keep in mind the insights and reflections you had while reading the examples of competition and overprotection included in chapter 9. Answer these specific ques- tions with regard to your interaction pattern with the significant people in your life. 1. Does the person compete with you on the tasks to be per- formed? 2. Do you compete with the person on the tasks to be per- formed? 3. Does the person compete with you in interactions with others? 4. Do you compete with the person in interactions with others? 5. Does the person overprotect you on the tasks to be per- formed? 6. Do you overprotect the person on the tasks to be performed? 7. Does the person overprotect you in interactions with others? 8. Do you overprotect the person in interactions with others? Answering these questions may be painful, especially when they show how you initiate interactions with the others. But, giv- ing your best effort in answering will help you understand the specifics of conflicts you may be having with these people. Most conflicts arise from competition or overprotection. So, your obser- vations here are a vital first step in the process of trying to resolve the conflicts. You will emerge from this first step as having identified which of your relationships are conflicted, and whether the conflicts are the result of something you are doing, of something the other per- son is doing, or of some mutual contribution.
STEP TWO SOLVING CONFLICTS THROUGH ASSISTANCE AND ENCOURAGEMENT
You are definitely fortunate if some of your relationships are with- out continuing conflict and already involve a pattern of giving and receiving assistance and encouragement. But, when competition or overprotection characterizes a relationship with a significant other, you will have to initiate the changes that lead to resolving the conflict and replacing it with assistance and encouragement. If you initiate in this way, it will greatly increase the probability that the other person will join in constructively. By now you have made a list of which of your relationships are mired in conflict. Select one of these relationships to work on in this second step. Some of our trainees prefer to choose a less cen- tral, less conflicted relationship, because that seems easier and per- mits greater concentration on the specifics of planning and taking needed actions. But, other trainees want to get going immediately on the most problematic and central relationships, the quicker to improve their life pattern. It’s up to you which relationship you work on first. And, of course, once you have successfully worked on the first conflicted relationship, you will be going on to the next, and the next, until your list is complete. Understanding Relationship Conflict Resolving relationship conflict involves talking honestly and fully about the problem, and trying to behave more constructively. In order to be able to talk honestly and fully, you must reflect on the contributions both parties make to the problem and the debilitat- ing effects of those contributions. To be really helpful to the other person in this process, you must look beyond the obvious, but do not do this with an ax to grind, even if you are feeling hurt and angry. As if this were not hard enough, we are also asking you to reflect on whether you have actually been the instigating problem in the relationship. For most of us, this is a very difficult thing to admit, but makes all the difference in whether or not you can improve the relationship. Answering the following questions will help you in this diffi- cult process: Question 1: Which of the following descriptions best characterizes your conflicted relationship? s Both you and the other person keep trying to compete with each other. Describe how this happens. In doing this, keep in mind all you have read up to this point on ways in which competition gets expressed in relationships. You may find it especially helpful to recall the discussion of Bill F., Julie W., and Jim T. in chapter 9. In being as honest as you can about yourself, recognize that in some relationships, it’s common for people to compete. s Both you and the other person keep trying to overprotect each other. Describe how this happens. Be as honest as you can, keeping in mind all you have read on overprotection. It may be helpful to recall the story of Amy in chapter 9. s The other person competes or overprotects, and you react defensively. Describe how this happens. In addition to detailing the other person’s destructive ways, make sure to include how your reactions may be further undermining the relation- ship. In particular, do you withdraw or express angry criti- cism? Both of these reactions have an undermining effect, however understandable they may have seemed to you. Withdrawal and criticism will only engender even more de- fensiveness in the other person and are therefore inconsistent with the significant nature of the relationship. s You compete or overprotect, and the other person reacts de- fensively. Describe how this happens. In addition to admit- ting your destructive ways, include how the other person’s reactions are further undermining the relationship. Does he or she withdraw or express angry criticism? Once again, both of these reactions just make matters worse. Question 2: In the conflicted relationship, what are the underlying feelings you and the other person are having? The clue here is to get behind whatever you or the other person are saying and doing in order to find the underlying feelings. Let’s talk about competition first. What are the feelings behind this? Down deep, people who characteristically compete with sig- nificant others almost always feel inadequate in some way, and therefore envious. It’s as if someone were saying, ‘‘Poor me, I’m not as capable (or as attractive) as he is.’’ But, instead of accepting and admitting that, he denies it and slips into envy and competi- tion. Blaming it on the other person, he’ll say, ‘‘Who does he think he is? I’ll show him who’s best.’’ If a significant other keeps com- peting with you, some of this must be going on. And, if you keep competing with him or her, you must be having these underlying feelings as well. Something surprisingly similar happens in the case of overpro- tection. Troubled by underlying feelings of personal inadequacy, the overprotective person covers up these feelings by acting as if the opposite were true. This takes the form of belittling the capabilities of significant others and taking on responsibility for ensur- ing their safety and success. It’s as if the overprotecting person were saying, ‘‘I’m not the inadequate one—she is. It’s my job, therefore, to protect her from harm.’’ If a significant other keeps overprotecting you, some of this must be going on. And, if you keep overprotecting her, you must be having these underlying feel- ings as well. Now, let’s focus on what it feels like to be on the receiving end of competition by a significant other. You don’t see yourself as expressing competitiveness, but being the recipient of it. In this case, you are likely to feel hurt. You may think, ‘‘Why am I being treated this way? We are obviously not as close and cooperative as I thought. It makes me really sad.’’ An aspect of this sense of hurt might even be to wonder whether you have done something or been weak in some way that encouraged the competition. ‘‘Maybe I’m just too naive and trusting,’’ you may wonder. But, feelings of hurt often give way quickly to anger. You may ask yourself, ‘‘Who does she think she is?’’ or ‘‘There’s no way she is going to get away with how I’m being treated.’’ The reactions of hurt and anger tend to go together. Once again, the feelings you have when someone is being over- protective of you are surprisingly similar to the feelings you have when someone is being competitive toward you. It is, of course, possible that you feel so overwhelmed and undermined that you welcome overprotection. More typically, however, when you inter- act with significant others, you expect some level of equality, or at least some recognition of it. When a significant other consistently overprotects you, it is likely to stimulate your feelings of hurt and anger. You may express such thoughts as, ‘‘Am I really as inade- quate as he thinks I am?’’ The anger inheres in such reflections as, ‘‘Who is he to lord it over me as if I can’t do anything successfully?’’ And, once again, the reactions of hurt and anger tend to go to- gether. It is important for you to be clear about the combination of feelings you and your significant other are having in the conflicted relationship that you want to improve. You both may be feeling anger, hurt, or personal unworthiness in various combinations and degrees, depending on whether you are the one being competitive or overprotective, or are on the receiving end of these behaviors, or something of both. Answering the next question will help you figure out how to express these feelings and address the feelings of your significant other in a manner that will help resolve the rela- tional conflict. Question 3: When you and your significant other are interacting and painful feelings are involved, what are the strengths and weak- nesses of your communication styles? The major difficulty with interactions that involve painful feel- ings is that we may act them out in ways that just make matters worse. Acting out these painful feelings is likely to lead to defen- siveness on the part of the other person, and before you know it, the relationship has deteriorated further. Let’s say you are angry at a competitive coworker and say, ‘‘Who do you think you are? I can’t even talk to you, because you always have to trump me.’’ The defensive response to this is likely to be something like, ‘‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. I didn’t try to hurt you.’’ In return, you step up your anger, saying ‘‘You’re weaseling out of it. I don’t believe you didn’t know what you were doing.’’ Before you know it, the relationship will worsen, rather than improve. And, the scenario will be similar if you are the one being aggressively confronted by a significant other who feels you have competed incessantly with him or her. Let’s say you are being constantly overprotected by a family member and act out on your feelings of being seen as too inade- quate to survive well. You might say, ‘‘You must think I’m such a wimp. Why don’t you respect my capabilities? You’re not the only one who can do well.’’ Your family member may well respond defensively to this, saying, ‘‘Don’t you know how much I care about your well-being? I’m just trying to protect you. But, I guess you don’t see that.’’ And this ticks you off even more as you say, ‘‘I don’t need you to protect me. You must think you’re God Al- mighty.’’ This relationship is getting worse right before your eyes. And, the scenario is similar if you are the one being overprotective and are confronted aggressively by a family member. Communicating Constructively So, how is it possible to discuss conflicted interactions with a sig- nificant other in a way that can improve the relationship? Essen- tially, you must be aware of your feelings in the situation, but not act them out in a confrontational, critical manner. Instead, you need to talk about your painful feelings and those of your signifi- cant other, using that as a springboard to more constructive inter- action. How can you do this? Let’s say that your coworker has been competing with you. In talking with him about this, you may say, ‘‘I’ve been feeling sad lately about our relationship. I know you don’t mean to hurt me, but that’s what happens when it seems to me like you want to get ahead. Part of the reason I feel hurt is because our relationship is so important to me. I’d like us to work in cooperation for the good of us both and what we have to accomplish.’’ This form of communication is less likely to engender a defensive reaction from your coworker. Instead, he may say, ‘‘I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were feeling bad about working with me. I was just trying to do my best. Yes, let’s try to find a way to work together more.’’ A similar scenario may take place if it was you doing the com- peting, and your coworker wanted less conflict. If your coworker approached you in the way suggested above, you might also re- spond nondefensively. Something equally constructive could result if the problem is chronic overprotection. In talking with a family member who is overprotective, you can make it clear you know she is trying to help you and this help is appreciated, but that it is hard for you to make contributions under these circumstances. If this is not done in an angry, blaming fashion, it increases the likelihood that the family member will not become defensive. She may even apologize and agree to find a way to work more constructively together. And, of course, if you are the overprotective one and your family mem- ber approaches you in the same way, this leads to positive effects as long as you remain open. In coming up with your answer to Question 3, think through the specific feelings involved in the conflicted relationship you are working on and see if you can imagine having a calm, mutually appreciative discussion of the problem. Can you see yourself ap- proaching the significant other in the manner we have suggested here? If so, that may make all the difference in the world. For you and your significant other, it may pave the way for a pattern of giving and receiving assistance and encouragement. Building a Pattern of Encouragement and Assistance In order to be able to build two-way assistance and encouragement into a hitherto-conflicted relationship with a significant other, you must transcend your painful feelings of hurt, anger, and inade- quacy so that you can work on reaching potentials, rather than being bogged down in actualities. Initiating the constructive dia- logue emphasized above is a major step toward socially supportive interactions. Once that dialogue is underway, it is time for you to begin giving assistance and encouragement to your significant other. If this has to start as a sole contribution on your part, so be it. When the significant other receives assistance and encourage- ment from you, it will be hard for him or her not to give it back. Let us refresh your memory about the meaning of assistance and encouragement. To encourage significant others, you must first be empathetic toward them. This involves being able to put yourself in their shoes, to experience life and its stress the way they do. Empathy leads to being sympathetic, to wishing to facili- tate their struggles to meet goals, perform effectively, and feel fulfillment. The final aspect of encouragement is feeling and expressing confidence in, and admiration for, the significant others. In summary, when significant others experience stressful cir- cumstances, you appreciate their dilemmas, want the best for them, and believe in them enough to think they will be successful. As you can see, this is not at all the same as wanting to compete with them. Nor is it the same as overprotecting them, though the distinction here is more subtle. Overprotection means not wanting significant others to experi- ence any painful feelings or stressful circumstances, regardless of whether going through that process is inevitable in order for them to reach their goals and to develop. In contrast, encouragement is being supportive and facilitative, but accepting the life trajectory your significant others have chosen as important and worthwhile, and believing them capable of succeeding in it. We hope you see this difference, as it is very important. Assisting significant others is more concrete, but needs to build on your wish to encourage them. Specifically, in assisting, you are willing to do whatever you can to facilitate them in their efforts to cope effectively with the stressful circumstances they experience. There are three general ways of doing this: 1. One involves contributing your resources to facilitate the efforts being made by your significant others. If you have some knowledge or expertise that will help them, you give it will- ingly. If you have some contacts that can provide the knowl- edge or expertise that will help, you make them available. If you are a good sounding board, you offer that as a way to facilitate their planning. 2. Another way is by taking up the slack. If your significant oth- ers are preoccupied by their struggle to cope with stressful circumstances, you may temporarily take over some of their responsibilities that are not directly relevant to that particular struggle. 3. Related to this is yet another way of assisting significant oth- ers that gives them space they need if they are attempting to cope with stressful circumstances. Perhaps they are so over- whelmed that they are not giving you the usual level of atten- tion and interaction your relationship enjoys. You can assist them by simply accepting this temporary distance, without reacting negatively to it as unwarranted rejection. In summary, you can assist by making your expertise and con- tacts available, temporarily accepting uncharacteristic distance, and taking over nonessential tasks. You don’t want to make this assistance on your part a permanent feature of the relationship. Rather, it is a constructive response when your significant other is temporarily preoccupied with the struggle to cope with stressful changes. This assistance is not at all the same as being competitive. The distinction between assistance and overprotection is more subtle, but hardly unimportant. In assisting, you are not taking over the person’s tasks and efforts. Instead, you are facilitating his or her efforts. That person is still the decision maker and initiator with regard to the stressful circumstances that impinge and need resolu- tion. To be sure, our emphasis in the preceding paragraphs is for you and others to give unilateral assistance and encouragement. Some may feel like this is giving in. If you do this, however, with hardy attitudes, these interactions will strengthen you. Remember, by the time you give assistance and encouragement, you will al- ready have initiated a discussion of the relationship conflict and how it might be resolved. And, you will communicate that you will start giving assistance and encouragement, and hope, in turn, to receive it back. Under these circumstances, it is very difficult for someone profiting from assistance and encouragement not to give it back. The aim is to initiate the process of improving the relationship. With regard to this process, you must consider two key questions. Question 1: Specifically, how will you offer encouragement to your significant other? It is time to become more specific about the particular relation- ship you are trying to improve. In particular, how will you offer encouragement as your significant other attempts to struggle with stressful circumstances? Building on the insight you have gained through answering previous questions, you may well be able to sense the specifics of what it is like to be in the other person’s shoes. Elaborate this empathic observation for yourself. Once you feel what he or she must be feeling, use that as a basis for constructing a sympathetic communication. Be specific about what you will say that is sympa- thetic enough to convince the other person that you really sense what he or she is going through. Having gone that far, reflect on ways in which you consider the significant other capable and able to be effective. Further, what are the ways in which you admire him or her? In order to go through this process of reflection well, you will, of course, have to put the feelings of hurt and anger you were having behind you. Hopefully, you have accomplished this already in finding answers to previous questions in this social support process. Keep trying, as it is time now for you to find words that convey your support of and admi- ration for the significant other, even though your relationship has involved some conflict up to now. Question 2: Specifically, how will you offer assistance to your sig- nificant other? Here, too, your task is to become as specific as you can about particular ways in which you will offer assistance. Having identi- fied the steps your significant other is trying to take to cope with or solve the problems created by stressful circumstances, you need to ask yourself what you can do that will help him or her in this process. Remember the three aspects of assistance. Does it make sense to give the person some space? If so, then how? Perhaps you can encourage him or her not to attend the next routine department meeting or two in order to save time and en- ergy for the coping effort. Is it useful temporarily to take on some of his or her tasks that are less relevant to the stressful circumstance? If so, which tasks, and how will you perform them? Perhaps you can answer the per- son’s routine customer requests over the next few days, when the bulk of the effort to cope with the stressful change needs to take place. Are there specific resources you possess or that are available to you that would help the person’s efforts? If so, what are they and how can they be accessed? Perhaps you have dealt with this kind of stressor before and have accumulated knowledge of what tends to work, and what does not. Or, perhaps you have a friend in another company with this kind of information and can introduce your significant other to him or her.
STEP THREE CARRY OUT YOUR ACTION PLAN AND PAY ATTENTION TO THE FEEDBACK YOU GET
By now, you have done a lot of work leading up to an Action Plan aimed at increasing the social support in your conflicted relation- ship. Specifically, you have planned to start communicating in a way that transcends your painful feelings resulting from the con- flict and emphasizes how the relationship can improve. Further, you have planned how to communicate about and act on giving assistance and encouragement unilaterally, so that your significant other can better cope with the ongoing stressful circumstances. It is time, now, for you to be very specific about your plan and how you will carry it out. Question 1: What is the content of your Action Plan? You are ready now to write down the specifics of what you want to accomplish by communicating with your significant other about improving your relationship. As we have already covered, you want to flag the problems of your interaction pattern, and try to replace them with assistance and encouragement instead. You want to say that you will try to give assistance and encouragement whenever necessary, rather than insist that your significant other do that for you. These are the abstract goals you are trying to reach. But, what you need to specify here in order to make your Ac- tion Plan particularly relevant are the specifics of what you will try to communicate. What will determine these specifics is the partic- ular nature of the relationship that makes you significant for each other. For example, are you the supervisee, the supervisor, or are you a peer? Are you the person who has been competing or over- protecting, or is it the significant other? Such considerations will influence how you try to communicate about initiating improve- ments. The questions you have already answered in Step One of this chapter will certainly help you in identifying and working within the particular nature of your relationship as you communi- cate. Question 2: What are the logistics of your Action Plan? In formulating your Action Plan, make sure to include the lo- gistical opportunities and limitations imposed on your communi- cation by the particular nature of the relationship. Assuming that the other person is significant for you because you work together, you need to consider how the two of you are likely to be able to talk with each other. One convenient venue is to plan regular pri- vate meetings together, especially if it is group meetings that you are accustomed to. If meetings are not common, you can ask for them. Or, perhaps there are occasional, informal encounters, such as meetings in the lunchroom, that would be helpful. You are, of course, looking for venues that are private, given the nature of the communication you plan. Try to utilize regularly occurring meetings that are private enough to permit you to raise the topic of your relationship and how to improve it. If there are none, then try to find a way of initiating a meeting that is appropriate under your circumstances. In particular, your first meeting concerning how to improve the relationship needs to be private. After all, your significant other may be surprised by your expression of concern and wish to im- prove things. Once that meeting takes place, you can go ahead and take steps to give assistance and encouragement, assuming that he or she will recognize those efforts as what you said you were going to do. But, it is useful to arrange subsequent meetings from time to time so that you can get feedback on your initial efforts. These subsequent meetings will also have the effect, along with your ongoing efforts to help, of increasing the likelihood that your significant other will be reciprocating with assistance and encouragement for you. Remember, building resiliency through social support is a two-way street. Revising Your Action Plan The specifics of your Action Plan may need revision periodically. After all, the magnitude, frequency, and accumulation of stressful circumstances may change over time for you and your significant other. When your significant other is overwhelmed, you need to intensify your efforts toward assistance and encouragement. And, the same is true for him or her when you are overwhelmed. It is also true that some of your specific efforts to give assistance and encouragement may work better than others with this particular significant other. Your observations of this may help you to refine or modify your Action Plan to ensure it is working as well as pos- sible. Three Sources of Feedback on Social Support Remember the three sources of feedback to your transformational coping efforts (see chapter 7) that are important in building up your hardy attitudes? Well, the same three are relevant here in connection with your social support efforts. Specifically, there are observations (1) that you make of yourself, (2) that others make of you, and (3) that involve the intended effects of your efforts. Imagine how much better you will feel when you observe your- self actually taking steps to improve your problematic relationship with a significant other, not detaching or reacting out of anger and self-pity. You might say, ‘‘Is that me? I didn’t know I could do that. Maybe I can turn my life around more than I thought!’’ And, wouldn’t it be great if the people around you give you positive feedback on your efforts? They might say, ‘‘Boy, I didn’t think you had the guts to try to make these changes. We all gave up long ago, but now we think you may be on the right track.’’ Also important will be the feedback you get from the reactions of the significant other who is the object of your efforts. You will see that when you give the precious gifts of assistance and encour- agement, it is very hard for the other person not to value them and act similarly in return. Before you know it, you will have improved the relationship, and you will both be more effective on the tasks you work on together. Your significant other will be very apprecia- tive. And, you will turn to each other when you have need. All this positive feedback will deepen your hardy attitudes, making you more enthusiastic and forward-looking about your life, and more able to be courageous and motivated about finding fulfillment despite stressful circumstances. In short, you will be more resilient. Remember the two people we discussed at the be- ginning of chapter 9 who were suffering the debilitating effects of a lack of social support at work without even realizing it? Let’s revisit them here. DAVID G.: ‘‘I’M SO GLAD I FINALLY REALIZED THAT TEAM MEMBERS CAN ACTUALLY WORK TOGETHER.’’ Through his hardiness training, David began to realize that his anxiety and tension at work expressed the contradiction between the expectation that his team members would work together, and their insistent competitiveness with each other. Once he recognized this conflict, the training exercises helped him to consider what he might do to get his coworkers to work together. After careful deliberation, he came up with an Action Plan. The first step in David’s Action Plan involved taking the initiative in helping his coworkers to see their competitive ways and recognize how this undermined the effectiveness of the whole team. He raised this problem at lunches with the team members he thought would be most likely to re- spond positively. After they agreed with his analysis, he then took his message to the regularly scheduled team meetings. What he advocated was that the team as a whole would do better and reach its goals faster if everyone helped each other. And, this improvement in reaching work goals would make them all look good with the company, in addi- tion to helping them to feel safe in working together. The others generally reacted positively to his message, though it was initially hard for them to give up being wary of each other. The second step in David’s Action Plan was to start uni- laterally giving assistance and encouragement to team members. This was hard at first, as he felt especially vulner- able. But, before long, team members started trying to react in kind to him, to help with his work efforts. He kept mak- ing sure they all shared their observations of each other’s efforts, both in informal meetings and in regular team ses- sions. As time went on, not only did they all feel safer and closer with each other, but it became apparent to all in the company that the team was reaching its assigned goals faster and more effectively. And, of course, David has long since stopped feeling anxiety and tension, and instead is enthusiastic about and capable in his work. JANE W.: ‘‘MY BOSS MEANT WELL, BUT NEEDED TO LET ME DEVELOP MORE.’’ Hardiness training helped Jane realize that her feelings of boredom and stultification were primarily the result of her boss overprotecting her. He micromanaged to the point where all there was for her to do was follow directions rou- tinely. As a result, she felt irrelevant, and thought her career was going nowhere. But, as she analyzed the situation fur- ther, she realized that her boss meant well, though he was too worried and threatened about outcomes to give anyone else a chance to perform. With this important insight, her mood shifted from pain and anger toward him, to pity and concern for him. At this point, she was ready to formulate an Action Plan. The first step of Jane’s Action Plan involved talking with her boss about the problem. She invited him to lunch, and focused first on how hard it must be for him to shoulder the enormous pressure of the high goals imposed on his department by the company. She also hastened to assure him that she saw him as very capable, despite the pressure. He responded gratefully to her observations. Then, she let him know that she really wanted to help more than her role permitted, emphasizing that this not only would be advantageous to him, but would also give her a greater sense of purpose and commitment to the de- partment. She wondered whether he would feel OK about giving her a greater role in the work, so that they could both feel better. This was hard for him to hear, but he was impressed with her observations and initiative. They re- solved to have lunch on a regular basis, to discuss their interaction further. As the second step of her Action Plan, Jane began to give active encouragement and support to her boss. Soon, he was reacting positively toward her, almost as a friend. He opened up more and more about his worries at work, and this gave her an opportunity to give assistance, in the form of suggestions and commitments to take on various tasks. She was careful not to usurp his authority and judg- ment, so that he would not feel threatened. As time went on, he started giving her tasks to carry out without his manipulative control. Soon, he was giving her assistance and encouragement in carrying out these tasks. Their relationship improved greatly, she no longer felt stul- tified, and he saw her as a valuable colleague. Down the road, she actually got a promotion, which her boss sup- ported. Although this made her very happy, the one down- side of it was that they missed working together. SUMMARY So far, you have worked on improving one of the problematic rela- tionships on your list. Once you have begun to be successful in turning that first relationship around, pick another from your list and work on that as well, using the same tools presented in this chapter. And, as that second relationship begins to improve, add the third. Keep the processes going, until you improve the various conflicted relationships that you have with others. What a difference this will make in your life! As time goes on, you will feel more and more social support. This in turn will make it much easier to throw yourself into transformational coping, or solving the problems constituted by stressful changes you encoun- ter by turning them from potential disasters into opportunities. Soon, you will have all the courage and resiliency skills you need for success in the twenty-first century, a time of unprecedented change.