When I first got Grace, we lived next door to a wonderful couple that loved dogs. Kitty and Kevin welcomed Grace unconditionally and went to extraordinary measures to show her that. To say Grace was timid would be grossly understated. Anytime anyone came around, she would cower, bark, and/or hide.
So Kevin felt the best way to win her over was to offer delectable treats. It seemed like a perfectly sensible plan. On several occasions, he arrived at the door with freshly grilled steak bones – made especially for Grace. And yet, time after time, Grace declined. Can you imagine? He was shocked, as was I. What dog would ever, ever, ever refuse a mouth-watering bone that every sensory organ in her body must have been eager to devour? It was unimaginable. Yet it really happened.
Her fear was greater than her desire to enjoy those treats. Today, we have to contain her exuberance when she even senses that a marrow bone is within her range. But it was a different story then and despite being snubbed with his incredibly generous efforts, Kevin remained patient and compassionate whenever he was around Grace. She learned to begin to trust, in large part because of the safe environment these kind neighbors offered to her.
When I think about some behaviors in the workplace, it’s much less common for co-workers to have this type of unconditional compassion for each other. Imagine doing something kind for a team member and then that team member isn’t responsive, perhaps doing something distasteful or maybe even rude. It is easy to understand how friction, tension, and untrusting relationships start to develop.
What would happen if we tried to put ourselves in that other person’s shoes? Even if we never understand why another person would do something unacceptable, we always know that having compassion will increase any chance of working through the conflict.