The other day I asked a team of twenty, “Who is withholding thoughts or feelings from someone else on the team?” Every person’s hand went up. This is a typical response from most teams I work with. Companies rarely offer models to effectively clear up conflicts, resulting in a lack of willingness to bring up issues in the first place.
THE COST OF CONCEALING
It takes more energy to withhold, and the more withholding that is going on the more tired the team becomes. People who withhold then begin to withdraw from one another. They don’t listen as well, are less likely to innovate, more likely to gossip and report that they are less engaged.
I often hear from my clients that they aren’t sleeping well because of unresolved conflicts at work. Some even report that they take prescription medications specifically to deal with anxiety arising from unresolved issues with colleagues..
THE CLEARING MODEL
At the Conscious Leadership Group we use The Clearing Model as a guide to help people fully express their withheld thoughts and feelings in a way that eliminates blaming and righteous judging. I asked if anyone on the team would like to use the model to clear up an issue in front of the group. A brave woman named Kara raised her hand, looked across the room and said, “Sandy, if you’re willing, I’d like to clear with you.”
Kara and Sandy had been good friends for years, but when Kara was given a new role they stopped revealing honestly to one another. There had been unspoken tension between them for some time.
Kara went through the model step by step. First she revealed her sadness, then shared they were speaking less often, and next her belief that they were now distant and aloof. Kara owned how she had contributed to the disconnection by concealing. Most importantly Kara took responsibility for judging Sandy for being fake in their interactions and realized that she was the one being being disingenuous. Finally she appreciated Sandy and herself for their shared drive to succeed.
There was a noticeable difference after this clearing. They both had big smiles and greeted each other with a long absent warmth. Sandy shared that her body started to relax the moment Kara called out her name to clear. She said, “I’ve felt this distance between us. The moment she said my name I knew what the issue was and felt grateful to finally address it.”
WHEN THE CLEARING MODEL DOESN’T WORK
Clearing is different than venting. Clearing happens from above the line where the intention is to stay curious, learn and connect. If you try to use the clearing model from below the line, you’re basically saying, “I want to tell you how I’m right and you’re wrong.” You will know if you started the process from below the line because you won’t feel a genuine sense of reconnection when you’re complete.
It’s also important to be sure that the person you want to clear with is actually available and interested in clearing. Nothing is more unsatisfying than clearing with someone who is committed to making you wrong and staying separate.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU NEED TO CLEAR?
Look around at the people you work with and ask yourself these questions:
Is there anyone I’m avoiding?
Is there anyone I’m judging as wrong in some way?
Is there anyone I am withholding feelings from?
If the answer is yes to any of the above questions, we encourage you to practice our model, which you can find on page 146 in our book The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership.