This post is part of our In Relationship series, where we’re diving into what it means to truly be in relationship with others and why we make it our priority.
The goal of creating diverse workplaces that are equitable and inclusive is not to make everyone happy all the time. In fact, we tell clients that our work together is meant to surface discomforts, biases, old stories, assumptions, and unhealthy dynamics so that we can confront and work through them–together.
When we’re building and deepening relationships, discomfort is going to be your foremost experience. Why? Because we’ve been avoiding difficult conversations for the sake of getting along, and we aren’t accustomed to the discomfort of holding space for disagreement or emotions or needs. So any acknowledgment of conflict can feel deeply uncomfortable. Any discussion of unpleasant emotions can seem like a failure to get along. But both are good and necessary steps toward real relationships. We only have to see them as signs of success and not failure.
Maybe some of these other experiences will sound familiar as you build authentic relationships around you. If so, know that they are signs of the work happening and that you can lean into the discomfort instead of avoiding it.
You feel vulnerable. You’re expressing your feelings and needs, maybe for the first time, and the vulnerability that takes can feel jarring. It can even feel unsafe. It can feel counter to what’s been previously taught and expected. But know that a crucial part of being in relationship is bringing your whole self.
You’re tired. You’re doing hard emotional work, and it is tiring. Build in extra time for rest.
Negative feelings are surfacing. Relationship building isn’t necessarily causing you to feel uncertain, anxious, uncomfortable, afraid, or resentful. But the work is calling for you to acknowledge and name these feelings. They’ve always been there but may feel overwhelming after having ignored them for so long. Know they are a sign of growth and movement in the right direction.
Conflicts are arising. No, relationship work isn’t stirring up more conflict. Rather, it’s making normal and necessary human conflicts visible, so you can work through them. Hiding and denying conflicts atrophied our muscles for holding space for diversity. Regaining our strength is going to take commitment, practice, and yes, a little soreness and discomfort.
Cognitive dissonance. It can be disorienting to grapple with the fact that your team has not been acting in line with its values, or that you’ve been living by unstated values that you want to reject. Seeing the contradictions can almost be paralyzing. But the only way to get aligned with your values is to see the misalignments and approach them with curiosity and generosity.
Sit with the discomfort for a bit. What may feel like failure and setbacks can be true signs of achievement.