Can Relationship Counselling Techniques Help Us Create Better Business Relationships?


Saturday, 9.19pm

Sheffield, U.K.

If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

You know that old saying about how you will spend more time with your colleagues at the office than you will with your partner?

Well, that’s probably not going to be that true any more.

But, you will spend more time working with lots of people, especially if we transition to a world where more people do more remote work.

So you will need more of your staff to be able to understand how other people tick – something which few of us are taught at any point in our lifetimes.

For example, do you know why that person in that department always disagrees with what you say – how they persist in never seeing the insights you’re bringing to the discussion?

You hate them, right?

In a previous post I’ve talked about how, when you’re trying to persuade, you only appeal to those who agree with you and those on the fence.

But it’s harder to do that when you have to work with colleagues, clients and suppliers.

You haven’t got a choice – you can’t ignore them.

Well, I suppose you can.

There is a school of advice that says fire the people who you don’t get on with and focus on the ones that are left.

Maybe that works, but maybe also it’s the easy way out – like getting a divorce when you find it hard to get on with your other half.

If you keep bailing out when the going gets tough – then what guarantee do you have that things will improve with the next partner – the next colleague, client or supplier?

Maybe the problem is you.

How do you tell?

Well, in relationship counselling, you have models of thinking and doing – cognitive behavioural approaches.

One that I came across a number of years ago is Baucom et. al’s five types of cognition, that correspond to the points in the image above.

This material talks about five types of thinking, of cognition, that may help relationships go well or badly.

If you can see this kind of thinking then you might be able to do something about it.

Let’s work through this with an example – say you have a young colleague and you’d like to develop her as a professional, but you’re struggling to get her to see what she needs to do.

Before you get her to do something new you need to understand how she thinks now.

And that starts with the assumptions she has – the basic beliefs about the situation you are in.

Maybe she believes that what’s important is getting her task list done, being polite and working from nine to five as set out in her contract.

The basic beliefs join together to form standards – a mindset – a way of thinking that informs her approach to the world of work.

Perhaps it’s got to do with ideas like she should be paid the same as a man, that work shouldn’t be taken home, and that you should be able to have time off to spend with her family.

That mindset is based on selective perception – a subset of data that underpins her mindset and justifies her thinking.

Maybe that has to do with the long struggle for female equality, with stories of glass ceilings and the anger of those unable to fulfil their potential.

You’ll see beliefs and mindsets and justification combine in creating the attributions she makes – the reasons why she believes others act the way they do now and in the present behaviour that results.

And they also combine to create expectancies – what she thinks people will do in the future.

This whole model is about the way someone thinks – and the way you think.

Conflict can happen in any one of these spaces – in any kind of relationship.

It’s very hard for us to really understand that other people may think differently – because these five types of thinking are invisible to us, we only see the actions that are carried out as a result.

But we don’t see how basic beliefs cause that action, or how expectations about how someone else will act drive us to do something now.

And we’ll never get that understanding unless we stop and start to talk and, more importantly, to listen.

In business being able to understand how other people think should be classed as a superpower.

Some people can do it by being able to empathise – by seeing the world through another’s eyes and feeling what they’re feeling.

Some of us have to observe and ask – and try and tease out an understanding of how people think.

And you can do this for good and bad.

I’m watching a lot of videos at the moment that score quite highly on my scam scale – questionable content and hard sells.

But it’s hard to tell the difference, on the surface, between a scam and a sincere desire to help.

After all, to be taken in by a con needs you to give someone your confidence.

Perhaps this model will help you check whether you have a handle on how the person talking to you is thinking.

And if you don’t, perhaps you should wait till you do before you go into business with them.


Karthik Suresh

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: