It is common to want to connect with coworkers and find common interests. As you meet others, values such as religious views, politics, and other potentially sensitive issues will likely arise. When you’re by the watercooler this week or eating a meal with coworkers, consider these ideas:
People can have different values: Regardless of your view on a current event or topic, consider the possibility and likelihood that a coworker may have a different experience and subsequent belief. Just because someone has a different opinion doesn’t mean you can’t have yours.
Come from a place of learning: A way to find common ground when values do not align is to learn why someone has a belief you disagree with. Come from a place of curiosity and wanting to know more about a coworker’s values without wanting to change their views or forcing your view on theirs.
Know your audience: When thinking about testing the proverbial climate of a room, notice your environment and whether people in the space want to have a conversation where different values may come up. If the conversation content is light, maybe wait to ask what people think about the latest news. If someone seems to be in the dark about a current event and others seem unaware, consider disclosing what you have recently read or heard—facts and not opinions.
It’s never easy to have difficult conversations with people you see regularly, especially if your coworkers are people you want to connect with and have a closer relationship. Try these concepts out as you’re ready.
Lou Lim is a licensed mental health counselor and registered expressive arts therapist (REAT) with a master's degree in Expressive Therapy and Mental Health Counseling from Lesley University. He is a member of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association and on the committee for REAT credentialing. He has 13 years of experience in counseling and expressive therapy working with children, adolescents, teenagers, adults, and retirees.
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