Published 12.08.2020

Written by Darcy Luoma

Darcy Luoma is one of America’s most highly credentialed coaches. She’s worked in 48 industries, with more than 500 organizations, and has impacted tens of thousands of leaders and employees.

Perpetual People Problems Don’t Have to Get in the Way

I’ve been writing my book, Thoughtfully Fit: Your Training Plan for Life and Business Success, with my awesome co-author Eliza Waters for more than two years (if you count the time it was rolling around in my head, round it up to five). However, over the last few weeks, I’ve been in what my team has affectionately called “book mode.”

My manuscript is being reviewed by an array of developmental editors, copy editors and proofreaders. Chapters are being handed back and forth, and as the author, I need to approve every single edit. It’s been an incredible process, and I’m learning a lot about writing (and the insane amount of work that goes into publishing a book!). 

The manuscript must be finished this week in order to meet the June 1 publication date, and I need to sign a document confirming I won’t make any more changes after that. Suffice to say, there’s been a lot of activity to meet this deadline.

Being a type A personality, I take the timeline my publisher provided very seriously. When we recently fell behind schedule, my first instinct was to not say anything—even though I was frustrated. But I’ve learned that only leads to resentment and bigger problems (learn why here).

I mustered the courage to share my concerns with my editor, with compassion expressing my deep gratitude for all the hard work. Then I shifted to curiosity to get a better idea of her perspective.

She quickly replied, “Authors never meet their deadlines! We build padding into the schedule for that reason. It’s ok if we stray from the timeline.”

People Problems are Perpetual

This conversation between my book editor and me is a great example of a perpetual people problem. The Gottman Research Institute indicates that 69% of problems are perpetual. In other words, 69% of the reasons you have conflict with someone else will always be there. They’re not going away. 

You might be thinking: Then I’ll simply find a different boss or a job where there’s less disagreement. The reality is you’re still going to have people problems—just a different 69%. In my case, I might find someone who has the same affinity to deadlines that I do, but that only means there’ll be something else we’ll disagree on that’ll cause conflict.

Problems because of differences is one of the most common hurdles people deal with. I’d be fine if they were different. I’d be fine if my boss just did this. I’d be fine if my coworker only did that differently. In other words, it’s not me—it’s you.

Here’s the reality, people don’t typically change. My unwavering commitment to deadlines is never going to change, any more than I could become left-handed. When it comes to style, approach, or personality… that’s the 69% that won’t change.

Conflict is a Given—Embrace It

Does that mean we’re destined to have conflict? Yes. However, my intention isn’t to be a downer. In fact, it’s the opposite.

When problems occur because of different styles or approaches, it’s totally normal. There’s nothing wrong with you, your colleague or your team. Isn’t it freeing to know that? 

When you practice Flexibility, you stretch to accept. Oftentimes, you have to accept differences because there’s nothing you can do about it. If you focus on trying to change the difference, you’re wasting your time.

I see team members get tripped up trying to eliminate the differences by changing the other person. They convince themselves that they can’t be successful otherwise. It doesn’t have to be that way, if you focus on what you can control.

You can’t control other people’s preferences or style. You can control how you choose to work together when differences are present. And the strongest teams have diverse styles, so embrace it—and figure out the best way to maximize the differences.

One-minute Workout

The next time you notice you’re getting frustrated by someone else’s style:

Pause: Get off autopilot. Stop spiraling in a thought process where you wish they were different. Stop trying to figure out how you can make them change.

Think: What can you control? What can’t you control? What do you need in this situation? How can you maximize the differences?

Act: Focus on what you can control.

Focus on What You Control

For my conversation with my editor, it wasn’t worthwhile to discuss whether authors should meet their deadlines, or the absurdity of creating a timeline that you know isn’t real.

What was important was to identify a clear process and timeline moving forward to meet our goals.

I can’t wait to share this book with you on June 1! (That’s a deadline that won’t change.) In the meantime, focus on what you can control when differences pop up, and let me know how it goes.

P.S.- Working successfully, even when there are differences, is one of the most essential skills a leader can learn. It’s a focus in our Thoughtfully Fit Leadership: Increase Your Impact series. Registration for our winter 2021 session is now open! Get $100 off by using the coupon code TEAM if you sign up by December 18.

Recommendation- Speaking of personality differences, I love The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too) by Gretchen Rubin. It looks at four different personality types: upholder, obliger, questioner, and rebel. (As you might guess, I’m an Upholder.) When these personality types mix, there’s conflict. And that’s a good thing! Understanding your personality type—and the type of your coworkers—can help you navigate the conflict and use it to your advantage.