Addressing Tension in Teams Part 1

By
Bernadette Glass
on May 02, 2015

We have all been there! Sitting in a meeting feeling the tension in the room and the tension in our bodies. We can try to ignore the tension but truly, we don’t. It just stays there waiting to be dealt with.

Signs of tension and attempts to relieve it include:

  • Rolling our eyes in frustration
  • Wriggling in our seats
  • Doodling in our diaries
  • Changing the subject
  • Offering a quick solution
  • Sitting in silence
  • Watching for others’ reactions

So what is it?

That familiar saying you could cut the air/feeling with a knife rings true – how does that come about?

Tension is the ultimate sign, that there is more to look at and to deliver.

It may manifest between two colleagues so that they get to support themselves in developing and opening up their communication more, perhaps being more honest and clear with each other, identifying the expectations that cause tension. Within the team when something has remained unsaid for a long time yet everyone knows what needs to be said, tension is the consequence. Tension allows for an opportunity to really open up and let each other be or express and address what is causing the tension.

How do you deal with tension in a meeting or indeed in a one to one encounter with a colleague?

Here are some ways to support you when we feel tension in a group setting or interaction with another:

  1. Allow yourself to feel what is going on in your body.
  2. Monitor the thoughts that come in. Are they judgemental?
  3. Observe if you feel that you are having a reaction to another person, or topic or is the tension related to a tension affecting all?
  4. Take personal responsibility for YOUR feelings and reactions.
  5. Make your behaviour about naming or addressing the issue, rather than just relieving your tension.
  6. Understand that you matter and can make a difference to the wellbeing of your team.

The key is to trust yourself, remain connected with yourself as best you can and express what you have to say, without judgement or perfection.

Read Part 2 of this series Addressing Tension in Teams Part 2

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