The conversation goes like this:
"Your hair looks nice today"
"Why, thank you!"
"And you do such an amazing job, we all really appreciate it"
"I'm doing my best"
"I think that last meeting you ran was super efficient."
"Thanks - I thought we got a lot done."
"Sadly, the rota you planned leaves us totally short-staffed we need at least two agency staff right now."
Not quite what I'd envisaged when I told the class about the "Three-to-one" ratio.
Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius in their book "Buddah's Brain: the practical neuroscience of happiness, love and wisdom" describe that we are primed for danger. Our evolution has created a brain that has a stronr inclination to see situations as threats rather than opportunities. If in doubt: run, fight or play dead. Why so? It's always a better bet to avoid being someone else's lunch - even if you occasionally miss out on the opportunity for some sex.
When I read this, I realised that it underpinned some of the research that I had heard which said that you need a three-to-one ratio of positive to negative-or-neutral interactions with your co-workers in order for your relationship with them to be seen as positive.
So, if you're the boss, you need to have at least THREE positive interactions with a member of your team before you can then have a negative (or even neutral) interaction. That's probably not too difficult if you see them every day and life's not too stretched. But if you're interactions are only occasional - and only under stress - then you'll be seen as "negative".
To give this some context, I was on the shop floor of my Emergency Department a few years ago during a particularly busy stretch and one of the senior managers had come down to "lend support" - or, to translate that into the minds of the frantic nursing staff "to tell them how to do their job". I asked one of the senior nurses who this visitor was. "Her?", she said. "She's one of the EVIL ONES". If you're a senior manager beware. You probably need to do a whole load more leadership rounds and write a whole load more thank you letters than you are currently doing - unless you like being called Evil, of course.
The conversation I've reported above is from one of my clients - who have taken this theory to heart and have then done it their own way. If you want to say something difficult to someone - say three nice things first. It's their "Open Club" approach to the "sandwich conversation" so beloved of coaching courses. Personally I like the idea - although I've never tried it. Apparently the transparency of such interactions makes them laugh -