We’re on the same team

by Pace on January 21, 2009

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Chapter 17: We’re on the same team

On the Same Team

Have you ever started a conversation with a friend and had it turn into an argument? Have you ever tried to help someone solve a problem and ended up in a fight? We tend to get defensive, even when we’re not really being threatened — even when we’re on the same team. When we notice this happening in our lives, we remind ourselves out loud: “We’re on the same team.” This simple phrase can single-handedly turn a potential conflict into a helpful conversation.

Kyeli’s Story: Defuse Me Like a Bomb

The simple phrase “We’re on the same team” can bring me up out of anger or hurt feelings. It doesn’t magically make everything better, but it does remind me that Pace isn’t out to get me, isn’t trying to hurt me, and hasn’t maliciously pushed my emotional buttons. It sounds ridiculous, but we tend to feel victimized when we’ve just been hurt by something our partner has done or said, no matter how close we are or how much trust we share. It helps me a lot to hear her remind me that she’s on my team. It often moves me from a defensive position to one where I’m much more able to communicate and be comforted.

One night, we discussed our feelings about an ex-friend who had tried to re-establish communication with us. This person had deeply hurt me before severing all ties a few months back and I was not feeling open or accepting of her. Pace felt differently and we were working through many issues to get at the roots of how we felt. Through the course of the conversation, I started to feel like she wasn’t on my team anymore. I felt it was her vs. me and that she was trying to rationalize my feelings. I started snapping at her, getting defensive, and feeling hurt. Communication slowed to a crawl.

Eventually, I figured out what was happening and I was able to tell her, “Right now, it doesn’t feel like we’re on the same team! I feel like you’re against me!”

We stopped the conversation and took some time out. She hugged me (reconnecting through physical contact is a great way to remember you love the person you’re upset with) and reminded me that we wanted the same outcome: we wanted to come to a decision together about how to handle this situation to make both of us happy. We were, as usual, on the same team. Having that connection re-established, I was able to calm down significantly and go back to our original conversation.

Sometimes, it feels like you and your partner aren’t on the same team, even when you know you are. If you’re lost in the throes of emotion during a heated conversation, it’s easy to lose sight of your common goals. You may feel like you oppose your partner or that your partner opposes you. These are the times when taking a short break to say out loud, “We’re on the same team here; we want the same thing and we care about each other” is important. It helps you remember that it’s not you versus your partner, it’s you and your partner on the same team, working together against the problem.

Pace’s Story: Design vs. Design — Fight!

At work, I discussed the design of an upcoming project with a teammate. I came up with my idea for the design and he came up with his. We argued about the pros and cons of the two different approaches for quite some time and we didn’t really get anywhere. We had become attached to our ideas and had accidentally gotten into a confrontation, as if the two of us were fighting against each other. But it wasn’t true; there was no need for us to fight. We both wanted to accomplish the same goal; we both wanted to solve the same problem. “We’re on the same team,” I reminded him (and myself!). Once we remembered that we were on the same team, the conversation changed from a stressful confrontation into a positive, useful discussion. We considered the ideas on their own merits rather than on our attachments to them. By doing this, we made a good decision and moved forward with it — together.

“We’re on the same team” works in any situation where people share a common goal. Saying it out loud can remind everyone involved that they want to work together to achieve a goal, rather than battling it out amongst one another. Try it! Say these words out loud the next time you feel that someone is forgetting that you’re on the same team with them. It has worked wonders for us and we hope it will be equally wonderful for you.

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