How ISTDP Improves Relationships at the Workplace

What makes it very difficult to manage relationships and interactions in the workforce?


Sara Keshavarz-moqadam, Ph.D.
Clinical, Health, Organizational Psychologist, Posted on Apr 10, 2024

People are less prone to listen to understand and prefer to listen to react, respond, or judge. In fact, during the conversation, people may tend to navigate in their own minds and interpret the message based on their personal perspective, which is more familiar to them. It is known as the “Projection” defense mechanism, which unconsciously distorts the real content based on our own fears, biases, and backgrounds and can lead to inappropriate behavior or response which does not match with the context, leading to destroying the conversation, negotiation, relationships, as well as constructive collaboration.

When people are interacting with high tension and anxiety,autopilot defense mechanisms are triggered, leading to a lack of listening, understanding, quick judgments, and building presumptions about people and matters, which interrupts a constructive conversation.

In fact, when we are not aware of our anxiety and feelings, as well as unconscious and autopilot defense mechanisms, a short, constructive meeting, which can be simply 10-15 mins with a productive outcome, may turn into a full-hour battle with high emotional cost and low effective outcome! This situation can jeopardize both individuals’ well-being and productivity!

Considering two colleagues who want to communicate on an issue to achieve a mutual understanding of it and find a negotiated solution. The speaker is under tension caused by that issue and cannot manage their rapid rhythm of speech, choose vague words for transferring the message, and cannot keep eye contact to engage the other party to stay mindful in the conversation. On the other hand, the listener is thinking about how to respond to how the speaker is wrong instead of applying active listening skills to pay careful attention to the content. Also the listener frequently interrupts the speaker, which makes the speaker more confused and stressed, resulting in destroying the conversation. It is not surprising that after a one-hour stressful meeting, they neither find a mutual understanding nor a negotiated solution! But what happens if we can manage these autopilot destructive behaviors and turn them into constructive ones, fulfilling our conversations and facilitating reaching our goal with the lowest cost and effort?

It is possible to change habitual behaviors, even if they have been working for a long while! You do not have to pay the toll of these habitual behaviors for the rest of your life!

Although it takes time and effort to establish new constructive behavioral patterns and make them autopilot, you benefit from its long-lasting effects in all aspects of your life. For example, when you become aware of your autopilot relationship patterns at the workplace and try to establish new mature ones with your manager and colleagues, you definitely see positive relational changes in other areas, such as family, friends, etc., even if you were not intended to do it. So, it is beneficial to invest time and energy in establishing new ones to prevent enormous costs and fruitless efforts!

HOW Does ISTDP Play a Pivotal Role in Improving Your Relationship at the Workplace?

At any workplace, you work with diverse teams with many different behavior patterns, having their own needs and preferences. It is not realistic to control how others behave all the time. In fact, trying to control everyone and every relationship can become very costly financially and emotionally, leading to low Return on Investment (ROI) and low creativity and growth.

It is fruitless to constantly analyze others and try to understand why they behave the way they do. Instead, you can focus on your own contribution to the situation and relationship and how your behavior and your response impact the outcome and the relationship you are having. The latter approach will give you a higher ROI.

Here is the area where ISTDP helps you first be aware of your destructive behaviors and then try to manage them to achieve the desired results in your relationships.

What Is the Value of Using ISTDP to Build Self-Aware Teams?

If all parties are aware of their anxiety and feelings, as well as subsequent defense mechanisms and behavioral patterns, it is highly likely to observe trusting, respectful, mature, and meaningful relationships, preventing waste of time and effort. This self-awareness will equip your team members to wisely choose the behaviors, beneficial for the relationship and productivity. It can lay the foundation for building healthy relationships without bias, judgment, or irrational demands, which facilitate negotiation, mutual understanding, as well as personal and team growth.

How Does ISTDP Help to Shift from Survival Mode into Thrival Mode?

By applying the ISTDP approach at the workplace, you will be able to observe and manage your anxiety and feelings before they push you into survival mode, in which you act just based on our fears, threats, and shame, with no creativity or innovations. In fact, by following the ISTDP principles, you will be able to improve your self-observation capacity and self-awareness, resulting in reduced anxiety, and increased joy, energy, creativity, and real organic growth, which are indicators of thrival mode.

In fact, it takes much effort to replace our habitual behaviors, but once they are replaced, an increase in our psychological capacity, innovation, and better relational patterns between and within teams can be observed. These are the foundations of success and growth and higher levels of well-being and productivity.

Our team at Jalapeno, with rich backgrounds in Clinical, Health, and Organizational Psychology specializing in ISTDP, will help you in your journey to facilitate your relationships at the workplace and bring more joy, understanding, creativity and growth to yourself, your team, as well as your organization.

About the Author: Sara Keshavarz-moqadam believes that the effect of environmental stressors on individual performance is by no means negligible. After studying for a B.A. Clinical, an M.A. General, and a Ph.D. Health Psychology from the University of Tehran and working for many years in these fields, Sara became curious about how to help individuals reach their actual potential. To answer this question, Sara returned to school again and studied for an M.A. Industrial and Organizational Psychology at Adler University to create a novel and holistic approach relying on the principles of clinical, health, and organizational psychology to recognize and address the root causes of problems by focusing on organizational culture, leadership, communication skills, and support system. She is on a mission to improve employees' well-being, happiness, and psychological and physical health to enhance both individual and organizational success.