Five Tips to Overcome Negative Distractions in Your Workplace Relationships

October 13, 2021


 The guy was exceptionally nice. Sharp dressed. Successful by most standards. He was someone that I admired, and I was looking forward to learning from him. And, he had a coffee stain about the size of a dime on his white shirt. I wanted to look him in the eye as he spoke to me. What do you think had my attention? Yes, the one distraction that didn’t matter.

It happens to us all the time.

You meet someone that impresses you. They are a person who is kind, intelligent, good-natured, respectful, fun-loving, sincere, honest, and confident. They give you their full attention when you talk to them. You genuinely like to be in their company.

That person could be a co-worker, a new business acquaintance, or a leader in your organization. Whoever they may be, there is a favorable attraction that draws your attention.

It is easy to see the best in them until you notice a weakness, a negative quality, or a slight annoyance. That’s when things change in your admiration of them. Of course, all of those positive qualities still exist, but the one thing that bothers you becomes the sole focus of your thoughts. It begins to influence how you think about them, which shapes how you interact with them. Soon, a positive relationship can be strained or held at arm’s length because you can’t see the good anymore.

Let’s assume that the “coffee stain” is not unethical behavior. It is more likely to be a distraction based on personal style or even personality. The good news is that you can redirect your thinking and restore a positive relationship with them.




  1. Respect Differences — We all have different ways of going about our responsibilities. We have different backgrounds, experiences, cultural influences, and personalities. Take time to understand the other person's differences and consider how those differences might enhance or enrich your experience.


  1. Acknowledgment — Resist the temptation to avoid interaction with the other person. Intentionally make an effort to engage in conversation with them. Acknowledge them with a pleasant greeting in the morning or an instant message expressing appreciation for something they’ve done to help the team.


  1. Help Out — Put yourself in a position of service. Ask how you can be of help to them.


  1. Listen Remember that they have insights and experiences that can improve your professional development. Identify areas in which you genuinely want to grow and ask them for help.


  1. Positive Perspective & Gratitude — Don’t forget that they demonstrated qualities that you admired! Make a list of those positive attributes and be grateful for them.


When it comes to having a quality relationship with others, your focus matters. Your wisdom also matters. Ask yourself if the negatives are really a deal-breaker or if they are merely a small “coffee stain” distraction. Don’t let the little things deprive you of all the good qualities you saw in the first place.




Steven Iwersen, CSP, is the founder and President of Aurora Pointe, LLC, a leadership development company. He is a professional speaker and trainer that specializes in helping organizations manage change and difficult transitions. He is the author of The Porcupine Principles: How to Move Prickly People to Preferred Outcomes. He is also the host of VIP Exchange, a weekly video cast program. Visit for more ideas and information.

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