When I have a client with a difficult relationship with a boss or colleague, there is a simple exercise that I ask them to do. It is a transformational exercise that can become a life-changing practice.

It is simply to list the positive aspects of their “difficult person”. This includes anything from “he’s a snappy dresser” to “she held the door open for the person coming in after her”. At first, my clients are so stuck in seeing only the negative that they have a difficult time with seeing anything positive at all.

In fact, another coach told me a story about a client of hers who was having a difficult time with some tenants. The coach asked her client to tell her some of her renters’ positive qualities. The client protested that there really wasn’t anything positive she could say about these people. The coach persisted, and after a long silence, her client said, “When they exhale, they breathe out carbon dioxide for the plants.”

We really do get stuck in a downward spiral when we only focus on the negative aspects of a person or situation. But once you notice even one positive aspect – even if it’s just that their breath benefits plants – then you start to break free of that negative hold. As you spend more time on positive qualities the spiral will switch directions. And as you move up on this emotional staircase and you leave behind the burdens of negativity, your vision will expand until you see more to focus on than just the parts you don’t like.

This is not to deny the difficult qualities that your boss or colleague may have. You have to learn how to deal with those irritating behaviors and frustrating situations (and a coach can help you with that too). But you can’t change them, only yourself. And why work yourself into a pit of negativity over them?

Take one minute every morning and list out all the positive aspects of your “difficult person”. This will spark you to start looking for the positives throughout the day - maybe even comment on them to that difficult person. If you do this simple exercise, I guarantee your relationship will start changing for the better.

Author's Bio: 

Sally Templeton is a leadership and career coach who focuses on practical coaching that gets results. Contact Sally for a webinar or brown bag session for your organization, or coaching for yourself, at insightscoaching@msn.com.

For advice on how to be the boss everyone wants to work for, see her blog at www.managerevolution.blogspot.com.

For executive coaching clients, see www.sallytempleton.com and for those interested in personal or career coaching and workshops, see www.insightscoachingandclasses.com.