Feel The Knot? Go Talk It Out!

Ever get that feeling that something was not quite right in your relationship with someone at work?

You know the feeling: you don’t know for sure – but you have a sneaking suspicion that something is wrong.

It’s a gut feel.

Maybe you said something that upset them? Perhaps they misunderstood you? Perhaps they are holding something against you?

Zina is a leader that I admire, and she says you’ll know it when you’ve got that “knot in your stomach” feeling.

The problem is, the knot just keeps getting bigger.

The next time you see them, you’re awkward now. You hold back. You’re nervous. You’re not how you usually are.

And the other person senses it. Perhaps they’ve got the knot now too!

You can see where this is going can’t you? Not good, huh?

So what’s really going on here? Simple – either:

(a) You were right – something you did / said has upset your colleague.


(b) You were wrong – it was nothing, you mistook a facial gesture, you misread the tone.

And that knot?

It’s nervous tension. It’s your body’s way of telling you that you need to have a conversation that you are not looking forward to.

Not comfortable, but pretty handy really.

Either way – you’ve got to address it, or the knot just won’t go away. And you know what you need to do…

Go have the conversation!

“Hey Susan, I’ve got this sneaking suspicion that you might be upset with me after the meeting yesterday. Did I say something that upset you?”

Guess what? Either:

(a) Your suspicions are correct – she really is upset. OK, not great, but at least you have now started a conversation that might resolve the issue.


(b) Your suspicions are wrong – she’s fine. You both have a good laugh and she leaves thinking: ”Wow – I’m sure glad he had the courage to bring that up, I should do that myself in the future.”

It doesn’t take an amateur Sherlock Holmes to get the moral of this story:

If you feel the knot in your stomach when you think about a relationship at work – go check-in and ask him or her if something’s wrong.

Thanks for reading,


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2 Responses to Feel The Knot? Go Talk It Out!

  1. Lawrence says:

    Good thoughts – as always – Tim. I’m going to put a slightly differenct spin (to use an over-used and somewhat out-of-favor term) on responding to the “knot”.

    Characterizing someone else’s emotional state, i.e. ‘You seem angry, frustrated, upset’, etc can have unintended consequences. Your co-worker may be offended – or made paranoid – feeling that you are observing his/her behavior too closely.

    It might be less risky if the person with the “knot” takes on the full burden,i.e. “Susan, I left yesterday’s meeting feeling that I hadn’t done a very effective job of communicating. What was your impression?”

    Using this approach, leaves Susan with no feelings to have to explain or justify; only an open-ended environment into which to vent; or not to vent.

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  2. Nicely said Lawrence – great coaching!

    I think you are absolutely right and I much prefer your suggestion over mine.

    Thanks for a great contribution Lawrence,


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