Part 8: After Screening
Brent, we've talked some about stress in intercultural settings. This can be true whether or not someone has a diagnosis. There is probably a distinction between a psychological diagnosis and a disability—that’s more your call than mine. Problems in the marriage, or problems on the team, may or may not have anything to do with a disability. And people with disabilities do not necessarily have more interpersonal problems than others.
Characteristics of good relationships need to be carefully and explicitly described. First, they should be defined for spiritual reasons—if you have spiritual qualifications, they should be clear. Next, they need to be defined for practical reasons. Without a standard, how can you require people to work things out, rather than deny or ignore them? Differences of opinion or understanding may come from many sources. If by chance they come from a disability, you can still require that problems be worked out if it is a necessary part of the job on the mission field to have good interpersonal relationships.
To be proactive, we can describe and require healthy interpersonal relationships. The biggest issue I see with responding in an appropriate manner is that people are sometimes reluctant to confront toxic behavior until it gets really, really bad, I think in part because they fear that intervention is not justified on a “small” issue.
I will give you a trivial example. When we were raising our boys, some people in the family had some disability issues and some emotional sensitivities. Sometimes some people might tease some other people. And if the teasee would get upset, the teasor would say very innocently that it was all in fun. But it really wasn’t. It was mean. (Notice my technical psychological analysis here.) So our rule was that if people didn’t enjoy it, you couldn’t say it. You could have a serious discussion about a problem if you wanted, but you couldn’t jab at people while pretending to be funny. Was that minor? Yes, particularly since these comments were usually quite low-level. Was it inconsistent? Yes, because some other people thought the same comments were funny and didn’t mind being teased. But the conscientious efforts to bar what was perceived by some people as low-level cruelty helped build much better relationships in the long run.
Apparently trivial matters can have a large impact, but it helps to empower leaders to deal with them when there are standards in writing. This also becomes a matter of regular training for teams and lower-level leaders. We all continue to grow in handling relationships. For instance, here is a great TED talk on how to have productive teams, "Why It's Time to Forget the Pecking Order at Work."
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