A friend and colleague asked for some advice about rebuilding her relationship with a coworker. The relationship used to be easy. The two worked well together, laughed often, and accomplished their department's goals cooperatively.
When a change of leadership in the organization caused a realignment of roles, my friend Mary and her coworker Sarah (not their real names) got out of synch. Sarah's responsibilities with the new leader increased, which reduced her availability to support Mary. Trying to make things work, Mary stayed curious and open-minded about the change, asking for help when needed. Both the new leader and Sarah seemed to hear when Mary expressed her need for support, but nothing changed. Mary ended up finding other ways to get the department's work done, usually by staying late and working weekends.
Mary also thought she noticed a change in Sarah's attitude--from friendly conversation to terse replies, minimal eye contact and limited connection. Trust eroded, and gradually they stopped talking unless it was absolutely necessary.
As you might imagine, Mary began to dream up stories and interpretations for Sarah's changed behavior. I suggested Mary invite Sarah out for a cup of coffee, lunch, or a sweet and talk about the relationship. Mary emailed me asking how to begin the conversation. I thought my answers might be helpful to anyone in this situation, and Mary gave me permission to share her story and my thoughts...