Click With The People Who Work With You

by Dr. Rick Kirschner on September 5, 2011

Clicking with people at work can be a big challenge to the best of us.  That’s because we don’t usually pick the people we work with, they are picked for us, and then we have to interact with them.  Yet building collegial relationships serves everyone’s long term interests.  So here are three successful strategies for clicking with others in your workplace.

1. Let people know you are on their side. The irony of conflict is that everybody has more in common with everyone else than they have differences.  But instead of emphasizing the similarities in policies, plans and relationships—the differences get all the attention.   Blending is the means by which you reduce differences between yourself and others.  You blend automatically with your friends when you share experiences.  Blending is what happens when people share a vision or agree to a mission.  Fact is, we like the people who are in some way, like us. Blending is a good choice for you to make when differences take over. Nobody cooperates with anybody who ‘seems to be’ against them.

2.  Send Signals of Similarity. Sending signals of similarity to let people know we are on their side is an excellent tactic. A proven way to send signals of similarity to let people know we are on their side is not just to tell them.  Studies show that sending signals of similarity through body posture, animation facial expressions, among others are successful ways. If the co-worker that you would like to persuade to follow your ideas is sitting down, you should be sitting down also.  If you are sitting and they are standing, offer them a chair.  Listen to the pace at which the other person speaks, and then match that pace in order to seem similar.  Notice what the co-worker is doing and send some signals (but not all of then) back. In this way you reduce the differences between you.

3. Listen to coworkers for valuable information on how to structure your communication back to them. With some practice, you can recognize communication ‘needs’ by noticing the communication style of others.  Then you can communicate back to them appropriately.

There are four styles in particular that reflect four communication needs.  You can build trust among coworkers by improving your skills at recognizing a person’s ‘needs-style’.

To strengthen your ability to recognize a person’s ‘needs-style’ you must notice what they talk about and how directly they talk about it.

– Task focus: Sometimes, people talk more about what they’re doing.  That means they are focused on a task. The task might be discussing an idea, making a decision, resolving a dispute or meeting an objective.  This is a ‘task-focus’.

– People focus: Sometimes people talk more about the people around them, or their feelings in a given situation.  Let’s call that a ‘people focus’.

A person focused more on a task than on people may pay more attention to the end result of the task than the details they encounter along the way. Or, they may pay more attention to the details of the task than to the end result.  You can notice this in the way they talk.

A person focused more on people than on a task may express more interest in the opinions and feelings of others, or in their own opinions and feelings.

  • Need for action: when a person is focused on the end result of an interaction of an idea, he has a communication need for action.  She needs you to speak directly and actively.  She needs to hear movement in a direction in the way you talk.

— Your response: the best blending practices tell us that when a person is direct and to the point (“Just do it”) you want to be direct and to the point in dealing with her.

  • Need for accuracy: when a person is focused on the details of an interaction or an idea, she has s communication need for accuracy. She needs to hear that you are paying attention to the details in the way you respond to her.

— Your response: you want to be indirect and detailed in your communications with this person.  When accuracy is important she will ask questions to acquire information or make long statements to establish facts.

  • Need for approval: when a person is focused more on what others think and say than on her own thoughts and feelings, she has a need for approval.  She needs to hear that you also have a concern for the thoughts and feelings of others in the way you talk.

— Your response: you must be just as indirect and considerate in your responses to this person.  Use comments like, “Is this a good time? Would you like me to come back later? Yes? No?  You tell me, I’ll understand.” Show great respect for her time back to her.

  • Need for appreciation: when a person is focused more on her own thoughts and feelings than the thoughts and feelings of others she has a need for appreciation. She needs to hear that you appreciate her in the way you talk.  He will speak directly and enthusiastically.  Lots of personal stories to grab attention and hold the spotlight of your attention and your appreciation for what he has to say.

–Your response: even though you may be wondering why she is going on and on about a topic, you want to be just as direct and enthusiastic in your communications with him.

Speaking to the Need: These needs—action, accuracy, approval and appreciation—get communicated through the style or structure by which a person speaks.  And there are indicators (when you notice them) that allow you to speak to the need.

To succeed in clicking with the people you work with, learn what you can about how people communicate.  By doing so, you can act to prevent and resolve conflict and increase cooperation with each and every interaction.

Be well,

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