Be Better with People

As I’ve written many times before, one necessity for increasing your productivity and success is the ability to work well with people. Your performance often depends on their performance in more ways than I care to count.

So it’s always appropriate to consider ways to get people on your side, win their respect and loyalty, and bring them onboard to help with your tasks, projects, and goals.

To get you progressing in the right direction, here are some things to think about when you’re interacting with other people in your work and your life:

Suspend Your Judgments

People want to feel accepted and even liked. If you say or do anything to indicate you’re making any negative judgments about them, they’ll be far less likely to join your parade.

That’s why your main mode of behavior with other people has to exude pure acceptance.

You can do this by listening carefully without interrupting, nodding as they speak, smiling, and – most important – avoid thinking or saying anything critical of their ideas, thoughts, values, or actions. Obviously, you’re not always going to agree with everything other people say and do. But whether you do or you don’t, it’s very helpful to carefully control the messages you’re sending them.

You’ll do better when you focus on the following:

  • Remember that everyone makes mistakes and suffers their own difficulties. Forgive other people’s imperfections and assume they mean well. Most people do.
  • Refrain from snap judgments and instant analyses of what other people say and do. Wait until you know a person’s whole story and its full context. Then think long and hard before you consider making any judgments.
  • Think even longer and harder before you consider expressing any judgments you do make about other people. Even if a person is dead wrong about everything, it’s not your job to show them the errors of their ways (the only ones exempt from this guideline are actual courtroom judges).

If you’re in a situation where you strongly feel the need to offer some opposition to what the other person says or does, come from a place of positivity and build on commonalities between you, rather than animosities.

Limit Your Intrusion

Let’s face facts: other people are nearly always in the midst of their personal ongoing journeys. Except for those in loving relationships with you, at least some of the time most people are going to feel your presence is an intrusion. The sooner you get out of their face, the more relieved they will feel because the quicker they can get back to whatever they believe is more important.

One good way to be less of a nuisance, therefore, is to start off by telling them you’ll be gone soon.

For example, you can start many of your intrusive conversations by saying something like:

  • “I’ve got only five minutes, so let me be brief.”
  • “I know you’re busy, so I won’t bother you very long.”
  • “I’ll give you the details later, but real quick I want to ask you something.”

You can choose your own words, obviously. But by making clear at the outset that you’re not going to take much of their time, you defuse other people’s automatic tendency to take a defensive stance against whatever you might say or do. In fact, knowing you’re not going to derail them from something they’d rather do makes people more willing to give you a fair hearing and a cooperative answer.

Watch Your Body Language

As you know, your words convey only a portion of your entire message to other people. Your body language is as important – or even more important – than what you say.

There’s no room here to convey all the techniques of mastering your body language, but it’s something you may want to study and practice. In the meantime, here’s one simple and helpful idea:

Rather than consciously trying to control your muscles, it’s better to simply notice your body position as you engage with the other person. Relaxing and trying to sit or stand comfortably will usually help your body language indicate your open, accepting attitude.  

In many cases, when you control your thoughts, as I mentioned above, your body language will tend to follow.

Learning to be good with people, and win them to your causes in these and other ways is a life-long learning challenge that’s very beneficial. The sooner you turn your attention to these techniques, the sooner you will include them in your behavior.

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