Make Yourself a Better Collaborator


One of the keys to productivity and success, as I’ve written quite often, is the ability to work well with others. That’s one reason why the traits of emotional intelligence and caring about other people can be so helpful.

However, those traits can take a long time to improve. Fortunately, there are also some simple interaction skills that can almost instantly make other people feel better about working with you.

These include:

Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say

You can make yourself easier and better to work with by exercising better control over your mouth. For example:

  • Monitor how much you talk, and how much you listen. If you dominate too much of the available “air time” when you’re with other people, many of them will object – although perhaps only inwardly. As a result, they’ll likely try to avoid working with you and prefer to work with others, when possible. To become a better collaborator, try to provide only your fair share of the conversation, and make a point of giving others time enough to speak what’s on their mind.
  • When you do talk, use the time to talk about what you know for sure, not what you merely guess or suspect. Furthermore, it’s helpful to concentrate your talk on what you will do to help push a task, project, or goal closer to fruition.
  • Restrict any talk about your personal opinions and personal revelations mostly to your conversations with friends and family.
  • There’s a reason “giving your word” is considered such a sacred trust. People feel more comfortable when they believe they can rely on you. For this reason, don’t make idle promises. If you say you’ll do something, be sure to do it.

You’ll also be more widely accepted if you show a willingness to “own” your mistakes and failings: apologizing when necessary and understanding how something you said or did may have made someone else’s work and life more difficult or stressful.

Focus on the Positive

You can pretty much reframe and refocus everything negative as something more positive. For example:

  • Rephrase your statements of problems, deficiencies, and errors as opportunities to do better in the future.
  • Hold your tongue on most criticisms of other people, particularly if you’re thinking about stating them to someone else. When you’re asked to give an opinion that might come out as a criticism, phrase it gently and sandwich it between two positive remarks.
  • Try to look on the bright side of the road. Since the future isn’t pre-destined, you can’t be sure we’re going to Hell in a handbasket. Things might turn out better than you imagine. That’s why you should allow for positive possibilities in your outlook and remarks to others.

Be Well Organized and Prompt

If you want to behave in ways that make it far easier and more comfortable for people to collaborate with you, be sure you:

  1. Always know what you are trying to accomplish,
  2. Complete all the necessary preparations in plenty of time, and
  3. Keep your appointments with and commitments to others.

If meeting these criteria doesn’t come naturally, you can develop some simple habits that will help you become a better person to work with.

For example:

  • Keep a detailed calendar of all your time commitments, and follow it closely.
  • Never make a time commitment without automatically adding it to your calendar.
  • Block out time well in advance to prepare for the tasks, projects, and goals you want to complete.
  • Prepare a few “five minute tasks” and keep them with you. Armed with these, you are always arrange to arrive a few minutes early for all your appointments and stay productive while you wait for others to arrive.

Practice Consistency

People feel more comfortable working with individuals they can count on. This is why you’ll be perceived as a better collaborator when you exhibit a fairly steady set of attitudes, including:

  • Openness to experience,
  • Coolness under pressure,
  • Friendliness and good humor, and
  • Tolerance for others who may not behave as consistently as you.

It’s impossible, of course, to be considered “easy to work with” by everyone. But with these and other ideas you can make steady, significant progress toward being someone with whom most people will enjoy collaborating.

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