As I pulled over into the next lane, I noticed a truck coming up fast. It zoomed up on my “tail”, and then the driver leaned on the horn and shared some unpleasant “sign language” with me.
In this world of instant gratification - technology, fast lanes, and messaging that encourages an “it’s all about me” attitude – it seems that we’ve forgotten how to be nice to each other. We’ve forgotten how to treat each other with compassion. We’ve forgotten the importance of creating strong bonds and fostering relationships.
We’re eager to climb over others to get to the “top”. We’re afraid that promoting, acknowledging, or endorsing the work of others will make us look “less than” and we’ll get lost in the shuffle. The result? We’ve isolated ourselves and made our lives even more difficult.
Growing up, we learned that relationships were the glue that cemented everyone together. Relationships provided the support for learning a new job, encouragement to try again when things didn’t go as planned, help when things got overwhelming, brain power when we were stumped about next steps, and people to share the joys and hardships of work and life with.
If you feel isolated, like you’re in this all alone, or you’re not sure how to relate with others face-to-face at work, at home, or at play, here are a few ways to get started.
Become aware of assumptions. Assumptions can derail relationships before they ever get started. We often don’t even know we’re making assumptions. We think the other person knows the same things we know, or has had the same experiences, or perceives things the same way. We think we know what they are thinking, or why they’ve taken a particular action. But we don’t REALLY know.
Get clarity. Ask for clarification before assumptions and misunderstandings occur. “I think we’re talking about the same thing, but let me be sure. Here is what I think we’re both saying…” Be prepared to clarify further. Often we think we understand things the same way, only to find that we’re still on different “pages”.
Show compassion. Be genuinely interested in what the other person has to say. Listen and talk in a warm, patient way. Truly listening, and not thinking about what you want to say next, shows the other person that you are an authentic person. You can’t have compassion without authenticity. Use encouraging words, and concentrate on understanding.
Say “Thank you”. Saying “thank you” when others share ideas or information with you – when you already know it – can be hard. Just saying those two little words honors and respects the other person, helping them to feel heard, and as though they are contributing. You can always follow up with, “And…” As an example, a colleague shared a timeline with me that I already knew about. I could have been frustrated or offended, but chose to just say thank you. Here is the conversation: Colleague: “Joy, you know that this all has to be done tomorrow. You haven’t even done the numbers on this.” Me: “Thanks for reminding me about the numbers. I’m working on them this morning, and I then I will have the presentation all ready to go. I think I’ll be ready!” I have to confess, it felt so good to be calm and nonjudgmental with this answer!
Practice acts of kindness. Have you ever struggled with getting something done? If somebody helped you out, how great did that feel? What about sharing resources, running errands or connecting you with a needed resource? Has anyone ever done that for you? It felt great, didn’t it? Sometimes simple gestures like of a cup of coffee, a small treat, or needed information or inspiration is greatly appreciated.
Create a No Phone Zone. Leave your phone at your desk for meetings, or turn it off. Devote your full attention to the person or group you’re with. After all, they have an appointment with you for that time period and deserve your full attention. This is your time to connect and build or strengthen that relationship – to really get to know them, how they think, and who they are inside. How would YOU feel if YOU didn’t have someone’s undivided attention?
We are built to have relationships in our lives. Relationships actually change our brain, releasing the “feel good” hormones. So, developing positive relationships with the people in our world makes us feel happier and more at ease. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather work in a happy environment than one where I feel like I always have to protect myself.
As for the person in the tailgating truck, thank you for encouraging me to get with the flow of traffic. And, have a calmer day!
For more information on how you can better communicate and engage with others, contact Joy!