Over the last few weeks, did you run into anyone who made you say “They just don’t get it!”? They probably said the same thing about you. During the holidays we often spend time with people we won’t see again until the following year – and we can ignore a lot of irritations when the time together is brief. But what about family, friends, and co-workers whom we see on an ongoing basis? I’d like to offer some suggestions for improving your interactions and, in the long-term, your relationships with these folks.
Don’t criticize a man till you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.
~~Native American saying
You’ve probably heard this saying, but how often do you apply it when someone is over-reacting? You don’t know what else has happened to them that day (and in most cases you don’t want to know) but cumulative events do affect how we view a situation. Can you suggest that maybe it would be better to have the discussion / work on this project / or whatever you’re doing with them – at a later time?
It’s more likely that you can diffuse a disagreement by staying neutral yourself. And it’s easier for the other person to come back and apologize –- or at least amend their position -– if it didn’t become a highly energized situation.
If there’s no getting away, try some of these techniques that are often practiced by sales people to help put their customers at ease:
Mirroring: Matching the other person’s body language and even the rate of their breathing. Practice this first –- you don’t want it to be too obvious or they’ll think you’re making fun of them. Notice how they are sitting or standing. Wait a few moments and shift an arm or leg to match their position. Meanwhile, keep your movements relaxed and open. The goal is to be non-threatening. Could the environment be making them uncomfortable? Remember, sometimes crossed arms are a closed or angry position, and sometimes the room is just too cold.
Word Use: This takes some listening and may be easier with someone you know well and can remember other conversations you’ve shared. Are they a visual person, saying “I see” when they understand, and describing things with details about color and appearance? Or do they refer more to sounds or expressing emotions? Respond and ask questions using the same descriptive types of words and you will understand each other more quickly.
Personality: Another way to categorize and connect with people is by their personality and the way they interact with the world. There are a variety of indexes for this, but the simplest one I’ve used breaks folks into 4 color categories and is described here: Heidimorton.net/personality-types
Basically, if a person is the life of the party, don’t bore them with statistics and details; instead, relate to them about energizing, people-related aspects of the topic or project at hand. If they are a no-nonsense type, don’t try to relate to their compassionate nature, but give them the facts in “bullet” fashion and let them ask for more information in the areas where they want it. This can be challenging when relating to a person whose style is completely different from your own, but it will be worth it.
Love Languages: This final categorizing technique isn’t just for the romantic couples, but again, for everyone with whom we come in contact regularly and with whom you want to improve your relationship. The 5 languages of “love” explain that we typically show respect or affection the way we want to receive respect and affection.
The person who is always telling you how fabulous you look, how smart you are, and how they could never think of the clever things that you do isn’t always just buttering you up. They are affirming you and demonstrating that they want to hear you say nice things about them.
If you are the kind of person who feels actions speak louder than words, then instead of telling them, you’ll do something nice –- like clean the break room or cover the phones when they need to leave early. And you wish they’d do the same for you instead of talking all the time. Valuing the “love” as it is offered, and understanding how the other person needs to receive “love” (and offering it their way) will improve your ability to connect with them and improve your relationship.
To learn more about the 5 Love Languages –- and take a test to see which languages you speak — visit: 5lovelanguages.com/profile.
Start 2013 on the right track with all your relationships!
Next month’s topic: Love Yourself – Conversations about Boundaries
Peggy Kimmey is the owner of Kimmey Training and Consulting, LLC and is a Presentation and Leadership Coach. She lives in Bristow, Virginia and is a proud member of the Warrenton and Prince William Chambers of Commerce as well as the Speak Up Manassas! Toastmasters Club. She loves to help people Take the “eek” Out of Public Speaking. Peggy can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org