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How to get along with people you don’t like but have to work with.

Let’s face it, chances are you’re not going to like everyone you work with; or have to socialise with for that matter.  Most of us are likely to find ourselves forced to spend time with people we would rather not. The simple truth is we can either suffer through each interaction, or find ways to get along.

To ‘get along’ with someone broadly means to be on friendly terms with them.  When it comes to colleagues, it largely means the ability to work in a spirit of cooperation and get the job done to the best of your collective ability.  Getting along with a relative or a ‘friend of a friend’ you don’t particularly like, on the other hands means finding ways to enjoy their company, or at the very least avoid unnecessary stress and angst every time you get together.

Choose your attitude

The key to getting along with anyone lies in your ability to choose your attitude.  Of course, their attitude matters also, but the reality is you can’t control other people.  Focus on what you can control; that is your own thoughts, emotions and behaviour.

So many of us waste energy thinking and talking about people we don’t like.  How often do you replay annoying events or conversations in your mind?  Do you ‘roleplay’ scenarios in your mind about the conversations you intend to have with some people? Do you imagine yourself winning an argument with your nemesis? Do you allow your emotions to build as you invest in the drama unfolding in your mind?

We all have the power to choose the thoughts and emotions we invest in.  The ability for anyone to offend us or drain our spirit entirely depends on our response.  We choose how the words and actions of other people make us feel. Much like the teasing big brother or sister, they only win if you allow them to upset you.

Pick your battles

While of course it matters to stand up for ourselves when being mistreated, in many circumstance we can simply choose to ignore the things that otherwise upset us.  We have the choice to simply walk away and disengage rather than wade into an argument.  We can choose to let thoughtless comments or unintentionally offensive remarks ‘go through to the keeper’.  Choosing for example to see someone’s words as ill-considered is healthier for our relationship with them, than assuming their actions are malicious.

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Judge carefully

Ask yourself if you are being unfairly judgmental.  Sometimes the actions we see as wrong are simply different to the way we would approach things. Reflect on why you don’t like the person and challenge any unfounded assumptions or unconscious biases you may have.   For example, the woman you perceive as being attention seeking, may be simply talkative and unaware that her enthusiast sharing of stories about her life is coming across as insufferable self-indulgence.

Reserve judgement.  Our experiences of people quite reasonably form expectations of them in the future.  Be careful to not allow baggage from the past to cloud your view of someone’s potential.  We all make mistakes, maybe with a little forgiveness and relaxed expectations, you can learn to like some, if not all aspects of the person they are.

Build bridges

Look for ways in which you can build trust, respect and rapport. Common interests are a safe place to start.  Find out things about the person you find interesting or respect.  This can be particularly challenging with some people, but appreciate the good that can be found in most people and give credit where it is due.

Rapport can be built by finding common ground as well as by being empathetic.  However, it’s important to understand that most rapport-building happens without words and through non-verbal communication channels.  People build rapport subconsciously through non-verbal signals, including eye contact, facial expressions, body positioning and tone of voice.

Karen Gately, a founder of HR Consultancy Ryan Gately, is a leadership and people-management specialist.  Karen works with leaders and HR teams to drive business results through the talent and energy of people. She is the author of The People Manager’s Toolkit: A Practical guide to getting the best from people (Wiley) and The Corporate Dojo: Driving extraordinary results through spirited people.  For more information visit www.ryangately.com.au or contact [email protected]

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