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You might have heard about this golden rule before: treat others as you wish to be treated.
My advice: don’t do it. It can harm your relationships at work and in your private life.
But there is hope — you only need to adapt it slightly and the result will be stronger team spirit and better communication and relationships. Let me show you, with the help of a real-life example, how the golden rule fails, and what you can do to make it better.
A case study
Leaders come to me for help if they want to improve the moraleArbeitsmoralmorale and spirit of cooperation within their teams or when conflicts between co-workers already exist. Let me to cite sth.etw. anführencite a real case study: there was Susan, an outgoingkontaktfreudigoutgoing and empatheticempathisch, einfühlsamempathetic marketing manager. She loved to tell her colleagues about her weekends and recent projects. At lunch or at dinner, Susan was always the one who started the conversation. What Susan was not as good at: to get straight to the pointschnell auf den Punkt/ das Wesentliche kommengetting straight to the point in conversations. Respectful communication for her meant: talking in person rather than via email or video call, starting with small talk to connect, showing enthusiasm.
Then there was Susan’s boss, Michael. Michael loved numbers. He always knew how his team was doing in terms ofhinsichtlichin terms of target achievementZielerreichungtarget achievement.What he didn’t know was how people in his team were feeling. And he hated small talk.
Respectful communication for him meant: don’t waste my time, get straight to the facts. As you can imagine, longer conversations or discussions between the two almost always resulted in an argument or conflict. She described him as cold and to be unappreciative of sth.etw. nicht entsprechend wertschätzenunappreciative of her work. He refused to have longer meetings with her, as he considered them a waste of time.
How to show understanding
- I understand where you’re coming from.
- Yes, I see your point.
- I appreciate what you’re saying.
What to do?
Sometimes, it isn’t enough to know there are differences between people. Sometimes, it’s necessary to show them. I worked with their whole team and divided the workshop room into 2x2 fields with the help of two perpendicular linessich im rechten Winkel überschneidende Linienperpendicular lines on the floor with tapeKlebebandtape or stringSchnurstring.
One axis (pl. axes)Achseaxis stands for how you regain energy: more from yourself (INTROVERT) or from contact with others (EXTROVERT). The other axis represents your preferred way of making decisions: more from a RATIONAL or from an EMOTIONAL perspective.
Then I had the team position themselves in the room according to where they thought they belonged on these two axes. It turned out that Michael (introvert-rational) and Susan (extrovert-emotional) had quite a distance between them. They knew that already — but now, they actually saw it and felt it.
How to ask
- How would you describe your communication style?
- Do you think it’s important to build a rapport with others?
- Do you mind a little small talk?
- Or do you prefer to get straight to the point?
As a next step, each group told the other three groups how they prefer to be treated and spoken to and what they don’t like at all. This was quite an to be an eye-opener for sb. (ifml.)für jmdn. erhellend seineye-opener for the team, and especially for Michael and Susan. They realized that their preferred behaviour was exactly what the other didn’t like. At the end of the day, they had a clear plan of action, and everybody promised to take the different preferences into to take sth. into accountetw. berücksichtigenaccount in their daily work. As a result, the communication and cooperation improved significantly. Michael and Susan found a way to work together in a more productive and respectful way.
So, how can you improve the working relationships between co-workers? Preferably, go through the process with your team. If that’s not possible, start on your own by following these simple steps:
1 — OBSERVE Be more aware of how people communicate and act in different settingRahmen, Situationsettings. What is their body language like when they talk? extensiveumfassend, reichhaltigExtensive or reduced? How do they write emails? Short and factful? Or longer and asking the recipientEmpfänger(in)recipient how they feel?
2 — ASK With the help of your observations, you have a better picture of people’s preferences. To complete the picture, do something all leaders should do on a regular basis: ask questions! Ask directly what perfect communication between you both would look like.
3 — LISTEN Now that you’ve asked, here comes the hardest part: listen carefully to what your co-worker says, as if they were the most important person in the world at that moment. Think about that. Then you should be ready to:
4 — ACCEPT You’ll realize just how different people really are. Maybe you’d love to change people, but you can’t. Accept people as they are. Accept what they do.
5 — UNDERSTAND After accepting the differences, try looking at the issueProblemissue from your co-worker’s point of view. Then you’ll understand their situation better. That doesn’t mean you have to change your mind. It just means that you can understand what the other person is thinking and why. It’s good to say: “Yes, I understand your point of view and why you have it.”
6 — ACT The last part of step 5 is extremely powerful. We all want to be seen or heard or somehow noticed. If my counterpartGegenüber; hier: Gesprächspartner(in)counterpart shows me that they understand and see my point, the tensionSpannungtension and fiercenessHeftigkeitfierceness of the discussion is reduced.It’s less important what exactly you do once others know you care about their preferences.Now that you know and understand those preferences, it’s easier for you to adapt.
This is exactly what Susan and Michael did: Susan began avoiding small talk with Michael and got to the point sooner. Michael began adding some friendly small talk at the beginning of his emails — and sometimes even asked Susan about her weekend. They still differ significantly in their personal preferences, but both have started making an effort to work together better.
The positive side effect: they also understood that the differences between them may also be an assetVermögenswert; hier: Vorzug, Plusasset. If Susan is struggling to structure a project presentation, Michael could be of great help. And if Michael has a tough negotiationVerhandlungnegotiation with an emotional customer, Susan can help him prepare. In the end, the golden rule just needed a little tweakkleine Korrektur, Änderungtweak and the result was that working relationships were improved significantly: treat others as THEY wish to be treated.
laid-back locker, entspannt
low-key unauffällig, gelassen
soft-spoken leise, sanft
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