How To Get Along With Absolutely Anyone

Do you have people in your life who drive you absolutely nuts? Who no matter how hard you try seem like they’ve arrived from a different planet? Me too!

Isn’t is funny how we’re all so very different – In NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) there’s a saying that we’re all as different on the inside as we look on the outside. Think of all the variations – hair colour, eye colour, height, weight, nose shape, freckles, skin colour – the differences are literally billions.

And if we’re all just as different on the inside, then just think of all the variations– btwo girlsubbly, introverted, quick to anger, mellow, racing fan, dancer, writer, engineer, vegetarian – the list can go on and on.  It’s no wonder that we can sometimes struggle to make connections with all our wonderful variations!

But before you get too despondent, there are ways that you can help the process along, and even learn to get along with even the most different of folks.

The key is sometimes called ‘rapport’, but I think a simpler way to look at it is simply having a good-natured curiosity about people.

My client Jenny was recently having trouble with one of her colleagues. It had got so bad that they were barely speaking to one another.

Jenny would come in of a morning, make a cup of tea and her colleague would be, in her words, “boring everyone about his bloody caravan.”

Jenny would roll her eyes as he talked, wondering why he didn’t have more insight into himself to realise that his in-depth tales of chemical toilets and the best caravan sites in the North East were tedious and uninteresting.

Their relationship was tense to say the least. Her colleague regularly took issue with the way Jenny did her work and disagreed with pretty much every idea she would suggest at team meetings. He pulled her up on (what seemed to her anyway) trivial matters and whenever she asked him to do something for her had so many questions and objections that often Jenny wished she hadn’t bothered in the first place. Over a period of time the conflict between them grew until Jenny avoided being in the same room as him if she could help it.

They managed to rub along like this for a while, with the odd snapped word here and there until their boss assigned them an important project to work on together.

Jenny spent a sleepless weekend dreading the following Monday.

She was all ready for an awful week ahead when she entered the office that day. Her career was important to her, how was she ever going to pull this project off working with this man who she had such a dreadful working relationship with?

Perhaps it was the lack of sleep or the general anxiety she was feeling but whatever the reason, Jenny surprised herself that morning by doing something she’d never thought before. She heard herself say:

“You’re really into caravans aren’t you? My parents are thinking of buying one, what would you recommend?”

Whilst it was true that her parents were considering getting a caravan, it hadn’t been her intention to ask her colleague about it. Far from it, most of the conversations she’d run through in her head that morning had involved far more work-focused topics. But here she was, asking about caravans.

She braced herself for the onslaught…

But her colleague simply asked:

“Touring or static?”

And just like that, a conversation was struck up.

It lasted no more than a few minutes. But that day relations between them were a bit easier.

The next day her colleague greeted Jenny warmly.

“I’ve left some stuff on your desk” he said, gesturing to the stack of practical caravan magazines as she took her coat off.

Touched by the gesture, Jenny decided to ask him a bit more about his own caravan, where he liked to go and so on.

She wasn’t massively interested, but it was worth a try. And besides, talking about caravans for a few minutes wasn’t that bad, and she might even learn something.

From such a simple gesture, Jenny was amazed at how their relationship has turned around. Just by spending a few minutes taking an interest in something that was obviously important to him, the friction between them has lessened dramatically.

Sure, they still have very different working styles (He has an acute attention to detail, likes precision and dislikes change, Jenny’s more creative, responsive and sees the bigger picture.) But instead of them clashing all the time as they have in the past, they are now able to see how their differences compliment one another.

It’s several months on now and Jenny says she can’t believe the difference in their relationship. And all it took was showing a genuine interest in her colleague.

So many times we can go through life expecting other people to meet us where we’re at rather than us trying to understand what the world looks like from their point of view. It’s a bit like going to another country and instead of attempting a few words of the native language, we carry on speaking in our own – only in a louder and slower voice!

And it doesn’t take very much effort on our part either. Just having a sense of curiosity, suspending our judgement and criticisms, and taking the time to step into someone else’s world and experience a tiny bit of the world from their point of view. And the benefits are enormous.

Some Amazing Comments

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About Jo Casey

Jo Casey is a writer, trainer, and coach who specializes in helping people build their resilience in the face of stress. She's created the free Decompress & Boost Your Resilience In 5 Minutes A Day video course and is a guest contributor to a number of personal growth blogs. Visit her at http://www.jocasey.com

Comments

  1. I get what you’re saying and some good points but aren’t we doing something a little wrong if we get on with everyone?
    I guess in a work context, as you’re writing, these are some very useful tips. But sometimes I find adjusting your personality so that you get on with others can take something away from who you are and what you[‘re message is.
    In my experience people don’t like bland.
    joe barnes recently posted..Get a Life not a Career: Become a Hero not a CEO

    • Joe – I take your point and I’m not talking about being false or being someone you’re not – more about being flexible enough so that you’re willing to shift your perspective a little so that you can build a positive relationship with the other person. It’s unrealistic to expect everyone to be best buddies but it’s not unrealistic to say that by and large it’s possible to create positive, productive relationships with colleagues.

  2. Well said, and I agree with the value of opening ourselves to listen and learn. That said, we also need to be willing to practice a little self discovery in this situations. This is particularly important for people who experienced any level of abuse or bullying as children. My “ah ha!” moment came a few years ago when I found myself working with someone who’s every word, every gesture grated against my nerves like cut glass. Definitely NOT me. But the anger was very real nonetheless. Long story short, turned out his accent and speech pattern triggered a very unpleasant memory from my childhood. Probably the biggest eye-opener was realizing that there had been other people I’d avoided for the same reason! Discovery didn’t suddenly make us instant best friends, because truthfully he really was a jerk, but it did greatly ease the tension and made a working relationship possible.
    marquita herald recently posted..Why You Need to Dream Beyond Your Limits

    • That’s such a good point Marquita – often it’s our unconscious patterns and old scripts (for either or both parties) that cause the problems – how else do we explain how some people can make us want to scream just by the way they say ‘hello’ as they walk in the room! And yes, people can still be jerks – nothing’s going to change that. But as you say, it’s about being able to develop a productive working relationship that’s not filled with tension and awkwardness.
      jo casey recently posted..Is Happiness At Work Possible? Should We Encourage It?

  3. Thanks Jo! In my work as a coach I have found that many people struggle with fears around the first step – what does it mean to take an interest in someone I’m invested in not liking?

    It might be a blow to their ego, it might make them feel vulnerable, they might have to let go of the certainty that the other person has wronged them, and many other variations.

    I think that first step – being a big enough person to do what you suggest is huge. But you’re absolutely right about the effects.

    I wonder if the other person knows you’ve let go of the struggle, and it’s the communication of that fact more than anything else that eases the road forward? What do you think?
    Jessica Sweet recently posted..How To Know If You’ll Like Your Next Job

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  5. Hi Jo,
    Your post quite vividly captures something pretty commonplace.And it’s been commonplace among people since Before Christ.Well, participating in other people’s interests is a good way of breaking ice,like Jenny did ,in this case.Also i recommend a bit of an objective view and detachment at times;it’s a tall order all right,but helps us a lot.Goes a long way in establishing a mechanism for future encounters with different people who challenge us.
    Every relationship that appears challenging has great seeds of benefit hidden within it.If not anything else it has the potential to help you grow.Within the relationship you can avail of hundreds of opportunities to maintain calm,remain composed,stay empowered and efficient in your emotional responses.So instead of running away from a challenging situation you can teach yourself to stay on and practice your principles with a clinical detachment,and an intelligent discipline.Now you can look forward to furthering the relationship with the aim of growing stronger through each meeting.
    Thanks
    Mona
    richmiraclefiles recently posted..Change Is Your Lifelong Company; Make Friends With It

  6. There are some people that I’m absolutely positive I will never be able to truly get along with, sure on the surface level, yes maybe, never for real though. But, sometimes you need to do just that, like at work, even if you don’t like someone, you have to be get along to a certain degree, or it gets in the way of the job at hand.

    Sometimes micro disagreements exist despite neither of the parties knowing exactly what started it, so if one party takes a step back and shows some genuine interest, that can definitely be enough to break the ice. Very detailed example, certainly illustrated your point well.

    Have a nice weekend!
    Ragnar recently posted..How To Seize The Moment – The Perspective Of Opportunity

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