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“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” ~Theodore Roosevelt
I get along with most everyone I meet, but every now and again, I run across people I just can’t seem to “click” with. We’ve all been there–awkward silences, uncomfortable conversations, forced politeness.
It can get worse if you have to see one of these people in your day to day life, too. Say you work with or live next door to someone with whom you don’t seem to have any chemistry. Inevitably, you begin to avoid him or her, even if it means taking the long way back to your desk at work or sneaking in the back door at home.
Why People Don’t Click
There’s no single answer to why you have chemistry with some people but not with others. It can be something as simple as a difference in opinions to something as complicated as an instant, unexplainable dislike–but it’s happened to all of us at one time or another.
Uncommon Knowledge blogger Mark Tyrrell says that people need to have certain basic emotional needs met, and when we can’t satisfy those at least some of those in our interactions, we don’t get along well. Tyrrell says that in order to be happy, we need to have our emotional needs met at least some of the time.
He says our emotional needs include things such as the need to feel safe and secure, giving and receiving attention, a sense of control and status and the need for connection, among others.
We offend people when we “step on” their emotional needs.
“One common way this occurs is by mistakenly assuming that communicating the problem ‘as you see it’ is the only thing to be considered when ‘giving feedback,’” Tyrrell writes. “Anyone can say the words, but it takes thought, practice and skill to deliver unpalatable messages without causing undue hurt.”
So what’s the solution?
While avoiding that person as often as possible can seem like the least painful solution, what happens when you have to deal with that person again, or when the next one comes along?
More awkwardness, discomfort, forced toleration for both parties. More desire to get the heck out of there as quickly as possible every time you are near that person.
I don’t know about you, this doesn’t seem like much of a solution to me. So what’s the answer?
It sounds more complicated than it really is–just learn to get along with (almost) everyone you meet. Try these five tips to get you started.
Ask Questions and Listen to the Answers
One way to make almost anyone more comfortable around you is to ask questions about him, and truly listen and respond to the answers. Depending on how well you know the person, you can ask about family, friends, hobbies, the person’s home or work, pets, children–nearly anything will do.
When we talk about ourselves to someone who seems genuinely interested in what we have to say, we are more likely to feel warmer toward that person.
Accept People for Who They Are
Keep in mind that everyone has her own path to follow. If you focus on the mistakes you think a person makes or the parts of a person’s personality that don’t sit well with you, you’re bound to feel negatively toward her. (On a more selfish note, you’ll also draw more negativity into your own life.)
Next time you find yourself judging someone who is different than you, try changing your perspective a little. Instead of focusing on the things you don’t love about someone, find qualities in her that you do like.
Dole Out Compliments Liberally
Now that you’ve noticed something nice about the person, try telling him about it. Find something, anything to compliment a person on, and you’ve just begun to change his mind about you.
Humans are wired to feel warmth toward people who tell us nice things about ourselves, so use this to your advantage when you’re trying to get along with someone. Compliment him on his clothing or his car or his family values–anything will do. Just be sure it’s a sincerely-delivered, genuine compliment.
Sometimes awkwardness can happen just because a person is shy or nervous around others, and this can sometimes come off like arrogance or even rudeness.
A friend of mine recently told me that after living in her neighborhood for a few years, she noticed that she was never invited to neighborhood parties. Being an extremely shy person, she didn’t mind–until she heard from her next-door neighbor that people thought she was “stuck up” and that they thought she acted like she was “too good” for the other people in the neighborhood.
She considered it a real wake-up call, and started making more of an effort to be friendly and polite to her neighbors. Before long, she found herself being embraced by several of them.
If you’re a little shy, even the smallest gesture can go a long way. Try smiling at someone and meeting their eyes, waving and saying hello or even prepare a few remarks and start up a light conversation using some of the tips mentioned above.
If you’re dealing with a shy person, you can make them more comfortable by being genuinely friendly, but not too pushy. Avoid personal questions and controversial topics–keep the conversation light whenever possible.
Empathy Goes a Long Way
Being empathetic doesn’t just mean feeling sorry for someone when they’re having a bad time–it means understanding and sometimes reflecting back the emotions of the person you’re dealing with.
Actors sometimes use a technique called mirroring, which involves responding to a person’s questions and statements in the same tone of voice and with the same type of emotion they express. While directly mirroring a person’s mannerisms and emotions can seem a little stalker-ish in real life, most of us find ourselves doing it on some level when we’re dealing with someone with whom we’re comfortable.
Think about it–you behave differently with people you work with than you do your closest friends, right? And there’s a difference in how you deal with your children or spouse than there is with your neighbor or the checkout person at the supermarket.
Reaching out to someone this way, even when you don’t click, can make a big difference in how she perceives you. Acknowledging and demonstrating that you understand how she feels is the other side of that coin, and it can be the quickest way to a person’s good side.
So how about you? What are your favorite ways to get along with those people you just don’t click with? Tell me in the comments!