When people vent about problem individuals at work or at home, one fact becomes obvious. Most individuals have a long list of things that other people must do to improve but a short list of things they need to change in their own behavior.
It is human nature to rationalize one’s own shortcomings while focusing on the obvious improvement needs of others. Since nearly everyone practices this little deception, the world must be rife with almost-perfect people who wish others around them would shape up… Hmmm – something is wrong with this picture…
When living or working in close proximity, human beings have a remarkable ability to drive each other crazy. It does not matter if it is a spouse, a sibling, or an office mate. The phenomenon occurs daily for most of us. Here are 10 commonsense tips that can change the pattern, so you will have better relations with others.
1. Reverse the roles.
Before venting about another person, think about how that person would describe you to someone else. If you are honest with yourself, it might be a humbling exercise.
2. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Most married couples fight on a daily basis over little things that become habitual annoyances. It is not the 401K account that most couples argue about daily; it is who gets the remote control or why the toothpaste tube is always topless. If we can just remember that the small stuff is really just that, then maybe we can relax a bit.
3. Live and let live.
If a co-worker hums when he is happy, there is no reason to have a coronary over it. It is his outlet and way to be cheerful. Even though it curdles your skin, why burst his balloon by pointing out her "problem"? If it is an unconscious habit, he will never be able to control it anyway. Buy a pair of noise-canceling head phones and play the kind of music you like. Let happy people be happy or miserable people be miserable. Focus your energy on creating your own sphere of cheerfulness rather than expecting the rest of the world to conform to your paradigms.
4. Punch out early, don’t punch out the person
Find some way to get away from the petty squabbles before they bring you to the snapping point. If you cannot actually leave without penalty, it does not stop you from mentally taking a break. Just go for a little vacation in your mind. Actually imagine smelling the giant pines if you love to hike. Feel the frost on your cheeks if you like to ski. Relax in an imaginary hot tub while you are working – can you feel the bubbles going up your back? Imagining happier places has kept many POWs alive for years; the same technique can keep you sane until 5 o’clock.
5. Share a treat
Just because someone drives you nuts by clipping his nails in the morning is no reason to hate him all day long. Find some symbolic olive branch, and waive it around. Go get two cold sodas and give him one. Bring in a bag of his favorite coffee. When we change our body language, accentuating the positive, rather than festering about “their problem,” the other person will likely respond in kind.
6. Extend trust
The reciprocal nature of trust says that you can improve people’s trust in you by extending more trust to them. When we build a higher level of trust, the petty issues seem to melt away, because we are focused on what is good about the other person rather than idiosyncrasies that drive us bonkers. The best way to increase trust is to reinforce (rather than punish) people who are candid with us about our own shortcomings. To do this takes emotional intelligence, and it works wonders at improving relationships.
7. Don’t complain about others behind their back
Speak well of other people as much as possible. The old adage “if you cannot say something nice about someone don’t say anything at all,” is good advice. When we gripe about others who are not present, a little of the venom always leaks out. Never make a joke about someone at his or her expense. If someone is doing something that really bothers you, simply tell the person about it in a kind way.
8. Stop acting like children
The lengths people go to in order to strike back at others for annoying them often resembles a food fight in grade school. Escalating e-mail notes in a kind of grenade battle is a great example of this phenomenon. It is easy to avoid these squabbles by not taking the bait. When you go back and forth with another person more than three times, it is time to change the mode of communication. Pick up the phone or visit the job site for a chat.
9. Care about the other person
If we care enough to not fuss over little things, then we can tolerate inconveniences a lot better. What we get back from others is really a reflection of our own vibes. If we experience prickly and negative reactions from others, we need to check our attitude toward them. While it is convenient to blame others, often we are the root cause of the negativity: they are simply a mirror. The easiest way to care for others is to always follow the Golden Rule.
10. Have your own development plan
Start out each day with a few minutes of meditation on how to present yourself better to others. Have a list of behaviors you are trying to improve. This mindset crowds out some of the rotten attitudes that can lead you to undermine other’s actions. We all have improvement opportunities.
Remember that life is short, and to expend energy bickering and griping about others really wastes your most precious resource – your time. It is much better to go through life having fun than griping and hating. The good news is we have a choice when it comes to the attitudes we show other people. Make sure your choice enriches others as well as yourself.
– by Bob Whipple: MBA, CPLP
Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 company and with non-profit organizations.