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Thursday, August 28, 2008

How To Get Along With People

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How to get along with people
Mark Tyrrell
We all know how it feels to `get along with people', but what is really happening at these
times? What are the ingredients of the secret sociable sauce?
It is clear that some people are more offensive than others. It seems that either they don't
care or they don't know what they are doing.
If you have problems getting along with people there are three possible reasons why:
1. You know how you are upsetting people but you don't care
2. You don't know you are upsetting people
3. You are aware that you are upsetting people but you don't quite understand why.
This article is for the benefit of all you 3's out there! (And possibly some 2's too!)
Why people get offended
"I feel put down, put out, misunderstood, threatened, ignored, cheated and deeply offended."
Well not really, but I could - why? Because I am human and therefore have basic emotional
needs that can be transgressed by other human beings.
We all have basic emotional needs, and to feel happy your needs have to be met at least
some of the time.
Emotional needs include:
· The need for safety and security
· The need to give and receive attention
· The need for a sense of status
· The need for purpose and goals
· The need for physical wellbeing
· The need for a connection to something greater than ourselves - community, ideals,
beliefs etc.
· The need for intimacy
· The need to be stimulated and stretched (but not stressed)
· The need for a sense of control.
So how can you offend people?
You offend people by stepping on their basic 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.' Anyone can say the
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words, but it takes thought, practice and skill to deliver unpalatable messages without causing
undue hurt.
Of course, there are situations in which the message is more important than the method. If
I'm administering mouth to mouth resuscitation to someone I may yell at a friend or colleague
for assistance. Yelling at them normally (in a non-emergency) would infringe upon their needs
for:
· Status
· Safety and security
· The need for a sense of control
"But as long as they get the message who cares?" Well, that depends whether you want to
get along with people; on whether you consider friendship and the morale of those around
you important or not...
Emotional needs in relationships
If you have upset someone, consider which of their emotional needs you have trampled upon.
If you complain to a member of staff loudly in front of other staff members then they may feel
`put down' (impairment to their sense of status). This would hold true for a teenager in front of
their friends.
If you end a four year romance by text message the recipient of your insensitivity may feel
angered to receive such news in this way. Why? Because many needs are trampled on:
1. The need for status (as respected partner, OK, ex-partner)
2. The need for proper attention
3. The need for a sense of control (you try reasoning with a text message!)
4. The need for intimacy... and so the list goes on.
How to spot which emotional need you have infringed
Of course you may not mean to upset someone but if you do, it will be because some basic
need hasn't been catered for. Here are a few more examples:
`You're just not hearing me!' (the need for attention, intimacy, connection to others, ).
`I never know where I am with you!' (the need for safety and security).
`You should have asked me first!' (need for status).
`You shouldn't have lied to me!' (The need for safety and security, status, intimacy).
`You're really dissing me!' (The need for status).
Over-sensitivity
Some people will take offence at almost anything. However, if you are clear about why people
get upset then at least you'll know why they feel upset, which will tell you something about
what is important to them and illuminate their more sensitive areas.
As I've said, it's not always appropriate to consider someone else's feelings. If you are
performing life-saving first aid you may have to scream at people to get out of the way.
However, once you are clear about emotional needs then you can begin to understand what
goes wrong in relationships.
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How to Make Friends
When making friends, understanding how emotional needs work is essential.
Different friends usually meet different needs in your life.
· You may make a friend who is fun and exciting but who you wouldn't necessarily tell
your deepest secrets. They meet your need for stimulation.
· Another friend may be less exciting, more plodding but a wonderful listener.
· Another may be someone you can share intimacies with who makes you feel safe
and secure because they are so dependable.
· Yet another may be a business partner, someone you can share goals and
aspirations with, meeting your needs for goals, status, and meaning.
· And that one person who meets all or many of your needs? Hey presto, it's your
perfect friend or partner!
What makes a good friend?
People will tend to want to make friends with you if they feel you meet some of their emotional
needs. If you make them laugh you stimulate. If you look out for them they feel safe and
secure. If you encourage them and point out their strengths you give them a sense of control
and status. If you share secrets and have private jokes you meet their need for intimacy.
Think about what you offer people and what others offer you. Basic emotional needs will
always play a part.
Delivering difficult messages well
What about when you need to `have a word' with someone over something you're not happy
about?
A common mistake is to criticize someone as a person rather than complain about something
specific in their behavior.
What's the difference? Well if you feel strongly about something you want to let the offending
person know about it. Fair enough. But if people feel attacked something has gone wrong.
You want their behavior to change in the future. This is the desired outcome. You don't want
a new best enemy!
How to `attack' someone
Have you ever noticed that when giving negative feedback some people just go onto
`transmit?' The recipient becomes someone to be acted upon rather than interacted with.
Sweeping remarks about a person being `lazy', stupid etc tend not to be forgotten even after
later apologies, back tracks and claims of `I didn't mean it - I was angry!'
If you attack someone's identity as a person (rather than something specific in their behavior)
don't be surprised if they go on the defensive. If you have a problem with someone about
something they've done (or forgotten to do) you can be firm but fair.
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Make friends, keep friends
To hold onto the friends you have, keep the way open for good future relations with this
person by avoiding causing undue offence. Once you have taken the time to make friends,
you don't want to accidentally drive them away!
Constructive Criticism
Sometimes we have to deliver `constructive criticism' ­ that is, letting someone know about
something they do that you don't agree with. Constructive criticism is NOT however...
· Not letting them speak
· Over-generalising the problem
· Blaming them, attacking their core identity rather than focusing on the behaviour in
question
· Indicating that everything they always do is wrong
· Raising your voice
· Invading body space
· Asking questions without waiting for a response: `Why do you always...?, What do
you think you are doing?, `Why do you never....?
Consequences include:
· Loss of respect, morale, and trust
· Lack of clarity in precisely what the problem is that needs addressing
· No clear feedback as to why the problem may have occurred and what can be done
about it
Remember: `An emotional brain is not a thinking brain.'
Giving specific negative feedback (Constructive criticism or `complaint')
Constructive criticism can also be described as `complaint', which in fact is a clearer way of
putting it. The word criticism implies something personal, complaining is more about
behaviour. Here's how to do it well...
· Have a gentle start up to your complaint. The `you' word at the start can immediately
switch people into the defensive. Rather start with phrases like: `I've noticed
recently....'
· Be specific in your feedback. Talk only about the problem with their behaviour /
performance you wish to address
· Keep it time limited: `Recently I've noticed that....', and `I want to talk about the
incident last week...' Not: `You always/never blah blah blah (because that is all they
will hear!)
· Don't make comments about their personality, appearance and don't make wild
statements about how everyone else perceives them. This can be unfounded and
crushing. Remember some things you say may be irreparable later on so stick to the
point! Keep emotions out of it as far as possible.
Being respectful and fair doesn't mean being scared to deliver the message. It is much more
skilful to deliver a difficult message well than to bulldozer someone. Learning to do this well
means keeping open lines of communication and maintaining relationships, which of course is
most important if you have to work with them in future or they are your romantic partner.
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How to give compliments
Mark Twain said he could live two months on a good compliment. This may have been
pushing it a bit but giving regular and sincere (most important) compliments cements
relationships.
Note: Keeping complaints specific limits damage to relationships. Being specific with your
compliments maximizes their effectiveness.
So a rule for any type of feedback to other people is: Be specific!
For example, "You are so wonderful", does not have the same power as, "The way you
handled that meeting showed you have real people skills... especially when you...". Keeping
your compliments specific makes them meaningful and more likely to be believed.
A compliment to a young boy such as: "You were so great today winning your race / trying
your hardest / comforting your friend" is much more readily accepted and memorable then a
vague, `You are so wonderful for just being you!'
Criticism (even when constructive) is more likely to be accepted if it is tempered by regular
compliments. A ratio of 5:1 compliment to complaint is a handy rule-of-thumb.
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Further Relationship Skills
Like a popular bank account, people will like you if you pay good interest. Listening properly
to people can meet their need for connection, status and intimacy and is a key relationship
skill.
Let people know you are listening by:
1. Actually listening to them, nodding, smiling and looking in their general direction.
2. Feeding back what they say; showing them you know they actually said it. And then
adding anything of your own. If you don't agree at least acknowledge they've spoken:
`I understand what you mean, however as far as I see it.....', or: `That's a good idea...
and it might be even better if...'
Ask opinions, advice or help
People feel important if you ask them what they think. This meets their need for status.
Talk to them about their concerns and interests
People will feel that you are interesting if you show interest in them. Don't compromise your
own personality but be aware of this basic rapport building rule.
Offer help and do favors
People like people who are helpful. Helping people practically meets all kinds of emotional
needs (you should, by now, be able to work out which ones ;-)
And smile, smile, smile
Research shows that when you smile at someone pleasure centers in their brain are
stimulated. People like warmth and will come to associate you with feeling good. Smiling
relaxes people and make them feel they can trust you.
Basic rules on smiling:
· Don't over do it! Whoops!
· Don't smile when you are anxious, angry or giving negative feedback - it's confusing!
· Don't smile when someone else has stubbed their toe. You smiling when someone
else is having a bad time gives the message that you are glad it's not you rather than
you wish it wasn't them!
In summary
· Remember that everyone has similar emotional needs (including you!)
· Take these needs into account in social, work and romantic situations
· Keep complaints specific and avoid overgeneralising negatives
· Make compliments specific; give examples to make them `real'
· Listen and talk about what is important to people. And smile and look interested.
The more you meet others' emotional needs, the more they will like you. The less you step on
their emotional needs, the less offence you will cause. And if someone else offends you,
check out your basic emotional needs to find out why.

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