Interpersonal Skills

How to Get Along with Anyone

Life would be easy if it weren’t for the people…

Why do you connect with some people more easily than others? Personality.

  • 90% of problems at work are people problems.
  • A significant cause of terminations are personality issues.
  • A difficult co-worker can negatively impact satisfaction in the workplace.
  • A personality conflict with a manager can make you dread going to work.

There are always going to be people you struggle to get along with.

The most common coping mechanisms people use for personality conflict are avoidance, passive aggressive behavior, and permanently leaving the situation. The challenge with these strategies is avoidance and passive aggressive behavior worsen the relationship, and there will likely be people you don’t click with in your next environment.

A more effective strategy is learning to read and understand people, and adapting your approach to give others what they need and ultimately get your needs met in the process.

My exposure and work with the DiSC personality assessment is a significant factor in having a rock-solid marriage, and the ability to get along with just about everyone. Understanding your own personality is the first step in working more effectively with others.

First, determine if you tend to be more fast-paced and outspoken OR cautious and reflective.

Then, determine if you also tend to be more questioning and skeptical OR accepting and warm. Finally, combine the tendencies together to discover your style:

D – Dominance: direct, results-oriented, firm, strong-willed, forceful.

I – Influence: outgoing, enthusiastic, optimistic, high-spirited, lively.

S – Steadiness: even-tempered, accommodating, patient, humble, tactful.

C – Conscientiousness: analytical, reserved, precise, private, systematic.

Each of these four personality types have different priorities. When you know the priorities of others, you can give them what they need to influence a better partnership.

D styles prioritize:

  • Getting results
  • Taking Action
  • Offering Challenge (e.g. challenging others with tough questions)

I styles prioritize:

  • Enthusiasm
  • Taking Action
  • Collaboration

S styles prioritize:

  • Providing support
  • Stability
  • Collaboration

C styles prioritize:

  • Accuracy
  • Stability
  • Offering Challenge (e.g. openly questioning ideas)

You’ll notice some of the styles share similar priorities. For example, I’s and S’sboth prioritize collaboration, so this is common ground they can use to get along better. D’s and C’s both prioritize challenge, and I’s and D’s both prioritize action. D’s and S’s do not have common ground on their priorities, and neither do I’s and C’s, so these personality combinations tend to have the greatest friction points.

Strategies to increase your effectiveness

To connect better with the D style:

  • Address issues quickly and directly. They will respect you for it.
  • Resist the urge to give into their demands just to regain harmony.
  • Realize that the relationship is less important than the task.
  • Avoid taking bluntness personally. It’s not personal.
  • Focus on the big picture.
  • Expect candor.
  • Make efficient use of their time: Be brief and be gone.

To connect better with I style:

  • Be open to collaboration.
  • Recognize the value of their energy and enthusiasm.
  • Find ways to recognize them so they feel liked and appreciated.
  • Expect spontaneity.
  • Show them you’re open to creative solutions.
  • Remain optimistic while considering all potential issues.
  • Let them know your relationship is solid despite differences.
  • Avoid personal attacks.
  • Acknowledge their feelings.

To connect better with S style:

  • Show warmth and concern for their feelings.
  • Address the situation directly, but avoid being confrontational.
  • Offer your point of view, but take an easy-going approach.
  • Work collaboratively with them.
  • Respect their cautious pace.
  • Set a timeline that fits everyone’s needs.
  • Avoid forceful tactics.
  • Show them you sincerely care about resolving the issues.

To connect better with C style:

  • Allow them time for careful analysis.
  • Talk to them about objective, fact-based aspects of ideas and projects.
  • Support your opinions with logic and facts.
  • Avoid using forceful or emotional tactics.
  • Give them space to process a situation before confronting the issues.
  • Show appreciation for their logic.
  • Expect skepticism.
  • Avoid pressuring them for an immediate decision.

Developing the ability to read and understand people, discover their needs and priorities, and adapting your approach to them will lead to greater effectiveness with people in every area of your life.

If you’re interested in learning more about taking a DiSC assessment and receiving coaching around your personality, motivators, stressors, and strategies for increasing effectiveness with others, please contact me through my website below.

All the best to you!​

Your Most Powerful Communication Tool

Five years ago I was introduced to a communication model called Transactional Analysis. It is fascinating, and completelytransformed the way I perceive communication, and engage in it.

Communication goes wrong when the proverbial wires get crossed. Where your super-hero communication power lies is in the ability to prevent wires from crossing in the first place. Recognizing when another person has crossed wires with you, and not permitting them to take you down a bad path is POWERFUL.

What is Transactional Analysis?

Transactional Analysis is a model of people and relationships that was developed during the 1960’s by Dr. Eric Berne.

The core constructs:

  • We have three ego-states to our personality: parent, adult, and child
  • Our ego-states converse with one another in transactions

Human beings have conversations with others, as well as internal dialogue in our own heads, which stem from a parent, adult, or child role.

I must walk you through the ego-states before I can introduce examples. I guarantee you’ll be identifying the ego states of co-workers and family members in no time, and you’ll know just how to counter-balance these ego states by the end of the article!

The Parent Ego-States

There are three forms of parent we can assume in our conversations:

1. The Nurturing Parent

  • Openly expresses concern and care for others, gives recognition freely and listens intently to what others are saying.

2. The Controlling (or Critical) Parent

  • Tries to make the Child do as the parent wants them to do, perhaps transferring values or beliefs or helping the Child to understand and live in society.

3. The Rescuing Parent

  • Often motivated by guilt and feels the need to rescue people from themselves.

The Child Ego-States

There are three forms of child we can assume in our conversations:

1. The Free Child

  • Characterized by the non-speech noises they make (“Yahoo”!, “Whee!”, etc.). They like playing and are open and vulnerable. They are curious and explore.

2. The Rebellious Child

  • Reacts to the world around them, rebelling against the forces they feel. The behavior is often argumentative.

3. The Wounded Child

  • Believes they are not in control and life “happens to them” while they are simply observers. This child form has a vulnerable and victim-like mentality.

The Adult Ego-State

The Adult is the rational person grown up who:

  • Speaks with assertiveness, and is reasonable.
  • Does not try to control, or use aggression toward, others.
  • Is comfortable in their own skin and is, for most of us, the ideal self.

When people communicate, an exchange is called a transaction. The bulk of conflict is rooted in unsuccessful or broken transactions.

Transaction Examples

The following transaction begins as an Adult transaction, but is met with aCritical Parent response:

When a communication stems from either a Parent or Child ego-state, that transaction becomes crossed, and is considered unsuccessful. In this case, theAdult is being treated as a Child by the Critical Parent ego-state.

Let’s look at another example using a Wounded Child response:

The initial communication is a direct, rational question. However, it’s met with aWounded Child response. Again, the wires are crossed, altering the trajectory of this conversation, creating a power differential between the speakers. The Adult is being goaded into the role of Parent by the Child ego-state.

Double-crossed transactions are the most volatile. Let’s take a look at a classicCritical Parent met with a Rebellious Child response:

This probably looks familiar to some of my married readers when you’ve spent too long working on a frustrating project around the house with your spouse!

What about Rescuing Parent? I refer to this ego-state as an enabler:

Seems harmless enough. After all, the person is trying to be helpful, right? Unfortunately, rescuing people thrusts them into the Child ego-state against their will.

You may have noticed I didn’t provide examples of Nurturing Parent, or Free Child. These ego-states are not considered negative but are meant to be used in appropriate doses.

There are certainly times when it’s appropriate to operate out of a Nurturing Parent state. An example is a much older co-worker that is mentoring a younger, inexperienced associate. Again, the key is small amounts, lest the younger associate be relegated to a Child state.

Free Child is also considered a healthy ego-state in appropriate amounts, because all work and no play makes Jack and Jill some pretty dull kids. However, an ego-state of Free Child in large amounts in the workplace (or home for that matter) could cause some concern for the adults around you (think Tom Hanks in the movie, Big).

When you operate from the Adult ego-state, it shines a light on the bad behavior of others, and does not justify their continued bad behavior. You’re Parent orChild reaction further fuels crossed wires, and ensures the conversation will crash and burn.

This model is why I’ve eliminated sarcasm from my speech, as it has significant potential to increase unsuccessful communication transactions.

Key Takeaways

  • Watch out for crossed wires! This is where conflict arises.
  • For rational conversation move yourself, and the other person, to the Adult level.

I hope you’ve found this helpful, and would love to hear your comments.

All the best to you!

How to Read People

Learning to read people isn’t difficult, but it’s a huge professional advantage and requires only three things: identification, observation, and practice.

As a human behavior consultant and career coach, it’s common for me to have conversations with my clients where I end up coaching them on some interpersonal conflict–it’s often the driver for clients seeking my services.

Learning to read and manage different personalities has been instrumental in virtually eliminating my own conflict with others.

There are a number of models to describe personality, yet the DISC personality profile is one of the most well-known. I’ll use this model to cover three key points:

  • The characteristics of the four personality styles
  • How to identify a person’s personality style
  • Simple techniques to improve communication with each style

The Four Personality Characteristics

It’s important to note 85% of people have a blend of two personality styles, while 15% of the population have only one. A person’s secondary personality trait influences their overall personality.

Dominance (D)
Dominance-driven people have strong personalities. They are task-oriented, decisive, big picture, results-focused, fast-paced, multi-tasking, verbal, take charge people. Two-thirds of leaders in the corporate environment have dominance as a primary or secondary personality style, because they like to take charge. Steve Jobs was Dominance-driven, as is Donald Trump.

Influence (I)
Influencers are similar to D personalities since they are also big picture, fast-paced, multi-tasking, and verbal people. The core difference is that I’s arerelationship-oriented, not task-oriented. Additionally, they are enthusiastic, energetic, inspirational, want to be liked, and enjoy recognition. I’s often gravitate toward fields working with people, such as Sales. Robin Williams was an I, as is Jay Leno.

Steadiness (S)
Steadfast people are similar to I’s in their relationship-orientation. Where they differ from I’s is they are more calm and less verbal. Steadfast personalities are completely opposite to Dominance-driven personalities. S’s work at a slow pace, are good listeners, project warmth and friendliness, are loyal, methodical, detail-oriented, and do not tend to multi-task. Steady people often seek work helping others, such as jobs in the non-profit sector, teaching, and counseling. Mother Teresa and Mr. Rogers were both S types.

Cautious/Conscientious (C)
Cautious people are similar to Steady personality types because they are detail-oriented (versus big picture), reserved, process oriented, and seek stability. However, C’s differ from S’s because they are task-oriented, not relationship-oriented. Bill Gates and Albert Einstein were C’s.

To summarize: D’s and C’s are task-oriented, I’s and S’s are relationship-oriented. D’s and I’s are fast-paced, big picture thinkers. C’s and S’s are detail-oriented and work at a moderate pace.

How to Identify Personality Style

There are three main cues for identifying personality: facial expression, hand gestures, and verbal cues.

Facial Expression
When talking to someone, how much do they smile?

  • Lots of smiles = I or S
  • Only socially required smiles = D or C (e.g. when being introduced)

Hand Gestures
How animated are the person’s hand gestures and body movement?

  • Slow and close to body = C or S
  • Fast and away from body = D or I

Verbal Cues
How fast does the person speak, and do they interrupt?

  • Speaks more slowly and will stop speaking when interrupted = S or C
  • Fast-paced speaker that doesn’t stop when interrupted = D or I

How much small talk?

  • Makes small talk (e.g. talks about personal life) = I or S
  • Sticks to task and work topics = D or C

Q: How can you tell if a person that smiles a lot is I or S?
A: Look at the hand gestures! Slow/close to body is an S. Fast and away from body is an I.

Q: How can you tell if a person that talks fast and interrupts is D or I?
A: If they are usually engaging in “small-talk” and smiling, they are an I. If they stick to task-related topics and are not smiling profusely, they are a D.

Simple Techniques to Improve Communication

People reading, and behavioral modification to adapt to the person you’re communicating with, can lead to improved interpersonal success in so many ways.

Another good application of people reading is a job interview. Using the personality identification tips should help you better connect and communicate with different styles and enhance rapport with interviewers.

What “do these” and “limit these” tips would you add based on your personality?

All the best to you!

Mastering Difficult Conversations

I’m primarily a career coach, but oftentimes I play the role of life coach, because my clients may have “stuff” going on in their lives which causes them to seek my services in the first place.

I’ve coached many hundreds of people, and one commonality I find is the difficulty people have giving a co-worker or manager constructive feedback. Many of my clients choose to find a new job so they can put a difficult working relationship behind them. You know the saying, “People quit their boss, not their job.”

I’m going to share a marvelously simple way to bolster your courage to speak up, but, first, let me share reasons people cite to avoid giving feedback — along with a counter argument for each.

I tried before. It didn’t make a difference.
Perhaps the method was ineffective. Are you open to a better approach?

My boss is intimidating. I’m afraid to confront them.
What happens when you encounter an intimidating boss or co-worker at your next job? Wouldn’t you like to learn to manage people once and for all? Not to mention you’re putting yourself in a parent/child relationship with the other person, which is unhealthy.

I’ll get fired.
If it’s a bad situation, they’re doing you a favor. No one makes a more concerted effort to find a job than when they need one. Also, this is why it’s important to have 3 months of expenses saved if you’re married, and 6 months expenses saved if you’re single. You don’t have to be a slave to anyone.

They might retaliate against me.
Refer to counter-argument number three.

I don’t want to hurt their feelings.
How would you feel if someone was upset about something you did? Would you prefer they resent you silently, or would you appreciate a chance to address the issue? Approach is everything. It’s very simple to provide feedback in a non-threatening way. If you’re hurting someone, you’re handling it incorrectly. Giving someone feedback shows you care enough about the relationship to speak up.

I’m afraid it will damage our relationship.
Healthy conflict is actually shown to strengthen relationships, not damage them. Again, approach is everything.

I don’t want to cause a problem.
Houston, we (already) have a problem.

Now, let’s get to the nitty-gritty of giving feedback using three little letters: SBI.

The Center for Creative Leadership developed the SBI Feedback tool to help managers deliver clear, specific feedback, but it works across all relationships, personal and professional. SBI stands for:

Situation.
Behavior.
Impact.

First, describe the when and where of the situation. Next, describe the other person’s behavior, only mentioning actions that you have observed. It is critical to remove assumptions of motive or intent, which almost always escalates conflict. Then, communicate the impact of his or her behavior on you. When appropriate, discuss what you would like to see change in the future.

Before I give you an example, let’s talk about how you might broach the conversation, because, for many, getting the conversation started is the hardest part. Try this on for size:

“I’d like to speak with you when you have a moment about a situation that occurred. I’m interested in your perspective, and would like to share mine, as well.”

Let’s say your boss has a habit of interrupting you in meetings, and yesterday your boss interrupted you again in front of your team in the middle of sharing an idea. You never want to say things like, “You don’t respect my opinion”, “It was rude when you…”, “You don’t value what I have to say”, etc. Those are value judgments. Instead, use the SBI model:

Situation: “Yesterday in the team meeting, I started to explain my idea for the new product launch.”

Behavior: “I wasn’t given an opportunity to finish my thought when you started speaking about the marketing vendors. I felt it important to mention, as this has happened on several occasions in team meetings.”

Impact: “I’m concerned this behavior undermines my credibility with the team.”

An important element for this to work well is to continue to loop back into the SBI model if the recipient is not receiving the feedback. Imagine your manager responds in a defensive tone by saying, “No one will think anything of it. You’re over-reacting.”

Using the SBI model:

“Tom, giving you this feedback today was not comfortable for me and I gave it considerable thought (situation). Your response that I’m over-reacting minimizes the effect your interruption had on me (behavior) and does not foster the ability for me to have open, honest communication with you which is critical to our collective success (impact).”

Give the SBI model a try, even if with a spouse, or friend. Let me know how you make out! Remember, people treat you the way YOU allow them to treat you: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

All the best to you!