The answer to this question may be a different answer than you are expecting.
Deeply connecting with co-workers, colleagues, and clients who patronize our businesses, or patients seeking our professional services, is often something that is either minimized or not deemed worthy of our time. Many believe that while we have to make a living, we do not have to spend time and energy making friendships or connections in the work place.
Isn't it inappropriate to form friendships at work?
We spend on average, 1/3 of our day, 5 days a week at work surrounded by co-workers, colleagues, supervisors, managers, and clients. For some of us, the time we spend at work is even more hours of our day and more days of the week than that. If our workplace feels like a nightmare filled with conflict and drudgery, this will likely spill over into our personal lives as well. Work then becomes a bastion of resentment and coerced obligation in the way that we view it.
Most of us look outside of ourselves to find fulfillment and happiness. We have fallen into the "he/she makes me happy" notion which also means that if we are NOT happy, it is someone else's fault. We often believe in the "if only....then" philosophy which translates into if I didn't have to go to this job that sucks, my life would be happy. This way of thinking is a misunderstanding. External events do not have the power to make us happy or miserable. It is our perception of these events (the glasses we use to see life) that determines how we feel about any given event. This is also true about how we feel about our workplace. While there may be environments that are very toxic and unsafe, the majority are not. We can often make a very real difference by changing how WE interact with others instead of waiting for someone else to change. Treating others respectfully is just as contagious as treating others disrespectfully can be.
If we are seeking more teamwork, a much more congenial work atmosphere, and more business coming through our doors, it IS necessary to really connect with those around us in a meaningful way. This does not mean that we have to have the person over to dinner at our house or share intimate details of our home life. What it does mean is finding common ground with the person, respecting them while we may differ in opinion, and really listening to what they have to say to understand what it is like to live in their world.
Most of us do not know how to listen or communicate effectively. In spite of all of our smart phones, texts, video chats, tweets, and emails, there is often very little communication going on at a deeper level. We have been trained to sound off instead of fostering relationships, waging a battle of one-upmanship with anyone who challenges us.
So, how do I communicate differently with my colleagues, business associates, and clients in a way that makes a difference?
Here are a few key points to remember when trying to effectively communicate:
Respect: What is missing in the vast majority of interactions in modern society is an underlying, basic respect for the person with whom you are engaging. Often, colleagues are seen as competitors for the best positions in the company and clients as merely a means to make money. Supervisors and employers are often viewed as power hungry, control freaks that make our lives miserable with associated distrust. We develop an "us versus them" mentality which separates us even further. If we step back for a moment and separate a person's actions from an unwavering respect for the goodness and worth of the person, it is much easier to embrace the person in a gentle way, while addressing any issues without intentionally wounding the person or viewing them as an adversary. Clients will then be viewed as people to serve rather than ATM machines that give us money. The office dynamic begins to shift.
Listen: Listening and I mean REALLY listening is an art. It is also the most important aspect of communication. Most of us are so busy thinking about how we are going to respond or rebut what is being said, that we cannot capture WHAT is being said, let alone FEEL the intention. When we listen intently, we can receive insights into the world of the person speaking, walking in their shoes if you will, learn more about what they are not saying, and gain our own insights into how to connect with them on their level. Listening is meeting a person on THEIR level and where they are, not where YOU are in your thinking. Without knowing where they are, there is no trust or meaningful communication.
Connect: If we do not form some type of connection or trust with a person, they will not do business with us, will not give their best at work, and they will view you as an adversary. When is the last time YOU bought something from something who spoke to you disrespectfully, constantly cutting you off, and not listening to anything you have to say? People can sense when your communications are all about you and not about them. This feeling causes them to resist you and anything you are offering. This is not only true in intimate relationships. It is also true in commercial transactions and work relationships. We build trust by seeking how to serve the person standing in front of us, not by cramming our agenda down their throat. Communications coming from a place of service, creates connection. Functioning from a place of viewing people as pawns to make money for you will not bring lasting success. Sure, some people will still use your services, but they are not too likely to come back or tell their friends great things about you.
While we may not have the ability to change our circumstances, we all can change the way we view them.
By shifting our point of view, amazing things can happen. Work can become a place of connection, teamwork, growth, and prosperity. Instead of waiting for someone else to take the lead, YOU can make all the difference. Like small ripples in a pond, your impact can be widely felt.