6 ways to get along better with co-workers

Whether it is live or online, one of the most popular seminars/webinars our company offers is “How to Communicate With Diplomacy and Tact.” This is really not too surprising in a world where teamwork and collaboration are the order of the day but not always easy to follow when “MY IDEA” is clearly correct and the other person’s or department’s is not.

When disagreements occur, email exchanges get testy, and then the conversation (or is that “confrontation”?) begins. Since the ultimate goal of any business is to take care of its external customers in a superb way, wouldn’t it be great if internal customers got the same respect?

With this short background — which I am sure many of you can relate to — out of the way, here are six guidelines to follow when you have a difference of opinion with a co-worker. This is not to suggest that you shouldn’t stand up for your point of view, but you should know that there is a more diplomatic and tactful way of doing so.

1) Give others the benefit of the doubt: Maybe the person who just made that outrageous comment has substantial evidence to back it up. If you react in a negative, emotional way, chances are the other person will respond in kind. When that happens, evidence and logic take a backseat to emotion. Remember, this is a conversation, not a confrontation.

2) Listen to learn and understand: With this intent, try to really understand where other people are coming from. Let them know you have heard them and are genuinely trying to see things from their perspective.

3) Take responsibility for your own feelings: Make a habit of using “I” statements. Beginning with “you” tends to come off as blaming and usually puts the other person on the defensive. When that happens, the chances of your point of view being heard are reduced. If you truly want your ideas understood, you should first seek to understand.



4) Use a cushion: Just as a cushion at a football game makes your tush feel a bit more comfortable in the bleachers, a cushion is a good way to lead into a tough discussion. A cushion, in an empathetic way, says “I hear you.” It does not agree or disagree with the others person’s point of view. Examples of cushions would be: “I hear what you are saying” or “I appreciate your view on” or “I understand where you are coming from.”

5) Get rid of “but”: Eliminate the word “but” from your vocabulary in these situations. Also get rid of its chocolate-covered derivatives, “however” and “nevertheless.” Once you cushion the others person’s opinion, use “and,” or pause and say nothing. This response tends to keep the conversation going. Acknowledging the person’s point of view and following that with “but” erases the acknowledgement.

6) Use evidence, not emotions: When emotion takes over, the conversation stops. Rather than letting that happen, be prepared with evidence that will strongly support your point of view. It is one thing to say “here is what I think” and another to say “here is the evidence that supports my point of view.”

In summary, differing opinions are here to stay. How those opinions are communicated will have a lot to do with a positive, collaborative effort to reach goals. If you are emotionally reactive, the other person will often reciprocate that response. If you can control your tone, back up your point of view with strong evidence, and keep the conversation (not the confrontation) going, you will be communicating with diplomacy and tact.

Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine – your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.