When I was very young, my mother gave me a paperweight that said, “Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.” She went on to say, “Honey, I love you but you are a bull in a china shop; you just run people over. You have to learn how to work with people.” This advice was a major influence on me for the rest of my life.
Think back to your elementary school report card and how it graded you on your ability to play well with others. Well, things haven’t changed. I believe your success in business, and particularly your success at networking, means that you need to learn how to collaborate — or in other words, play well with others.
You can’t always choose who comes to the playground, and you won’t always get a say in who you’re working with. You don’t have be friends with everybody. You don’t even have to like everybody. It’s also important to recognize that different personalities add different perspectives and that, when managed well, can actually make a group more productive.
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As I broke down while being interviewed in a recent episode of the BNI Podcast, don’t let other people control your actions. This begins with some tolerance, a frequently invoked word that’s under-used in practice. Let’s discuss a hypothetical Mr. or Ms. Jerk. I’m going to call them “J” for short. Remember, keep your eye on the ball and try not to be too sensitive about the jerk — I mean J. Here are some techniques that will help you with this process. (The last one in particular is critical.)
- Listen without arguing.
- Ask questions. Not argumentative questions, but questions that will give you more insight into J’s point of view.
- Show interest in their point of view. You don’t have to agree with it to show interest. Trust me on this one.
- If you can, get them to focus on the solutions to the issue and not just the problem. If all we do is focus on the problem, we become an expert on problems. Say to them: I get it, I see the issue. Now, the real question: What’s a realistic solution. If they offer a lousy solution, then say, “OK, that’s one possibility. What’s another realistic solution?” Coach them toward calmness.
- Clear, open, honest and direct communication is the best way to deal with J or other people who are dealing with J. Every time I’ve had big challenges with people, one side or the other held back in their communication. That doesn’t mean unload on people. It means talk to tjhem professionally.
And here are some additional suggestions to be aware of:
- Make yourself invaluable to people by focusing on solutions.
- Stay clear of drama and rise above fray by checking your emotions and focusing on results.
- Don’t complain. Be positive. Complaining is not an Olympic sport.
- Stay aware of your emotions, and don’t let others limit your success.
- Use your support system. Talk to others about the solution.
- Be a leader, not a leaver.
Don’t let J’s craziness drive you in a direction you don’t want to go. As Lisa Earle McLeod says in her book, The Triangle of Truth,“I discovered that what actually puts us over the edge towards craziness ourselves is not other people’s dysfunctions; it’s their denial of their dysfunctions. You know, how they go out acting all normal, and even self-righteous, as if we’re the ones who are loopy.”
Don’t let others to control your success. Leaving an opportunity (or a network) because someone’s a jerk gives them leverage over you and it gives them free reign to lord over others. Don’t give J. that power.