Wednesday, July 13, 2016

By Erin Wortham

Have you ever been to a meeting and come out inspired and motivated, but then spoken to a co-worker who found the event boring or even counter-productive? This sort of thing happens all the time. Realizing that people see things through unique lenses that make the world appear different to each of us is crucial in navigating’s today’s world.

Here are three steps that can help you connect more and collide less.

Start with an Assessment

Often the most important place to start to build understanding between colleagues is to realize that people see the world differently. Realizing that everyone sees things through unique lenses that make the world appear different to each is crucial to learning to reach beyond ourselves.

One of the most common differences is between introverts and extroverts. No one is a perfect introvert or extrovert. Everyone falls somewhere on a scale, with various tendencies that are either introverted or extroverted. The key difference is that extroverts generally get energized by being around people, and introverts generally are drained by it. Consequently, introverts and extroverts may have radically different preferences about everything from face-to-face communication versus email, speaking versus listening, and thinking aloud versus only speaking up after having had time to think and digest a topic.

Making an in-depth assessment of both yourself and those you work with can be a great first step to connecting. Personality assessment models that help identify your interpersonal preferences in detail, and if used within an organization, are useful for learning about the entire team. Another option is to “play detective” and consider what you can about your co-workers. Observe a person’s body language, verbal style, interactions and work environment. Ask yourself, “How can I match their preferred method of communication?”

Try Speaking Their Language, Not Yours

When introverts and extroverts clash, it’s usually when they are speaking to each other in a way they personally prefer, rather than in the other’s preferred style. If you lead with extroverted energy and want input from someone who prefers introversion, rather than inviting them to brainstorm with lots of people, send an email inviting feedback and allowing time to prepare as needed. Then, if you hold a preference for introversion and are working with extroverted colleagues, spend time listening and allow them to “think out loud” about topics as they work.

Fine Tune, and Repeat

Since we’re all a little different, and have different degrees of introversion and extroversion within us, it’s important to take the time to figure out what works as a communication style with the different people you work with. What brings out the best in one extroverted colleague may not work for all other extroverts, so you’ll need to customize.

If someone is withdrawn, don’t immediately conclude they’re aloof, secretive or a non-contributor. They may just be an introvert! Then, if someone’s bubbly don’t assume they’re unaware, rude or socially needy. They may just be more extroverted than you.

Why It Matters

Building communication strategies among different coworkers can be a challenge, but it leads to a more cohesive and productive team. According to a CPP study, U.S. employees spend 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict, amounting to approximately $359 billion in paid hours (for $17.95 per hour average earnings), or the equivalent of 385 million working days.

Imagine how productive you’d be if you got that time back. Finding ways to adapt and connect with colleagues not only increases your happiness, but also increases the organization’s bottom line. Working together isn’t about changing who you are or about expecting someone else to change. It’s about recognizing that people have different interpersonal preferences, and if you take time to identify and recognize them and are willing to adjust your communication styles to better connect with others, you will be on the way to a healthier and more productive workplace.

Erin Wortham is the people engagement manager at Insights Learning and Development.