7 Painless Ways to Interact With Your Co-Workers
Social interaction in a formal setting like the workplace can be a daunting task—especially when your co-workers are radically different from the group you normally run with. But it doesn't have to be. Below are some tips for conversing with your co-workers. Most of them stem from a basic fact—the vast majority of people want to feel like somebody else “gets” them, or at least that they care. Once you truly understand that, talking to people takes care of itself.
Ask friendly questions.
This is a big one for two reasons—the first reason is that it means you don't have to do much! Figuring out “what to say” is a big source of anxiety for most people, but if you’re asking questions, you’re only speaking at a minimum—just set the other person up and let them talk. Congratulations! You made this interaction easier, and it's barely even started.
The second reason this is great is that people really like to talk about themselves. So not only have you gotten the other person to do the heavy lifting in this conversation, you've gotten them to like you just a little more because of it.
“Active listening” is a way to make sure that you're paying attention and to make sure the other person knows it. Ask follow-up questions about what they're talking about. Nod or quietly say “mm-hmm” in a way that communicates that you're engaged with what they're telling you.
You know how you sometimes assume people don't actually want to hear what you have to say? Most people feel that way. Having someone listen to them, carefully and deliberately, can be a powerful thing.
Remember their answers.
You don't have to be an encyclopedia about everyone you know. In fact, please don't be—it’s super creepy. But remember a couple of things that are clearly important and ask about those things every now and then.
If your desk mate's child is a math whiz, ask her how that's going from time to time. If your manager just started classes in circus arts, check in to see how he's liking it. More than anything, people want to feel understood and validated, and it's amazing how far just a little bit of that will go.
Use basic courtesy.
This may sound basic or stupid, but listen—politeness is a rarity. More so in some industries than others, definitely. If you follow some basic stuff, like respecting peoples' space, avoiding snarky comments, refusing to gossip, etc.—it's basically a superpower in terms of how much it can change the way people look at you.
Don't assume they're judging you.
Here's a secret—most people aren't thinking about you as often as you imagine they are. That's not a bad thing…at all. Wanna know what they're really thinking about? The same thing you are—they're worrying about what other people think of them. And they're far, far too busy doing that to remember that time you tripped over a word, or said something embarrassing.
Don't announce the worst about yourself
Have you ever been to a party where someone introduced themselves by saying they were “so awkward”? That hardly seems like the best foot to start out on, does it? You be you. Other people can decide if you're awkward or not without you making up their mind for them. If you don't plant that expectation in their mind, you may be surprised when their reactions indicate you're not as awkward as you thought.
Don't assume the worst about yourself
Maybe you're working for a company where you feel outclassed, or you're at a conference where you think that everyone else is better than you. Here's a secret—most people feel like they're faking it, most of the time. It's called imposter syndrome, and ironically, the smarter you are, the more likely you are to have it. The fact that you are there, typically means you belong there. Try not to overthink it.