Without exception, we are all dependent upon other people to help us get where we want to go in life. Although we may not realise it, we feed off other peoples ideas, inputs, and opinions. Sometimes we openly solicit this type of feedback and sometimes it is offered to us unsolicited even though we dont want to hear it. The reality is that without it our lives, both professional and private, become barren.
The more ideas, input, and opinions we can entice, the better positioned we are to weigh the alternatives, gain clarity as to current and future paths we should be taking, and make informed and effective decisions. Unfortunately, we all have a natural tendency to discourage people from communicating openly with us, thereby inadvertently encouraging them to harbour animosity towards us. This is especially the case when we begin to gain positions of authority because with authority comes a sense of entitlement. The temptation to subjugate other people, forcing them to honour our position rather than our knowledge, becomes overbearing because each time we do it our egos take on another unhealthy calorie overdose. The time comes when we forget to appreciate the value of other people and with this amnesia the two most important words in any language fall out of our vocabulary Thank you.
Successful people know how to park this sense of entitlement but most people cant resist shoving it in other peoples faces particularly those of lower standing. Sometimes it is done symbolically the car we drive or the liberties we take. At other times it comes across in the way we speak and act. One way or another we make it clear that we are different, flaunting our wealth, status, and power.
To reverse these natural tendencies and boost your standing in the eyes of everyone around you it is important to start showing some appreciation for the vital role they play in your life. Some meaningful ways of doing this are:
- Stop Passing Judgement: In the normal give-and-take of discussions we should be encouraging people to voice their opinions. Opinions give rise to healthy debate and it is through healthy debate that effective decisions are born. Passing judgement on peoples opinions however, especially when you have explicitly asked for them, will lead to people acting as parrots by simply reiterating your opinion in different words or cause them to withhold their valuable input altogether.
It is hard not to pass judgement. We are all guilty of this type of behaviour it is almost a knee-jerk reaction. Condition your mind to react differently by, for one week, treating every idea and opinion that comes your way from another person with complete neutrality. Dont take sides. Dont express an opinion. If you find yourself incapable of just saying Thank you, make it an innocuous Thanks, I hadnt considered that or Thanks, youve given me something to think about. You will significantly reduce the number of pointless arguments at both work and at home. If you continue this for several weeks, at least three positive outcomes will result:
1. This sort of neutral response will become automatic.
2. You will dramatically reduce the hours you devote to negative conflict. When you dont judge, no one can argue with you.
3. People will gradually begin to see you as a much more agreeable person, even when you are not agreeing with them. Do this consistently and people will eventually brand you as a welcoming person, someone whose door they can knock on when they have an idea or an opinion.
- Stop Broadcasting how smart you are: People who suffer from low self esteem, have inferiority complexes, or who need to continuously feed their egos through winning at all costs all have one over-riding compulsion they always need to be the smartest person in the room. Unfortunately it usually backfires.
The sad reality is that we are all guilty to a lesser or greater extent. We demonstrate this need when we agree with someone offering us practical advice we nod our heads impatiently whilst the other person is talking, or we drum our fingers on the table. We do it even more overtly when we tell someone, I already knew that or I didnt need to hear that or Im five steps ahead of you. All we are succeeding in doing is heaping insults on other people.
Stopping this behaviour is not hard. Go out to make the following routine a habit:
1. Pause before you open your mouth and ask yourself Is what I am about to say uplifting, or will it have the opposite effect?
2. Conclude that it will have a negative effect.
3. Say Thank you.
- Start expressing gratitude: One of the sweetest phrases in the English language is Thank you. Although theres no art to saying it, people have a tough time actually doing so.
If you dont know what to say, your default response to any suggestion should be Thank you. Almost any response other than this has the potential to stir up trouble – intentionally or not, you appear as if you are attacking the person talking to you.
- Stop Passing the Buck: This is the behavioural flaw by which we judge leaders. A leader who cannot shoulder the blame is not someone we will follow blindly into battle. Passing the buck is the dark flipside of claiming credit that others deserve. Instead of depriving others of their rightful glory for a success, you wrongly saddle them with the shame of your own failure.
Youre not fooling anyone except yourself. No matter how much you may think you are saving your hide by passing the buck, youre actually killing your own reputation.
- Start Listening: People are willing to tolerate all sorts of rudeness, but the inability of someone to pay attention holds a special place in their hearts. When youre not listening youre sending out a barrage of negative messages glued together with one unforgivable trait disrespect. The reality for leaders of the past and leaders in the future is that in the past, very talented people would put up with disrespectful behaviour, but in the future they will turn their back on it they will leave!
Thanking people works because it expresses one of our most basic emotions: gratitude. When someone does something nice for you, they expect gratitude and think less of you for withholding it. The best thing about saying Thank you is that it creates closure in any potentially explosive interaction. What can you say after someone thanks you? You cant argue with them! You cant try to prove them wrong! You cant trump them, get angry or ignore them!
Remember that internal misjudgements are six times more likely to cause business failure than external factors. The message is clear keep objective help close at hand at all times, and if you dont have it, get it without delay. Success in business, as in life, is all about getting the fundamentals right and the actions you take!
The Triple Bottom Line: A paid subscription-based fortnightly e-mail publication we recently launched to help people in positions of authority to optimise the performance of the businesses they work for, lead, manage, or even own. If you have a genuine desire to enable the business you are involved with to optimise the results it produces you need to change the way you interact with, and manage, the people you work with and for. Being proactive in this arena has a direct impact on the culture of your organisation and because the culture of the business plays such a vital role in determining the financial results it records, you will be making a meaningful difference.
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When people are made to feel secure and important and appreciated, it will no longer be necessary for them to whittle down others in order to seem bigger by comparison.