Notes from As I See It: The Finer Points of Relating
Published: May 23, 2011 in The Four Hundred by Victor Rozek
"How you do anything is how you do everything." This is one of those intriguing truisms that grew out of the personal growth movement. Although by no means absolute, there is enough verity in the observation to make it useful for identifying patterns of behavior. For example, it could explain the irritable workplace demeanor of a parent with a teenager at home.
In spite of corporate guidelines, people who are sullen and angry at home are likely to be sullen and angry at work. People remote by nature will tend to isolate, while engaging people will bring their exuberance to work with them. Most companies dump all this effusive diversity into a blender we call the office, let it churn for eight to 10 hours a day, and hope something palatable emerges. And if that fails, it's off to Human Resources for a shaming lecture on inappropriate behavior.
But how they relate is an observable phenomenon which is why, when the Harvard Business Review wanted hard data on what makes relationships work, it consulted Gottman, the man who has observed more people relating than perhaps any human on earth.
Agreement vs Compliance
Gottman argues that agreement (saying yes) is not the same as compliance (becoming who someone else wants you to be). In personal relationships, excessive compliance is a soul-killer. [IE: Excessively becoming who someone else wants you to be is a soul-killer.]
At work, as at home, praise and acknowledgment offers the reassurance that the person has value and that their contribution matters.
Over and over, Gottman reports finding that "respect and affection" are key success factors. Stopping whatever you're doing before engaging in conversation; listening without interruption; making eye contact; refusing to listen to gossip; giving and sharing credit, are all small ways to show respect in the workplace. Affection, however, is a loaded word in the office, but kindness can be substituted without fear of corporate reprisal: Can I get you a cup of coffee? I'm sorry to hear about your mother's illness. Is there anything I can do to help you prepare for the meeting? In this context, "affection" means caring about the other person beyond their title or function.