This may be the most important social intelligence question anyone can ask himself or herself. Friendship requires paying attention to the other person's interests, needs, and communication style. It often begins based on things you have in common such as a love of sports, dislike of the color magenta, or shared beliefs about religion, politics, or second hand smoke.
Friendship is sustained however by your ability to accept and value a friend's differences. Their collection of beer bottles, dislike of all spicy foods, or humming top forty hits while hiking may all drive you nuts but your friend is still your friend.
Finding what you have in common with another person at work is made easier if you stop focusing on liking the person and instead find some value in their ideas, work style, or organizational savvy. Learning to focus on what you have in common to get the work assignment completed can help you also appreciate their differences and leverage their strengths to get the job done.
How do you override an immediate feeling of dislike? Identify how you feel around the person and label their behavior - boring, pushy, selfish, know-it-all, etc. Then identify someone else about whom you have had similar feelings. The earlier the connection the better - schoolmates and family members are often good reference points. Why bother with this step? It helps you know when "dislike" is a familiar role you slip into without thinking about what is appropriate in the current situation - a hyperlink to the past that confuses your thinking.
Since these connections are made early in life you probably didn't have a very sophisticated way of dealing with people you disliked. Forms of aggression or avoidance were the most common reactions - fight or flight. We all have a preferred familiar role we go to when these connections are triggered. What is yours?
Here are some strategies for dealing with both fight and flight reactions:
- Label the behavior that is making you frustrated, angry, or dismissive.
- Address the behavior. It is the behavior not the person that is the problem.
- Take a break (bathroom, quick walk, glass of water, reschedule, etc.) so that you have time to think about what the current situation requires and not just react.
- Keep your focus on what task needs to be accomplished then find a way to build an ally and not make an enemy.
Are you a good friend? If you can answer yes, then you can transfer those qualities to building alliances at work. Use your social intelligence strengths on demand and learn to transfer what works in one situation to another. That flexibility will make you someone people want on their team and as their friend.