How Well Do You See from the Other Side?

Why doesn’t everyone just get along???? We hear this all the time. Whether it is differing values or conflicts or misunderstandings, some people have a harder time than others just getting along.

And even worse, when they aren’t getting along, they’re the ones who expect the other person to change, so that they DO get along!

Now, I don’t know about you, but over the years, I have had absolutely no success in getting others to change.

Think of it this way. Have you ever tried to change something about yourself? Diet? Habit? Phrases? It is extremely difficult to change yourself, much less anyone else, right. So why are people trying to change others, when they can hardly change themselves?

The point here is that if you want to improve relationships with others, one tactic is for one of the people to change the way he or she communicates. That person is NOT the other guy or gal. It’s you.

Why? Simple. Because the other person won’t. You are in control of you, so if there’s any adjusting to be made, the only adjusting that you can control is adjusting you.

Why is this important to business in general and the insurance business in particular? Because we need to communicate to move forward. Leadership is needed to help move our companies and businesses forward. The only way to get people moving is by communicating. And to move people forward, you’ve got to connect with them.

So let’s say you’re very friendly, talkative, and outgoing. You walk into a room, and there is a very reserved person working quietly. You want to start a conversation with that person. Which of these scenarios has a better chance of engaging mutually effective? and engaging communication:

1. You charge over to the person, lunge your hand out, speak loudly and laughingly, and sing, Hi, my name’s Pat, how the heck are you doing today? What’s the bottom line on that project?

2. You settle yourself down, you become focused on the person, you notice their demeanor, and, knowing you have a tendency to be loud, you consciously lower your voice, smile, and say, Hello, how are you? My name is Pat. May I join you? Is now a good time to talk about the project?

Of course the second scenario has a better chance of working for both participants. You’re giving Pat a chance to be himself or herself, rather than dominating or intimidating him or her with your own personality type. You are opening the door for an exchange of communication, rather than a one way communication. And we all know that when people participate, they are more likely to embrace the concept or project. This is how we lead others forward. This is how we can impact our industry.

So, back to why your changing the way you communicate will help you lead your business, organization, or even family. Your ability to adjust your communication style to that of the person with whom you’re communicating is directly related to your ability to gain understanding, commitment or agreement from that person. In this fast moving world, it is important that people develop and use these practices.

So what can you do?

* The next time you are in conversation with a person, put yourself in his or her shoes. Try to see things from THEIR perspective, rather than yours.

* Observe the person to understand his or her communication style; then adjust your communications to work with that style.

* Ask questions, and sincerely await and care about the answer.

* Never interrupt. Interrupting indirectly tells others that you think what you have to say is more important than what they have to say.

* Repeat the information shared, digesting it, before responding.

* Strive for a win: win, where both of you feel you have contributed to a solution.

* Value your differences. Seek out different frames of reference, and different strengths. .

As an executive coach, one of the very first things I do with a new client is to have them complete personal profiles. You’ve got to know and understand not only who you are but how you can be perceived by others, before you can start making adjustments in the way you communicate. By getting to know yourself better, and understanding how you may be perceived, you are better able to modify actions that will enable a more welcome reception by others. This improves the chances for better overall communication.

Without trying to understand or appreciate different communication styles, you can open yourself up for misinterpretations of others. People who are direct, task oriented and focused can possibly be perceived by others as being cold and uncaring, even though it may be very far from the truth. People who are analytical and pensive can be unfairly perceived as unemotional or dragging things out. People who are friendly, loud, and outgoing can be perceived improperly as lacking detail or focus. None of these styles is wrong, or better than the other. They are simply different.

In the end, we should value our differences. But to value them, we need to understand them and appreciate them, rather than judge them or see them as an annoyance. Because people with differing strengths, knowledge, and frames of reference can create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. I call that leadership synergy.

Marsha Egan, CPCU, PCC is CEO of a division of The Egan Group, Inc., a Reading, PA based professional coaching firm. She is a certified workplace productivity coach and professional speaker, and can be reached at or visit
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