We’ve all been in work situations with that super smart jerk who just can’t say anything nice. He rubs everyone the wrong way, but he’s just so darn smart...so he stays on the team. Often he gets promoted, which really burns you up. But if you look around at the leaders in most companies, they’re often well-liked. Maybe not by everyone, but by most people — and especially by the people who are promoting them into higher and higher level jobs.
So it’s not surprising to hear that the number one ingredient to success is your personality — yes, more so than intelligence.
Every day you have to play well with others to get things done. When you have to agree on something with someone, you’re negotiating. And your negotiation style, the way you go about asking for what you want and giving in to others so they can get what they want, has a lot to do with your personality.
- Have you had to agree on a deadline with a peer?
- How about getting agreement on what you’ll deliver as part of a project?
- Have you and your teammates agreed on the specs for a product?
- Did you ask marketing to send you an outline for a press release by a certain date?
- Has someone in accounting asked you to turn in your expense report early?
All of these situations and many more are negotiations that you do every day.
You may find that you happily help the people you like and grudgingly complete tasks for those you don’t.
So the question is, how can you get other people to think of you as the one they happily help, but do it in a way where you don’t have to pretend to be someone else (which will destroy your soul)?
How to get people to like you without selling your soul
I call this skill "Be Connected" and teach women how to be awesome at this in my class Negotiate With Confidence. This skill is all about how you can leverage your natural emotional intelligence to build rapport and stay connected without pretending to be someone else.
When you’re striving to "Be Connected" with someone who is like you, it’s easy! You talk the same, you use the same slang, and you watch the same Netflix shows. It’s when you try to “Be Connected” with people who are not like you that the challenges start.
Here are three tips to help you:
1) What You Think:
- Know that when you aren’t connecting with someone, it’s not all about YOU and things you’re doing wrong.
- Look for things you have in common.
- Be careful of preconceived notions based on gender, religion, geography, sexual orientation, and so on. Each human is a unique person and will surprise you if you let them.
2) What You Say:
- Try adjusting your tone to match theirs. Follow their lead on cadence, pace, and energy level. Keep it subtle! If you go overboard it can seem patronizing.
- Is there a cultural language in your company that you can consciously adjust to that will build rapport? I’ve often noticed that sometimes women start cursing when the men they work with curse. I’m not telling you to curse, but do keep an ear out for the little ways people bond over slogans, themes or sayings at your workplace.
3) What You Do:
- A great way to foster connections is to mirror the other person’s body language. This has to be subtle or you’ll really annoy the other person or come across as manipulative. If you do it well, it is a subtle connection building skill.
- Use eye contact according to the person’s culture. Same for using other body language like smiling and nodding.
I’ve read articles about how Americans smile too much. We do it to show that we’re friendly and open, to spread cheer everywhere we go, and yet in other countries people say that this constant smiling makes Americans look insane or drunk. So, cultural context is important!
The bottom line
You can be likeable and not sell your soul. You don’t have to pretend to be someone you’re not, but you can use some negotiation skills to build rapport and be connected to the people you spend the majority of your life with: your coworkers.
And the truth is that we happily help the people we like while we grudgingly accommodate those we don’t.