Relationships that Work: How to Get Along with People Who Drive You Crazy

Question: What % of your bad moods at work are caused by conflicts?

Answer: About 80% (if you're like the typical person)

Think about how those conflicts wreck your work: You slip into an angry or frustrated mood and suddenly your productivity takes a nosedive.

It makes sense, then, that doing your part to strengthen relationships can boost your results: Fix the conflict, feel better, get more done. And, of course, the tougher the relationship is, the bigger the payoff in working to make it a little better.

Try these tips to make even the thorniest relationships easier to handle:

* Look for the good. It isn't necessary to like all your coworkers, but it is necessary to treat everyone with respect. The best way to respect someone is to discover their strengths, skills, or contributions; then, focus on those instead of what you don't like. The more you can recognize a person's good qualities, the easier it is to show them genuine respect.

* Don't expect miracles. Sometimes, two people who don't get along can ? over time ? grow into friends. On the other hand, sometimes relationships simply remain stuck & difficult. But if you make even small, incremental changes that cut down the stress and conflict on each side, you can consider your efforts a success.

* Don't just focus on the other person. It's easy to think the other person should change. If they do, that's a bonus. But since that may not happen, concentrate on what you can contribute to constructing a relationship that's as good as possible.

* Attack the problem, not the person. Imagine that you aren't getting information you need from another department, and it's causing your work to suffer. You may presume the other department is lazy, or doesn't care, or is trying to sabotage your success. Instead of attacking the people involved, attack the problem. Suggest a meeting to determine what the problem is and why you aren't getting the information. The real problem may be short staffing or system problems -- or they may not be getting the information they need from someone else. You'll stay solution-oriented and engage others with your professionalism intact.

* Don't let the "crabs" get you down. Know any crabs? They're the type of people for whom nothing is ever right, good enough, or "fixable." Stay determined to prevent the "crabs" from pulling you down to their level. Use these 5 steps:

1. Try to understand why they're negative. They may be dealing with a serious life issue. Understanding may help you be more sympathetic and less frustrated.

2. Talk to them about it. Tell them you've noticed they have seemed a little down and offer to help. They may not open up, but it's often helpful just to know that someone cares. It will also give them a tactful heads-up as to how they're coming across (they simply may not realize their attitude is affecting others).

3. Avoid them if the situation doesn't improve.

4. Remove them from your environment (if possible and if truly necessary).

5. Have a "recovery plan." If steps 1-3 above haven't worked, and you can't remove them (which is often the case with a coworker), have a plan for how you'll replenish your good mood after you come into contact with them. A recovery plan will at least cut your "down time" ? for example, you may be upset for 30 minutes rather than for 4 hours.

* Have one more positive interaction a day. Say "thanks," give a compliment or pass the praise. Feeling appreciated is the No. 1 motivator for most employees. While that recognition can and should come from managers, every employee can contribute with quick morale boosters.

* Keep your attitude as positive as possible, whatever your circumstances. It's easy to think your attitude is determined by other people and by uncontrollable events in your life. But if that's true, you've lost control. Stay resolved to be as happy as possible, for just five minutes at a time. You'll feel better and be easier to get along with.

Shari Peace is an international speaker, an author and the president of Peace Talks, a professional speaking firm that helps people and organizations get more done with less stress. Her book, Crank It Out!, features tips for sharper time management and increased productivity. She can be reached at

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