Last night I had dinner with a beautiful friend of mine. We’ve known each other for many years and share a deep affection despite our many differences.
I ordered enthusiastically, and a little too much, because I wanted everything. I ordered a huge bowl of pasta and a rocket salad and a small pizza just in case. When it arrived I ate enthusiastically, probably talking with my mouth full although I don’t like to admit it out loud.
I had three glasses of wine, throwing them down with gusto one after the other and when the complimentary limoncello came around I took that too. Not because I really wanted it but because I didn’t want to miss out.
My Lime friend pondered the menu. And after a while she said – you know me Lynne, and she chose the penne arrabiata she has every single time she dines there. She ate carefully, sliding the tine of the fork into the penne, one piece at a time, before she moved to the next piece. She listened, a lot. She drank water.
The way we approach the dining experience merely scrapes the surface of the differences between Me the Mango and Lara the Lime, which happen to be our main behavioural preferences.
We love each other regardless, and we laugh at ourselves. She apologises for being “boring” and I apologise for…. well, nothing really :)
But this is much harder to do when you don’t actually like someone, or they’re not someone you would ever hang out with outside of work.
You don’t have to have your workmates over for a sleepover, or even like them, but you do have to find a way to respect their differences so you can connect with them. Because the consequences of not connecting are stress, lack of productivity and a lot of whinging at home.
If you want to get the most from your work relationships you must choose to commit to working at it, just like your personal ones. And once you’ve taken that first step, then empathy is the key.
Empathy is your secret superpower. People see empathy as a skill for the soft hearted when in fact, it is a strength. If you can think and feel how someone is thinking and feeling, imagine the influence you can have!
It’s so easy to communicate in the only way we know how – our way. And different people have different ways in. A Mango can seem eternally cheerful and their need to keep up positive conversation makes the Lime feel that life is being slowly sucked out of them. A Lime’s desire for intense, detailed conversation can make a Mango wish for a quick exit. An Apple’s determined passion can cause Bananas to shrink from their intensity and clam up. A Banana’s overwhelming care can suffocate an Apple.
Meanwhile, it’s Friday. Cue Mango excitement coming at you!
Lynne Schinella is a speaker, coach & facilitator who helps develop influential communicators.
For her women's speaker retreats see www.execspeakercoaching.com
To find out more about what Lynne does and why, click here.