At Work

Walk in someone else’s shoes

Have you been late for anything or anyone today, or are you one of those people who are always on time? In any interaction between people, there will always be the way they see it, the way you see it, and the way it is.

Take the example of Dave, who usually arrives about 10 to 15 minutes late for a meeting.

The way he sees it is: “We’re supposed to meet at 8am and I’m here just after that. I don’t suppose anyone expects me to be here exactly at eight o’clock.”

If you are an on-time person, then the way you see it is: “Dave is so selfish, he just shows up whenever it suits him. I’ve been here since 7.45am so that we can start at eight o’clock; he has no respect for me or any of his colleagues.”

The way it is: Dave arrived at 8.12am.

Your programming tells you that people should show up early or on time for a meeting.

Dave’s programming tells him: “It’s only a meeting, it’ll be boring anyway, so we’ll try to have a laugh, and I’ll get there when I get there!”

I am the sort of person who always turns up early for an appointment, be it business or pleasure. I have friends who are like me and always turn up on time. And I have other friends who arrive when they are ready. At one time, I might have allowed this to annoy me, but now I try to think rather than react. I realise that this is the way these friends are, and in no way does it make them any less of a friend.

Lost in translation

Let’s look at Dave again. He might say to a customer: “I’ll phone you back in a couple of minutes.”

He may intend to call the customer back when he has all the information. That could be within 10 minutes, 30 minutes, one hour or the next two hours.

The other person, on hearing that Dave is going to phone back in a couple of minutes, may sit by the phone waiting for it to ring.

When it doesn’t, he phones back, in a negative frame of mind, and then Dave has a difficult person to deal with.

Personal relationships often come to grief because of this inability to see it the way the other person does.

A man may stop for a drink with his friends after work and phone his wife to say that he will be home later.

She translates later as perhaps 8 to 9pm. But he believes later is “you’ll see me when you see me”. Guess what happens?

We are all very different. How often have you been to a play or a movie and thoroughly enjoyed it but your companion didn’t enjoy it at all?

You think: “What’s wrong with him? He must be stupid, or perhaps he is just being difficult.”

When someone does not see things the way you do, there is potential for you to get stressed and collect negative feelings.

What then happens is, you dump these negative feelings on the other person, and then you have a difficult situation.

Programmed differently

The way to avoid these negative feelings is to:

n Accept people the way they are. Decide not to react to other people’s behaviour. Be responsible for your own feelings.

n Change your expectations. Ask for help when you need it, and think before you communicate.

Some food for thought: The next time you have to deal with a difficult person, remember, he may just be running a different programme from you. - Singapore Straits Times/Asia News Network

·Article by Alan Fairweather, the “Motivation Doctor”. He is an international business speaker, best-selling author and sales growth expert.