Monday, September 10, 2012

Teach People How To Treat You

Earlier this year, I was invited to teach at a seminar, specifically a workshop, on different communication styles. One of the points I tried to convey heavily to my audience was the importance of teaching others how to treat you, from the start. 

"You only get once chance to make a good first impression!"

Thanks for the reminder. We get it. First impressions can be tricky sometimes. People can make a quick assumption about who you are, what your "value" might be, and how they feel that they can treat you. 

If you're going to be spending time with or working alongside someone who you may not know very well, you need to manage your new budding relationship; not just that first impression. 

I'll give you an example. If you've set an appointment with a co-worker and they show up annoyingly late, you're now presented with a few options:
  1. Ignore the fact that they're 15 minutes late and proceed as planned
  2. When (or if) they apologize, you reply, "Oh, it's not a big deal. You're fine."
  3. Confront them politely, asking for their help in being on time for future appointments

I would guess that most of us would default to #2. It's usually easier to prioritize the other person "liking me" above the business relationship. If you choose to ignore (to excuse) the person's actions and behavior, don't be surprised when you experience more of it. 

When I said, "Don't worry, it's no big deal." I was teaching that person how I allow others to treat me, and how they can treat me in the future. I was unconsciously teaching them that my time was not valuable. Once I've chosen this particular interpersonal route, I can't then be upset if they showed up late and make me wait for future appointments. I've begun teaching them on the contrary. 

So, how do you teach them without sounding like a jerk who's been standing there alone fuming at the clock for 15 minutes?

Option 3 might go something like this, "Jen, it would be great for you arrive on time for our next appointment. When you show up late, it makes me feel as if you don't value my time. But I do still like you! I just wanted you to know how I felt." Leave a small pause here allowing them to smell that slightly uncomfortable air. 

This is when they will likely tell you about the 40-car pileup and the fiery meteorite shower and the alarm that didn't go off today because of the earthquake overseas.

Use your judgment though. If they were part of the 40-car pileup and they're still bleeding, or if there has been a legitimate calamity, you can cut them a little slack. If they overslept, or just "lost track of time", see above.

When you let people know how you feel when they have overstepped one of your treat-me-this-way boundaries (in this case, punctuality), they will normally make the proper adjustments. If they are late again the next time, message undelivered. You need to turn the knob up a little higher, and make your confrontation a little more direct, perhaps even more uncomfortable. Ask for their help in the matter. Ask if you can count on them to do said action in the future. Remember that your issue is with their action, not who they are as a person.

Punctuality is just one example. You can teach people how to treat you in endless ares: turning in a requested report, returning phone calls, responding to emails -- there are many ways to let others know which behaviors you tolerate and which ones you don't. 

The confrontation might seem awkward and a bit nerve-racking before hand, but openness and honesty in a relationship will make it flourish. 

Lee McCroskey
@rleemcc
Director of Leadership, Southwestern Advantage