Workplace diversity is becoming increasingly valued as a key factor for increased productivity and performance, and ultimately higher profits. It makes total sense. A team of varied personalities with diverse skills and competencies will achieve far more than a team of individuals who share the same opinions and attributes. Different perspectives are the catalyst for breakthroughs and discoveries after all.
That said, working in a team of individuals with contrasting personalities can be a daunting task. While a competent leader can keep the team united with open communication and good relationship-building skills, each team member needs to do their part in resolving conflicts peacefully and productively to maintain a positive working environment. Easier said than done, you’re probably thinking.
How do you deal with co-workers with contrasting personality types? In an ideal world, everyone would be considerate and respectful enough not to impose their opinions on others or incite unnecessary tension. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, where some are just blissfully narcissistic and others hide behind introverted shells.
If you’re struggling to build rapport with your team members, here are a few simple tips that should help you break the ice:
1. Don’t stereotype
While it’s common practice to pigeonhole people according to their personality types, the truth is that most of us tend to embody a combination of different personality traits. There are varying degrees of introvertedness and extrovertedness, just as some narcissists can be reasoned with, while others can’t.
Each individual sees things from a viewpoint that’s been shaped by their education, exposure and personal experiences. Being aware of this will help you embrace a more empathetic approach towards resolving conflicts. Stereotyping can lead to erroneous assumptions about one’s intentions and motivations, which would just add to the tension.
2. Walk in their shoes
It might be difficult to put yourself in their shoes, but empathy and compassion is often more effective than full-on confrontation. There’s always a reason behind our beliefs and actions. Maybe you just need to understand theirs. They might not be good at expressing themselves. If this is the case, you’ll need to probe deeper by asking the right questions, rather than jumping to conclusions about their intentions.
3. Get a third perspective
If you’ve reached an impasse with the other person and can’t find an amicable solution despite your best efforts, get another colleague to weigh in on the situation. An unbiased view can help put things in the right perspective. Reach out to someone you both respect who can remain objective about the issue.
4. Compromise when necessary
Make a stand for your views, but be open to compromises if necessary. You don’t have to be a doormat to get along with your colleagues — you shouldn’t, in fact. That said, sometimes compromises have to be made in order to move things along.
5. Focus on what you do have in common
You might have drastically different approaches to work, or live contrasting lifestyles, but there might be something you both agree on or share a mutual interest in. Maybe it’s taste in movies, or a love for animals. Find that common ground and focus on it as the starting point for building the rapport.
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