Connecting with colleagues can be one of the more challenging (and yet, rarely talked about) hurdles of the modern workplace. While there will be some co-workers you vibe with immediately, there will be others you just won’t feel in sync with.
And if it’s someone you work with once a quarter, no big deal. But if it’s someone you have to deal with on a weekly—or daily—basis, getting comfy with your colleagues becomes way more important.
And herein lies the challenge. If you’re not grooving with someone immediately, there’s probably a reason why. As with any relationship, some people just don’t hit it off, but when you have to work with someone, life gets a whole lot easier when you can find some common ground. Here’s how to start.
1. Stop Trying
As soon as you sense someone isn’t quite digging you, the natural instinct is to try to make that person like you.
Bad idea. I don’t know how, but we humans can usually tell when someone is trying too hard, and that’s almost always a turnoff. I don’t have any scientific evidence, but I can tell you from experience that every time I’ve actively tried to get on someone’s good side, it’s never gone well.
Instead, do your best to just forget you have any issues with your colleague at all. Treat him or her just as you would anyone else. Don’t try to make jokes, skip the small talk, and get to business. I promise, the sooner you stop trying so hard to win your colleague over, the sooner you’ll win him or her over.
2. Stop Talking
I don’t know about you, but I have the unfortunate nervous habit of talking too much when I’m nervous or anxious. This is the last thing you want to do if you’re trying to form an alliance with an icy colleague. If someone isn’t all that into you, your constant chatting won’t endear you to him or her.
Instead, opt to listen more than you speak, and let your colleague do the talking. She’ll appreciate the opportunity to speak her mind and respect the fact you’re not constantly trying to get a word in. As the saying goes, silence is golden. Give your colleague a chance to do all the talking, and before long you’ll find she’ll be asking you what you think.
3. Ask for Help
So, we’ve established that trying to impress when we’re not feeling a connection with someone else rarely works—and often just sets us back even further.
What does seem to work, however, is a dose of humility. Just about everyone appreciates being asked to share their expertise, and that includes your steely colleague.
Choose an area in which he excels, and find ways to ask for his help. If he’s an Excel pro, ask him for tips on pivot tables. If it’s Bob from accounting, ask him to explain depreciation. You get the idea. Keep it simple and quick—you don’t want to burden your colleague, just give him the chance to show off a bit.
Despite what many a cartoon may have said in my youth, there’s no secret potion to make everyone like you. No matter how charming and awesome your friends and mother think you are, eventually you’ll run into someone who just doesn’t dig you. And guess what? That’s totally OK.
But, there are things you can do to make life a bit less awkward. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll soften the tension with your colleague. And with a little luck and all that charm of yours, you might convert that foe into a friend in the office.