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How To Handle Personality Conflicts At Work

How To Handle Personality Conflicts At Work

At some point in our professional lives, most of us will have to deal with people we just don’t like or can’t seem to get along with. A clash of personalities is most likely at the root of these conflicts. Despite our best efforts, we sometimes just can’t seem to make it work. The unfortunate result is that the quality and enjoyment of our work suffers, and our stress levels skyrocket. In most cases when personality conflicts happen in the workplace, the entire team is disrupted as well.

Different types of Personality conflicts

Work style differences – people work in different ways. That’s just a reality in the workplace. Some people work quickly, completing their tasks as soon as they are assigned, while others like the rush of waiting till the deadline is looming. Some like to work on what appeals to them first, while others prefer to work methodically down their checklist from step to step.

Background differences – gender, ethnicity, social economic status, political views, and religious backgrounds can cause people to view situations with different perspectives. Our perception is in large part determined by our personal experiences and beliefs. These differences in perspective have a major impact on how we interact with others.

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Attitude differences – cynicism, arrogance, and irritability all contribute to an attitude of negativity. A negative attitude interferes with effective communication. Nobody wants to be around a terribly negative person. If you are a naturally upbeat, optimistic type of person, you may have difficulty dealing with someone who has a negative attitude. Some people constantly complain, looking for flaws, while others look for the positive and focus on finding solutions. This makes collaboration extremely difficult.

Competitive versus cooperative differences – some people feel the need to compete and compare constantly, while others seek to cooperate and work together, rather than against each other. It’s very difficult to work with people who are condescending, petty, posturing, and aggressive. The constant attitude of undermining and one-upmanship can be very draining. When the competitive attitude is taken to extreme, it can result in intentional sabotage, which puts the other person in a perpetually defensive state.

Consequences of personality conflicts

Personality conflicts exist, that’s a fact. It’s important however, to realize that there can be serious consequences when personalities clash.

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Stress – having to deal with personality clashes causes a great deal of tension and anxiety. Being in a constant state of alert, preparing for the next unpleasant interaction, can cause both physical and mental strain. In certain situations, this stress can have real physical impact on health. Sometimes the level of stress is unbearable, causing workers to leave their jobs.

Lower productivity – when members of the team are in conflict with each other, that conflict has a negative effect on the entire project. Conflict drains energy and lowers productivity. The effectiveness of teams relies in large part on their ability to work in a cooperative manner. When that cooperation is disrupted, the progress of the whole team suffers. Whether the clash is overtly obvious, or subtle, personality conflicts affect the morale of team, and sometimes entire office.

Handling personality clashes

The good news is that while workplace conflicts are unavoidable, there are ways to minimize them.

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Some things to keep in mind:

  • Your way is not always the right way, and your personality is not necessarily the “normal” one.
  • Except that, people have different perspectives. All are valid.
  • Different personalities, if handled correctly, can strengthen a team by contributing different ideas and solutions.
  • When personality conflicts have reached the point where they interfere with the ability to work, it’s necessary to deal with them.

Strategies:

Acceptance – sometimes all that’s necessary to defuse a personality conflict is a little bit of kindness and understanding. When we’re able to accept personality differences, it often defuses defensiveness and friction.

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Stay professional – conduct yourself in a professional manner. Be calm and courteous during interactions. Even when personality differences exist, if both parties remain professional, confrontation can be avoided. It’s not necessary for coworkers to like each other to work together effectively. Remain professional and don’t take it personally. Watch your tone. It’s important to make sure the tone of your communications whether in person, via e-mail or over the phone is appropriate and not hostile.

Find the source – when personality conflicts do arise, it’s important to determine what the real issue is. Is it just a difference of opinion, or is there a more serious underlying problem? It’s a good idea to address the problem with the other person directly. It’s important for both parties to be aware and have an understanding of the conflict in order to have any hope of resolution.

Take it to management – if you have been unable to resolve a personality conflict that is interfering with your work, it may be necessary to bring it to the attention of management. Sometimes effective mediation by third-party is all that’s necessary to defuse conflict. Some companies offer workshops or training that teach coworkers how to navigate difficulties and learn to get along with each other, despite differences. When those strategies don’t work, it may be necessary for management to separate the parties involved in the conflict. Sometimes it may be possible to simply assign the individuals to different projects or teams. In extreme cases, it may be necessary for one of the parties to be transferred to another department or division to eliminate contact.

Personality conflicts can be one of the biggest challenges in the workplace. Conflicts can usually be diffused by acceptance, understanding, appropriate action, and professionalism. Its imperative to remember that while you cannot control the behavior of other people, you can control how you react to it. When conflicts can be resolved, the result is a happier and more productive workplace. The important thing is not to let personality conflict and destructive work relationships interfere with your career. Address them, resolve them, or as a last resort move on.

Featured photo credit:  fighting between white via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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