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What is most likely to help you reach the top?

What is most likely to help you reach the top?
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When it comes to success in today’s world, being the kind of person others like outranks all of the fashionable traits like competitiveness, willingness to work harder then anyone else, piling up qualifications, or blind obedience to the demands of the people at the top. Pleasant, likable people have the best chances of being hired, promoted, and rewarded. Customers are more willing to buy from those they feel good around—even if they aren’t offering the best deal. Bosses who are well-liked get better performance from their staff and face fewer people problems. Subordinates who get on well with everyone are trusted more and given better assignments.

In contrast, the kind of boss who provokes fear rather than warmth quickly creates an atmosphere that produces worse results, higher employee turnover, and more conflicts. Tough, abrasive companies trap themselves in a culture of stress and anxiety, if only because nobody is willing to cut anyone else some slack.

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Communication depends on trust, and trust is quickly destroyed by those who give off negative vibes. If you deal with others by being more abrasive than the next guy, expect to get the same treatment in return. People who are disliked are the ones others either don’t communicate with, don’t include in discussions, starve of any information, or don’t bring into the loop at all.

Here are some ideas on how to make sure that others see you as a good person to have around:

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  • Whenever you can, act friendly and open. If you’re seen as approachable—a person with neither a hidden agenda nor any “side”— people will make sure you’re included in whatever is going on.
  • Don’t be manipulative. People hate it. It makes the person who is manipulated look like a fool. It establishes you as someone dishonest. Whatever the short-term benefits appear to be, in the longer term it’s the kiss of death to sound relationships.
  • Take the risk (if risk it is) and freely offer your trust to others. Don’t buy into the nonsense that people have to earn trust. If you don’t trust them first, how can they prove that they’re trustworthy? If you trust other people, they will trust you. We all like to work with people we can trust. Colleagues who get a reputation for being untrustworthy are shut out of all the informal discussions that matter.
  • Focus on helping others, not helping yourself. Self-centered people aren’t attractive. If you genuinely concern yourself with being useful to others, you’ll be swiftly rewarded with their support in return.
  • Be yourself. Don’t try to play a part. Others quickly sense if what they see isn’t what they’re going to get. You may have no negative intentions, but they won’t see it like that. Someone who tries to fool them in one thing is probably up to something. Better to keep a distance and avoid being taken in.
  • Take time with people. Your time and attention are gifts of immense value. Give them freely. People who have time for others, regardless of how busy they are, are good to be with. Unpleasant people, who only have time for themselves, are a bore. Never underestimate the impact on others of truly giving them your full attention.
  • Listen more and talk less. Good listeners find themselves in the center of almost any group because that’s where the others want them. We all like to be listened to, so we all like good listeners. Besides, you can’t learn nearly as much by talking as you can by staying quiet and listening.
  • Remember your manners. Politeness counts for a great deal. For a start, it shows that you value the other person. It protects their dignity. No one likes to be treated with rudeness or condescension. Poor manners suggest arrogance, ignorance, or disdain—none of them likely to increase your standing with other people.
  • Try to be good humored at all times I’m not suggesting you act like a clown, but a little good-nature and a sense of humor go a long way to making others feel at more ease with you. Have you ever heard anyone criticized for being fun to be around? Or avoided because they make people laugh?
  • If all else fails in times of stress and crisis, remember this: keep a tight leash on your anger, stay calm, and forget about it afterwards. If you keep your mouth shut, you won’t say things you’ll regret. And if you don’t hold a grudge, you’ll be free to start again without a lot of bitter memories. Giving vent to your anger rarely, if ever, does more than create future problems.

Friendly people have many friends: friends who will speak up for them, help them in tough times and watch out for their best interests,and, best of all, people forgive their mistakes and overlook their weaknesses.

Today’s constant obsession with competition and winning makes it easy for people to slip into bad habits towards colleagues, customers, and subordinates. The more successful you are, the more important it becomes to act with humility and genuine warmth towards everyone.

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There’s nothing some people enjoy more than taking an arrogant prima donna down several pegs.

Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order, who now lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and life, and its companion site Slower Living. His recent articles on similar topics include Right Relationships and How to give yourself the best chances in life. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization, is now available at all good bookstores.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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