How far should you bend when others are inflexible?
Some people seem unable to see issues from any point of view but their own. And when they work for you—or when you work for them—their inflexibility can be a problem.
Some people seem unable to see issues from any point of view but their own. And when they work for you—or when you work for them—their inflexibility can be a problem. Here’s how to work together without constantly butting heads:
• Focus on the other person’s position, not your own. Resist the urge to argue the merits of your position if it’s clear the other person isn’t interested in listening. Instead, build some good will by showing how you’re trying to understand his or her perspective: “I can see you’ve put a lot of thought into your position.”
• Agree when you can. Most of the time you should be able to find common ground. Use this to build the basis for a reasonable discussion: “It looks like we both agree that training is important.”
• Disagree with tact. Don’t unconditionally surrender—just try to disagree without creating more tension. Explain your own point of view in positive language: “You have some good ideas. Let me suggest an option of my own . . . ”
• Explore the other person’s perspective. Ask some probing questions to find out what’s behind the other person’s perspective. You don’t have to be a psychoanalyst, but you should seek to understand the other person’s point of view: “I can see you have strong feelings about this. Can you tell me why it’s so important to you?”
• Listen. People sometimes take a rigid, inflexible position because they think others aren’t willing to listen to them. Give your complete attention to the other person, and show you understand by paraphrasing what he or she says: “So you really want additional training in order to increase your chances for advancement. Is that correct?”
• Show some flexibility yourself. When someone seems unreasonable, it’s human nature to react just as irrationally. Don’t adopt an inflexible stance of your own in response to someone else’s tough attitude. Remind yourself to stay open-minded at all times.
—Adapted from the Performance Training Corporation website
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