Learn the behaviours to communicate well with people well at work

Don't let not being a natural "peopler" get in the way of your success at work. If “peopleing” doesn't come naturally to you, these strategies will help you:

Figure out how to get information efficiently

You will want to get information from people as efficiently as possible. Therefore, create a list of questions to ask people so you get all the information quickly. Here are some good ones I came across in my research: 
- what problem are you trying to solve?
- what is the business need? can you give me a specific example?
- is there a deadline involved? if so what is it (e.g. legislative date, internal marketing launch date). 
- who else is involved in making this decision?
- what exactly do you need from me?
- do you need me to do something or do you just want to talk this through?

Figure out who to listen to

If you are not too sure who to listen to, take a leaf out of a Product Manager’s book that I interviewed for my research. When she wasn’t too sure who to listen to, she would consider their motives. Whoever had, in her words, “the least incentive to lie” would be who she would tend to listen to. 

How to tell the good guys from the bad guys

A Product Manager I interviewed told me that he didn't have a very well tuned people radar. He found it hard to tell, in his words "the assholes from everyone else". However he also discovered that most people will try to change if given feedback. He found that if he sat down with people and said "you need to change this because…….", most people would. The ones that didn't were the assholes. This was a simple test for him to tell the assholes apart from everyone else. My experience backs this up too. 

Manage your energy

Get yourself ready to "people" with a pep talk If you are finding it hard to people, give yourself a pep talk. A QA tester I spoke to said that after her father's death, she wanted to incorporate some of his outgoing nature into her life. However, she was a deep introvert and found it difficult to talk to people she didn't know, especially during networking events. As a result, she would give herself a pep talk, and remind herself of why she wanted to "people". She would say: "Right, I am going there, and I am going to make myself a cup of tea, then I am going take a deep breath and "ding" (as she called it).

Have your recharge strategy in place

The same QA tester above knew that "dinging" would drain her of energy. And so she had her recharge plan all ready to go in advance. She knew that after peopling, she would need a few hours to herself, and this often involved getting outside into nature, for example a walk around the block. For others, it may be retreating inside a headset, or sitting behind a closed door. The point is, have it planned in advance so you can recharge quickly.

Know how to buy yourself time

Know how to buy yourself timeIf you like to have time to think things over, but people want a quick answer from you, come up with some go-to phrases to help you buy that time. Some people are great at thinking on their feet, others aren't. Having some go-to phrases helps you get your thinking together. 

Phrases that I heard in my research were: 

  • ”let me research this, I will answer you in 30 minutes"; 

  • “let me find out any dependencies and give you a complete answer in one hour”. 

 Having a few phrases at the ready can help a lot to take the pressure off. 

In summary

Anyone can learn to "people" well, and make it a part of their work lives. After all, "peopleing" is all about behaviour, i.e. what you do and what you say.

By incorporating some new strategies into your work life, you can start to make the way you work with others more effective, and less energy sapping.

For more information email mel@wisdomatwork.co.nz

Mel Rowsell