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Psychology In the Workplace

Strengthen your working relationships while increasing regard for your working style

One definition of psychology is mental strategy.  Here, then, are mental strategies that can strengthen your value as an employee while cementing your working relationships.

Negotiation: finding the win-win that best serves the firm.  Win-win negotiation occurs when neither party can better their outcome.  In win-win negotiation, fully understanding your goals is imperative.  It's equally important to gather information about the other party's goals.  Strong win-wins may include inventive and sometimes unexpected solutions.

One of the oft-told negotiation parables is the story of an orange.  Two parties want the only remaining orange.  Rather than cut the orange in two, the parties discuss their reasons for wanting the orange.  It turns out their purposes are very different.  One wants the juice of the orange for breakfast, the other wants the rind to make marmalade. As a result of negotiation, each party gained more than had they simply cut the orange in half.

Planting seeds of ideas, one at a time.  Change is often difficult for an organization.  One of the ways to bring about change, whether large or small, is to communicate one small idea that would lead to change.  Allow that idea to develop amongst those whom you believe will make the change happen.  Soon, add another small idea that would lead to the same change.  One seed at a time allows for the growth and acceptance of a big idea. Often, one or more individuals will take on one of the ideas and champion it.  Ultimately, these seeds can grow into strong and unified changes led by members of the team.

Employ positivity and persistence.  It’s relatively simple to enact positivity at work.  It starts with your mental attitude towards your work, that you value the work you do and the work of the organization.  Working relationships are important to positivity; establish rapport as well as interest in the individuals who populate all the levels of the firm.  The capstone of positivity is demonstrating persistence, the daily practice of excellent work.  Positivity and persistence are contagious; you’ll soon find your team embracing it as well.

Empathy.  Empathy is the ability to recognize and understand what others are feeling. In the workplace, understanding how others feel means you’ll be able to construct your communications more effectively.  What is that other person’s perspective?  Why do they hold that opinion? 

You can use empathy in several ways.  First, of course, working relationships are important.  Acknowledging other people’s feelings, perspective or opinion strengthens the relationship.  Secondly, understanding others’ feelings enables you to shape your work for the firm in ways that gain support and approval.

Notice the nonverbal stuff.  When we speak, our words are but one part of the information we convey.  Our facial expression, the hand gestures we use, the body movements we employ, our posture, our eye contact, the tone and loudness of our voice, even our appearance changes the way our words are received.  A person standing tall, with direct eye contact, a strong voice and a warm smile is the image of a confident individual whose work will more likely gain acceptance.  A person with a slouch, arms folded, a distant gaze and a monotone speaking voice is the image of a person who has closed himself or herself off.  Listeners will assume this person is not interested in what they are saying or to whom they are speaking.  It’s the nonverbal communications that speak volumes – keep an eye out, you’ll learn much.

Listen carefully.  Yes, careful listening is a mental strategy.  Too often, we hear what we expect to hear which means we miss key points.  Without careful listening, we can miss words and that can alter meaning.  

Repeat what the other person has said.   This is an interesting tool.  By repeating what another person has said, you accomplish several things.  First, you confirm that you are seriously considering their content.  Second, by restating what the other person has said in the form of a question, you allow the speaker to reconsider their content.  Restatement in the form of a question also means you can follow it with a question of your own.

For example, John says, “I believe we should only use open source software.” You reply, “Let me be sure if I understand you correctly, you think we should only use open source software, is that right?” You then continue by saying, “What are your reasons for such a change?"

We, us and our versus I and me.  One important organizational goal is effective communication with its constituency.  For that reason, organizations benefit from using a strong and unified voice.  In both written and spoken communication, the choice of pronouns heightens the message and increases the sense of a unified position.  Choosing the pronouns we, us and our  enables these kinds of strong statements: “we propose", "research shows us that" and "our strategy".  These are inclusive pronouns that establish a universal voice of expertise, they reflect an organization that's not just credible, it's an organization built on strong teamwork.

On the other hand, many successful companies use the I and me pronouns.  These may be organizations whose founder remains the face of the organization.  Is yours a we, us and ours firm or an I and me firm?  Whichever your firm is, adopt their style during your working hours.  Use it to enhance the work you do.