The "P" In PIE! Professional Connections - Making Them & Gaining Respect For You &

No matter how talented or smart you are, if you can't communicate effectively with others it will be difficult to locate potential jobs and actually secure a position. Maybe you already have a job with the organization you want to work for, however no matter how hard you try or the great work you continually produce, you seem to be over looked for advancements or awards and accolades.

It's a delicate process. Becoming an exceptional communicator and navigating the politics of most organizations (including school districts and non-profit organizations) can be frustrating, confusing and hectic.

Communication is a two-way street with messages coming and going between sender and receiver. If you aren't paying attention, you'll miss a queue and in turn, send a response that isn't ideal. Additionally, staying on the right side of political correctness can challenge your values, morals and personal beliefs. Listen, some people are born with that 'gift'. They can pick up on something and jump into any conversation whenever they want. Most people aren't built that way. I fall into that category! Especially when someone asks me a question. I've always been of the thought, "If you don't want to know what I think, then you shouldn't have asked in the first place!" In conversation with another person, especially in the work place, there are times you'll be asked a question, trust me when I tell you that in fact, the other person really doesn't want to know what you think!

Let's dive in and look at a few ways to improve. The goal is not to be the Rockstar of your work group, but with a little thought and work, perhaps you can grow your skills and connections professionally.

  • Focus on first impressions and non-verbal behavior

  • Communication is both verbal and nonverbal. We don't only send messages with words, but also with our behavior, expressions, and tone of voice. When making a first impression, be sure to have good posture, shake hands firmly, use a clear and confident tone of voice, and make eye contact.

  • Nonverbal communication is the real key to gauging what someone is thinking and how they are feeling, so make sure you're sending the right message from the get go. Adapt to match their behavior and emotions.

To make a connection with someone, be aware of their state of mind and personality. Matching and mirroring others characteristic non-verbal behavior is a wonderful way to build put others at ease, gain their attention and hopefully, their loyal following. When some one mirrors our expressions, such the way we sit and move, it can feel like they're similar and relate to us. The ultimate goal is to make the other party comfortable, which in turn makes it easier for them to be themselves naturally and open-up. Basically, pay attention to the other party's posture, tone of voice or expression and try to connect on their level. For example, have you ever been extremely tired and someone with boundless energy comes around talking a mile per minute? It can be irritating and obnoxious. We simply like people who we connect with and who are like us. Building rapport through non-verbal behavior is a key to building trust and getting positive results from others.

Mutual Respect is Crucial

Learning to be assertive is very important for healthy relationships. Assertiveness is a fine way of communicating with mutual respect. We show respect to others while at the same time not compromising self-respect. Assertive does not mean aggressive! Don't get aggressive and belittle others, and similarly don't be a passive pushover and accept disrespectful treatment. Remember when we talked about staying on the right side of political correctness? It's all about respect and timing. Talk to others the way you want to be talked to and wait for the right moment to talk about difficult topics. Here's how to get our needs meet while still respecting the needs of others.

  • Learning how to organize assertive statements

  • Use "I" statements rather than "you" statements

  • Be willing to listen and stay calm

  • State the facts and focus on the problem

  • Express personal thoughts, feeling, and opinions reflecting ownership

  • Use clear direct requests or commands when you want others to do something rather than being vague or indirect.

Consider assertiveness in your everyday life and start practicing. Who do you have trouble being assertive around? What is happening during these times? How do you usually respond?

A negative, unyielding, unwillingness to change attitude is exactly the situation you want to avoid professionally. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Don't allow yourself to grow so attached to the way things have always been done that you close down communication out of a false loyalty and in turn, miss an opportunity to grow, experience something new. Remain open to all of the views of your professional connections.

Additionally, know when to say when. A large amount of time can be wasted banging our head against the wall. More on that in a bit.

We ALL Have a Personal Bubble

Understand people have different boundaries. Everybody has a comfort level of how close they are willing to get to others emotionally and physically. Some people have more rigid boundaries and are not open to getting close to people they don't know. Someone with rigid boundaries may be difficult to get to know or seem uninterested, but in the long-run these can be very loyal friends and colleagues. Other people have very open boundaries and are willing to get close and be more personal. These people have no problem being open and expressing their personal feelings. Understanding these differences can be helpful in dealing with people in professional situations. If you have very open boundaries be careful not to offend others. You may want to test the waters and be a little more reserved at first. Similarly, if you're a little closed off, you may need to work on being more assertive and staking your claim if you desire to network and expand your influence. The goal is that balance we talked about earlier. First learn to understand your own boundaries and know what you feel comfortable with. Then approach others with their personal bubble in mind. Find similarities and know people's interests Find what you have in common with people in order to build rapport and establish a relationship. This helps to navigate the numerous social interactions we have each day, and helps to stand out as someone who considers and pays attention to others. You get the point. By knowing what others are interested in, you can make it about them and get them to open-up and start connecting. Everyone enjoys talking about themselves and their interests, so make it about others. Let me say that again. Make it about others, not about you.

Don't Forget To Be Real

It's never advised to try and be someone you're not, however at times we must adapt and utilize our social intelligence in order to build relationships and manage conflict. When incorporating the above ideas don't forget to be authentic. If you seem unnatural, all the focus will be drawn to your awkward behavior instead of making a natural connection. Start practicing the tips and little by little they will become more natural. Similarly, it's important to actually care about talking to others and have a positive attitude in process. Take a sincere interest in others, show respect, and act natural, and you'll be making connections and networking in no time.

Know When To Say When

If you have been regularly engaging in a frustrating, destructive circle within your attempt to make a professional connection with a group or individual, and you've followed the guidance above in order to do your part, it may be time to throw in the towel and move on. I don't like to burn bridges or close doors permanently, but even with the most sincere intent on your part, this just happens at times. You can decide to end the madness on your end while maintaining the dignity of all involved parties by simply moving in a different direction and basically letting them have their way.

"Rabid" communicators, as I call them, have a hard time letting go of the bone they've enjoyed chewing. In this case, just know that when you've made the decision to move in a different direction it's wise to not look back. They will eventually grow bored when you stop your end of the game. Wish them well and sincerely mean it; take the high road. This is the epitome of professional behavior and an essential trait of a professional connection.

Written by:

Renda Songer for F.A.C.T. Education

July 6, 2017


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