The office. It may be full of adults, but the social dynamics within the workplace actually look more like a scene stolen straight from high school. And while we may have the street smarts and fine lines of age ― years don’t mean much when it comes to socializing. The drama we dealt with in high school was born from stupid drama, and the crap going on at work is no different. Because of our stupid drama, we’re doing things that feed our office problems. Sometimes we even start them in the first place.
We have all these ideas of what it means to be a great friend, a good co-worker, a loving partner, and on, and on, and on. One of the biggest on the list of expectations ― errrrr, I mean “ideas” ― is giving a damn. Because of this, we’re all about listening, hearing people out, and offering up a shoulder to lean on. As great as these things are though, there’s a problem. It’s all an act!
We will nod and “Mmmm-hmmmm” the hell out of a conversation, but the only words we’re actually listening to are coming from the babbling voice in our own head. As much as we think acting interested proves our interest, we’re really just a half-ass phony.
Pretending to listen and care does not make us a good person. So, be mindful of what you’re doing and why. As the great master Yoda said, “There is no try. Only do or do not.” Either we give our office relationships real effort, or we don’t.
We Get Personal For The Wrong Reasons
Ask personal questions? Well, duh! What else are we supposed to do? That’s how we get to know people! Am I right?
Yeah... I’m sorry, but this is yet another stupid thing we do. Our efforts at work need a lot more thought than that.
We think personal questions give us an idea of who a person is, but there’s a serious problem. When we’re think we’re asking questions to “get to know” someone we’re usually (1) digging for information so we can quickly label and categorize them, or (2) faking interest to keep up appearances.
Either way, these kinds of conversations aren’t going to reveal who a person really is. And our assumptions and stereotypes do a really crappy job of summing a person up, so it’s no wonder people hesitate to get personal. Duh!
We can all claim to have other motives behind our gentle interrogations, but we’re still asking people for information that they didn’t offer to provide. Considering all the gossiping and twisting of information that happens in the workplace every single day, it’s just plain idiotic for us to get personal with people we barely know. If we want someone to open up, then we need to earn their trust and open up ourselves ― not wedge our way in until they finally crack from the pressure.
We Aren’t REALLY Getting To Know Them
“Where did you work before this?”
And the absolute worst question of all....
“Who are you voting for?”
Come on people! Can we stop boring people everywhere with these stupid, terrible, go-nowhere-worth-going questions? I know we all have the idea that we need to use this crappy dialogue to get to know someone, but that’s as half-assed as an ass gets.
Simple questions get simple answers ― it’s that simple. If you really want to get to know someone, you need to stop blabbering about awkward topics so you can spark up a chat that gets people excited and real. Ask someone what they’re good at! Swap stories about the craziest jobs you’ve ever had. Tell them you want to know what they’d do if money was no concern.
Find interest in the things they have to say. Most of all, listen. And by listen, I don’t mean nod your head and say “Uh-huh…. Okay.” When I say listen I mean go beyond the surface of their sentences so you can grasp the feelings and ideas behind the words. When you have an interesting and relevant blurb to add, thoughtly fit it into the conversation (Note: “fit” isn’t to be confused with “jump in and take over”). Keep it about them though. I mean, you are trying to get to know them, right?
We Talk About Them With Others
Why are our personal questions and shallow judgements such a problem? Because we go gaga for gossip! We love to share people’s stories with our friends and family. And coworkers. And the friendly checker at Whole Foods. And that friend of your sister’s whose name you can’t remember. And the people at the bar? Well, they would surely appreciate hearing such a fine story. Each and every one of them!
Now maybe we’re saying that we’re not like that and we don’t talk crap about people. Well, if that’s the case, then that begs the questions of why we’re talking about them in the first place. I’m no psychic, but I’d be willing to bet $1000 that all the crap-talking has us feeling oh-so-good about ourselves.
We’ve all got our shit and imperfections. Get over your ego and stop putting people down to justify your own stance on things. You’re free to talk about yourself with whoever you want as much as you want, but it ain’t your job to flap your lips about other people’s business. If your colleague wants anyone to know about, they’ll open their mouth to tell them themselves.
We Don’t Validate Them
All anyone really wants is to feel accepted. But as basic as this need is, it’s damn hard for people to meet.
Granted, a big part of feeling accepted and validated has to do with the relationships we have with ourselves ― who’s going to feel appreciated when they’re beating themselves up for being fat or stupid? ― but the way we interact with people will either feed this in a good way, or in a bad way.
With the crazy world we live in, it’s hard to tell genuine care from “what’s right.” So simplify it with one simple idea...
If we genuinely give a damn, then we’ll do whatever we have to do to keep our relationship thriving. That’s it. And if we can’t find it in us to give a shit. Well, that says more about who we are than anything. Chew on that for a lifetime...