A recent article at fastcompany.com addressed this issue. Here’s the headline: “Want to be Happier and More Successful? Learn to Like Other People.” The business lesson comes from David Mayer, who serves as associate professor of management and organizations at the University of Michigan's Stephen M. Ross School of Business. He is also a faculty member in the Center for Positive Organizations.
Obviously, he raises a pretty good incentive to change our thinking! Who doesn’t want to be happier and more successful? But are we willing to pay the price?
Mayer quotes some interesting research citing that people who tend to trust others at work score higher than those who don’t. It leads him to ask a powerful question. “How can I start seeing more good in people more often?”
The weak side of our human nature explains why this change of heart needs to happen. As Mayer explains, since childhood we are told not to trust. Especially strangers. I’ve been told in various jobs who you can trust—and who you can’t.
Also, Mayer shares that “people have an unyielding desire to see themselves in a positive light. This can cause us to develop less favorable views of others. Research shows that we tend to think we’re better than average at almost everything, meaning that others are worse—including less trustworthy.”
The mindset shift to assuming the best in others requires some behavioral changes as well. Instead of reacting with suspicion to emails or memos that leave gray areas or doubts, decide first to get the accurate information. Encouraging others and moving toward resolving situations, rather than away from conflict, gives you more emotional leverage.
In a competitive environment, this relational trust is more difficult. When people have pressure to win or prove their worth, viewing others as only having their self interest at stake can be common. When you seem like a cheerleader for others, perhaps there is a sense you’re not as committed. Yes, enemies can be found within your own team.
This can happen in the faith community just as easily as anywhere else. I recently sat with a friend (I’ll call him Sam) who shared that for several years, he simply could not stand working with an associate. While the two were in different departments, they intersected in their work often. Something happened early on in the relationship that caused Sam to set up a relational barrier. And he kept it there.
Then, after many years passed, my friend was obligated to do a joint project with his relational enemy. Sam sought counsel from a spiritual coworker who advised him to lay down HIS burden—one of bitterness. That stung. But it brought home a much needed reality, one that was confirmed when Sam approached the “offending” coworker and confessed his improper attitude. The other person was unaware there was even a problem. Thus, it was easy to forgive.
People of faith are better served by taking the concept of “liking other people” to a higher level. In following Jesus of Nazareth, His command is to take seriously “loving our neighbor as ourselves.” The apostle Paul adds, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,” (Philippians 2:3, NIV)
Obviously, these instructions are meant for us to apply in the workplace. Learn to see other people in the light of the Gospel. It will give new life to your relationships.
You can be a true bearer of “good views.”
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Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to www.1160hope.com for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.
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