Can't We All Just Get Along? 5 Steps to Building Better Relationships.

To succeed, you need to increase your versatility when it comes to people who are different from you.

learn more about Doug and Polly White

By Doug and Polly White • Feb 2, 2018 Originally published Feb 2, 2018


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Our granddaughter Madi recently complained about her teacher, Mrs. P. Mrs. P, it seems. is tougher than Madi's previous teachers were and isn't as soft, sweet and complimentary as Madi has experienced in previous classrooms. What's more, our granddaughter doesn't like Mrs. P's teaching style and is finding it harder than in previous years to succeed.

Our advice to her? Find a way to appreciate Mrs. P. -- and get along.

Related: How to Set Boundaries to Build Thriving Relationships

As we go through life, we are all going to find ourselves in jobs with difficult bosses or coworkers. We will be forced to work and team with people we wouldn't choose as friends. Yet, when the going gets tough, it isn't always expedient to quit and try to find greener pastures. In fact, if you make a habit of bailing when you're faced with working with others you don't like or get along with, your chances of success are limited.

Instead, we suggest the following five steps to build better relationships:

Understand yourself.

The first step in getting along with others is having an accurate self-perception. There are several solid tools that can help you to understand your behavioral preferences.

These include DiSC, Myers-Briggs and other tests that have been validated and are considered reliable. When providing executive coaching or developing team interventions for clients, we most often use the social styles model developed by David Merrill to help our clients understand themselves better.

Related: 3 Relationships That Will Build the Tribe Every Entrepreneur Deserves

This model is constructed using the test-taker's level of assertiveness as one axis. The other axis is the person's level of emotional response to others. When combined, individuals fall into one of four major styles: Driver (assertive and controlled), Expressive (assertive and emotive), Amiable (passive and emotive) and Analytic (passive and controlled). A full understanding of this model is contained in Merrill and Roger Reid's book, Personal styles and Effective Performance.

Understand whom you're dealing with.

After determining your own behavioral preferences, you should seek to understand others. While, in most cases, you can't ask them to take a test, there are outward signs that will give you clues as to the behavioral preferences of others. The social styles model teaches you to listen to what people say and how they say it.

It also teaches you to observe others for specific behaviors and body language. Once you've mastered these things, you will be able to determine, very quickly, the other person's style.

Increase your versatility.

Versatility is the ability to modify your behavioral preferences in order to work better with others. Versatile people recognize the behavioral styles of others and manage the differences. This recognition may include something as simple as lowering the volume of your voice or becoming a bit more animated during a conversation.

It may mean that you need to spend a few minutes chatting about personal matters before diving into business, or just the opposite. You might need to forego any mention of the personal and stick strictly to business. The point is, versatile people are able to make others feel comfortable during interactions. This increases the effectiveness of the communication and leads to positive results and relationships.

Implement and revise.

To improve relationships with a specific person, first determine both your style and the style of the other person. Next, determine how you could be more versatile with this individual. What do you need to do, or stop doing to improve your communications?

Implement your plan and look for reactions. If you see positive outcomes from your efforts, continue. If not, step back and reassess. Did you correctly determine your style versus that of the other person? Have you consistently modified your behavior when interacting with him or her? If you need to revise your plan, do so and try again.

Retreat as a last resort.

From time to time, you will be faced with someone whose behavior skews beyond the normal. We call them chronically difficult people. Pathological liars and people with anger or control issues would fall into this category. Occasionally you may find a person who turns temporarily difficult because of personal issues you know nothing about. If you have tried to understand yourself and them, have shown versatility for a sufficient time and still find the relationship untenable, you may find retreat the only outlet.

We suggest this only as a last resort. Most relationships are salvageable if the person's behavior falls within the normal range. Remember, often a person's behavior isn't difficult. His or her style is merely the opposite of yours. Because we see our own behavior as reasonable, we may view people who behave differently as difficult.

As we explained to our granddaughter, you need to learn to get along with others, even if you find their behavior difficult. Our Madi is a vivacious, outgoing, dramatic "expressive." From what we can understand, Mrs. P is most likely an exacting, orderly and practical "analytic."

Related: 7 Amazing Ways to Build Long-Term Relationships With Your Customers

These styles are opposite and therefore less likely to be drawn to each other. To succeed, Madi will need to learn to increase her versatility. And that's a lesson it's never too early to learn.

Doug and Polly White

Entrepreneurs, Small Business Experts, Consultants, Speakers

Doug and Polly White are small business experts, speakers and consultants who work with entrepreneurs through Whitestone Partners. They are also co-authors of the book Let Go to GROW, which focuses on growing your business.

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