Building positive relationships in the workplace is very important, but is it really possible to develop empathy towards an annoying coworker?
Let’s face it, getting along with everyone is almost impossible, even for the friendliest of people. This is especially true in the workplace since you can’t get to choose who you work with. Being able to develop empathy towards your co-workers as well as fostering a good relationship is important if you want to be productive and efficient at work.
According to Rich Fernandez, CEO of the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, “Using empathy, you can maintain a balanced and well-calibrated approach to working with difficult people.”
He adds that “you have to find a way to connect and build a bridge,” and this includes co-workers you don’t always get along with.
But how exactly do you go about doing so?
Can you even develop empathy for someone you dislike?
1. Don’t take it personally
The first thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t take your colleague’s behaviour personally.
According to Rich Fernandez, “You need to depersonalize the situation.” You first need to ask yourself why you’re feeling annoyed with that person.
Maybe that’s just their overall demeanour? Maybe they’re just not aware of their actions. It could even be possible that they remind you of a different person that you dislike.
Either way, it’s important to understand why you feel a certain way towards a person. This way of thinking helps build compassion and makes it easier for you to develop empathy.
2. Always be rational
A normal response to an annoying or obnoxious co-worker would be to get angry. However, in the grand scheme of things, anger won’t really help make your work any easier.
Annie McKee, author of How to Be Happy at Work says that you need to “lean in to your emotional self-control and willpower.”
She shares that you need to “recognize the clues that you’re getting triggered,” so that you can do something about it. Giving in to your triggers can cause you to stop thinking rationally, and you might do something that you’ll regret later on.
Always be open, and in control of your emotions. Think before you speak, and know your triggers so that you don’t cause more problems for yourself at work.
3. Try to get to know the person
Ask your other colleagues about what they feel. Maybe you can talk to one of your annoying co-worker’s friends, and get to know them more.
Understanding things from a different point of view can make you see things that you didn’t see before.
Maybe they’re acting out because they’re under a lot of stress? It’s also possible that they have a low self-esteem, and they act obnoxiously in order to “feel confident.”
You could also look at your similarities instead of your differences. Maybe you have a similar work ethic, or maybe you share similar interests? It’s these small details that can make it easier for you to have develop empathy towards your colleague.
4. A little bit of kindness goes a long way
Try to avoid being constantly on the defensive whenever you’re dealing with annoying or obnoxious officemates. Be kind, understanding, and fair at all times.
Avoid being passive-aggressive, but don’t be fake as well. The kindness should come from something real, and you shouldn’t simply go through the motions.
Always keep an air of professionalism and camaraderie in the office, and try to avoid inviting negativity in your work.
5. Talk to them directly
Sometimes, having a heart-to-heart talk really is the best way to go about things.
Sometimes, you need to “have to have a conversation about how you work together,” shares Fernandez. “If you approach it through the lens of empathy, the conversation won’t become charged,” he adds.
It’s possible that your colleague could also find you annoying, so dealing with the problem through conversation and the right channels can make it easier for you to work together.
You don’t have to be “best friends” with your coworker, all you need is to have a harmonious relationship so that you can both work together without feeling annoyed or frustrated with each other.
At the end of the day, the most important thing would be to make an effort. Don’t dismiss your colleague or their abilities simply because you dislike them. Try to get to know them first, and think about how the both of you can be successful in your organization.
Avoid taking things personally, and instead, focus on solutions instead of problems. Having a talk with your colleague can also help make things easier for the both of you, and helps make sure that you’re both on the same page when it comes to your working relationship.
What do you do to develop empathy towards difficult people? Share some tips in the comments below.
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