WORKPLACE SUCCESS / 30 July 2019How to Deal with a Toxic Work Environment
Have you ever found yourself looking at a co-worker with nothing to say? Or in a room at an event with people of different ages and positions of power, not knowing where to stand or where to look? Fear not! For I am providing the steps to conversing with co-workers and peers with minimal awkwardness.
If you’re being introduced with a handshake, try and match the pressure of the person you’re shaking hands with. Make eye contact and smile. A good handshake should last long enough to know you shook hands, but not long enough that you’re aware of hand-shaking while you’re doing it. Handshakes are a core aspect of making a good impression, so make it count!
One thing that’s just as important as the words you say, is the mood of the conversation. It’s important not only to notice the body language and non-verbal cues of someone else talking, but to present yourself as someone engaged and sociable as well. This includes things like body positioning; don’t stand close enough to someone that you can smell what they had for lunch (unless it’s REALLY strong), but also, don’t stand so far away that if you both reached out your arms you wouldn’t touch in the middle. Nod as they speak, or give them other cues that you’re listening to what they’re saying and that you’re interested. The point of a conversation is to build a relationship, so ask them questions about things you think you might have in common. Ask them about things you know they like, and if you don’t know any, simply ask them how they’ve been, or what they did over the last weekend.
This is the most important thing of all! Sometimes, if you just smile, people will come up to you and engage you in conversation, without you even having to do anything- which is great! When people are talking to you, smile at them, and continuously engage them. You don’t have to smile like a psychopath the entire time, but look interested in what people have to say. (If this means you have to pretend a face is upside down like on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt then do it.)
Starting the Conversation:
When it comes to starting a conversation, timing is everything. Don’t butt into other people’s conversations aggressively, or really at all, unless they invite you in. Also, try to avoid starting a conversation with someone who looks like they are going somewhere, they’ll feel rushed. Go talk to someone who is grabbing food, or is standing alone, or at least looks pleasant and unoccupied enough to have a conversation with you. Start by asking their name, or introducing yourself, once you’ve engaged them in conversation, the hard part is over.
Engage in Flow:
This might be the most difficult skill to learn, but once acquired, is easy to implement and never fails. A flowing conversation involves lots of open-ended questions and doesn’t jump from thing to thing erratically. The important thing here is to AVOID YES OR NO QUESTIONS AT ALL COSTS. This isn’t an interrogation or a cross-examination, and you don’t want the person you’re talking to feel pressured. Imagine a conversation that goes like this:
You: “Hi, how are you?”
Person: “Good, how are you?”
You: “Good, do you like working here?”
You: “Good, do you live in this neighborhood.”
You: “Do you like this city?”
You: “Do you like ice cream?”
And it goes on and on! This is boring! (Hopefully, this won’t happen to you, because the person you’re talking to won’t simply answer yes or no questions with just a plain “yes” or “no”). Ask questions that require extrapolation- how do you like working here, what do you like about this city, and tell me about a time you ate the best ice cream ever. Once you’ve practiced asking these questions, (you can even come up with a preset list so you don’t feel pressured on the spot) your conversations will flow easily, and hopefully, your conversation partner will ask you some great questions too! If you’re talking to someone in a superior position than you here, this would be a good time to ask for the relation of valuable experiences in the workplace.
Everyone wants to talk to a person who is upbeat, having fun, and full of energy! Just have a good time (or convince yourself you are) and the conversations will come naturally. Be confident in your skills that you’ve learned, and get out there and meet new people! A great way to be social can also be online! Try out ProSky’s training courses that teach you how to be professional both online and off!