There are a lot of workshops centered around pointing out the differences between people and then expecting them to suddenly come together or understand each other. Sometimes people are assigned a color or given some name and then they're asked to use superficial and generalized information to try to connect meaningfully with others. This type of training is an example of personality typology, a methodology that attempts to help us understand our differences and use that knowledge to relate more effectively.
While it's valuable for people to understand that there are diverse personalities, communication styles, perspectives or approaches; this type of approach only addresses a part of what human behavior, interpersonal communication or relationship building is all about. Personality typology can be a great conversation starter but it frequently overlooks the things we have in common and focuses instead on labeling differences: You're this and I'm that.
Labeling tries to put people in neat categories but it doesn't describe who they are at a deeper level, help them build self-awareness or the ability to connect with others. Participants go through the training and then go back to their workplaces, pointing at and labeling each other.
Leaders and organization can move beyond superficial interaction by helping their employees interact on a deeper level. The following ideas can help you and your employees create stronger connections:
- Focus on the things people have in common.
- Practice active listening to learn about others.
- Spend time learning about others by listening.
- Forget labels and find out what people really love doing.
- Build empathy by creating conversation groups.
- Ask open-ended questions to learn about others.
- See the world through someone else's eyes.
- Don't react to differences, take it as an opportunity to learn.
- Practice collaborative problem solving skills.
- Celebrate people regularly.
Ask yourself how effectively you practice these key skills. Successful leaders and organizations understand the value of stepping outside themselves and learning about their people. Getting along with others is not so much about the things the keep us apart, it's about the things that bring us together. What will you do to move past superficial labels?