ADJUSTING YOUR BEHAVIOR FOR OPTIMUM INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION
When it becomes clear that a relationship would work better if some changes were made, the question becomes, ‘‘Who will make the changes—the other person or me?’’ People usually assume the other person is the one who should change. So in the quest for improved relationships, people typically try to change their spouse, their kids, their parents, their peers, their manager, their reports, and others who are important to their happiness and success.
But trying to improve a relationship by reforming the other person seldom works. The primary leverage you have for improving a relationship is your own behavior. Things look up when you shift the emphasis from ‘‘How can I get you to change?’’ to ‘‘What changes will I make?’’ You can’t control other people’s behavior. But you can control your own. You can make a positive contribution to the relationship by getting more in sync with the other person’s way of interacting.
It may seem like bad news that in order to improve a relationship you’ll often need to unilaterally adapt to the other person’s manner of doing things. However, taking the initiative in improving the relationship will generally create three positive outcomes for you.
See Immediate Results: First, you don’t have to wait for the other person to come around to your manner of doing things in order to relate effectively or function productively with that person. That could be a v-e-r-y long wait. Making a few changes in your behavior will enable you to immediately make some improvements in the relationship.
Reach Your Goals: Also, your ability and willingness to adapt to the other person can help you achieve your goals.
Improve Your Relationships: The third benefit of changing your behavior to improve the relationship surprises many people. When you make it easier and more comfortable for another person to work with you, that person often changes his behavior in ways that you appreciate. What starts out as a one-sided effort often winds up as a mutual contribution to improving the relationship.
The point we’re making bears repeating: Style flex involves taking the initiative for improving the relationship when people differences threaten to derail the connection. It entails unilaterally changing some aspects of your interpersonal communication to make it easier and pleasanter for the other person to relate to you. It doesn’t matter who the other person is—your manager, a peer, a supplier, a customer, someone who reports to you; a member of your family, or a friend—a flexible person is prepared to take the first step toward enhancing the relationship.