Do you ever feel that you could so much more done if you didn’t have to work with other people?
Are you tired of waiting for other people to meet their deadlines so you can meet yours?
Does your frustration sometimes boil over and make for hard feelings between you and others?
Are you an entrepreneur trying to juggle demanding, often unreasonable clients or vendors? Or are you a career professional, juggling multiple demands while having to rely on colleagues that aren’t always responsive?
How can you gain the support and cooperation you need from others?
Regardless of how you earn a living, the key to getting things done and realizing the results you need is your ability to forge and maintain reciprocal, beneficial relationships.
According to Benjamin Jones, Ph.D., Kellogg School of Management, people are becoming more and more specialized, and one person is no longer able to function independently of others. You must rely on them to fill in ever-widening knowledge gaps.
Professor Jones and his colleague Professor Brain Uzzi researched 30 years of academic papers. The papers showed a marked improvement in quantity and quality as collaboration among researchers increased.
“By identifying the highest-impact, game-changing papers — as measured by how often they were cited by fellow scientists — Jones and Uzzi found that collaboration provides a significant boost.”¹
By having access to others that have specialized knowledge you don’t have, you can leverage your time and reduce the effort you need to spend. Effective collaboration and reciprocity can open the door to unstoppable success.
Here are 3 tips to make reciprocity and collaboration easier.
1. Be Collegial
“It takes both sides to build a bridge,” Frederik Nael
As a species, we evolved as social beings, and the need to be part of a tribe exists today.
The people you work with are more than cogs in a machine. They are living, breathing human beings with needs and goals like you. When it comes to your business or career, they are your current tribe.
“Although collegiality is often linked to being cooperative, pleasant, and ready to lend a helping hand, a more precise definition of collegiality would include shared power and authority among colleagues, and cooperative interaction among colleagues.”²
- Make a conscious effort to get to know people as individuals.
- Take a few minutes when you speak with them to exchange pleasantries.
- Understand that they also work under pressure and stress just as you do, so make allowances, whenever possible.
- Be respectful, courteous, and friendly when you interact with them.
- Honor the quid pro quo. When someone goes out of their way to help you, return the gesture when they need help.
- Focus on mutual goals that benefit both of you.
People feel valued when you pay attention to them, treat them as individuals, care for their well-being, and are willing to contribute to their success.
2. Commit to Civility
No matter who you work with or for, there are times when you will be irritated or even angered by something they say or do — or fail to do. Even your best client can be unreasonable. This is a when you need to rely on restraint.
Dr. P.M. Forni, a professor at Johns Hopki University, co-founded the Johns Hopkins Civility Project (JHCP) in 1997. The JHCP aimed at assessing the significance of civility, manners, and politeness in contemporary society. The JHCP evolved into The Civility Initiative at Johns Hopkins, which Dr. Forni directed until his death in 2018.
The initiative resulted in 25 characteristics of civility of which three are universally referred to:
- Respect: Show respect to everyone by using active listening skills, communicating courteously, demonstrating an open, reception attitude, and avoiding judgements and biases. Be willing to share ideas, knowledge, and expertise to help develop trust.
- Restraint: Stop and consider the impact of what you are about to say or do before doing it. Avoid acting in a way that damages another, deepens conflict, or makes someone feel the need to defend themselves.
- Responsibility: Be accountable for what you say and do. Also take the initiative to remedy disagreements, conflicts, or negative situations when they arise rather than waiting for someone else to step up.
“It takes two flints to make a fire.” Louise May Alcott
3. Communicate Like a Pro
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t being said. The art of reading between the lines is a life long quest of the wise.” Shannon L. Adler
Effective communication relies on three factors:
- Active listening
- Effective questioning
- Appropriate body language
- Stay focused, make natural eye contact, don’t judge, be patient.
- Allow for periods of silence.
- Repeat the other person’s words or paraphrase it back to them.
- Understand the emotions behind the words, express understanding of their feelings.
Open Questions: Require more than a yes or no answer and expand a conversation. Example: What are some options that might work in this situation?
Follow-up Questions: Show active listening and allow you to probe for more information. Example: How did you make such a complicated process so easy to understand?
Closed Questions Require only a yes or no answer and are used to end a conversation. Example: Is there anything else you need?
Appropriate Body Language
- Leaning forward shows active involvement with what is being said.
- Tilting the head to one side and nodding occasionally shows understanding.
- Relaxing the face and smiling shows acceptance and agreement.
- Standing and sitting with an erect, comfortable, and relaxed posture communicates openness and a readiness to talk or listen.
- Leaning back, doodling, or look around shows boredom.
- Sitting back and joining the fingers like a church steeple show indifference.
- Slumping conveys uncertainty and uneasiness.
- Slouching and walking slowly show reluctance and lack of enthusiasm.
Eye contact can be tricky. Looking directly into someone’s eyes can be perceived as insulting or hostile and can make others uncomfortable. However, avoiding eye contact indicates sneakiness and the need to avoid disclosure. The solution is “soft eye contact.” Look at the person’s cheek, forehead, nose, chin or mouth. They think you are looking directly at them, but you avoid direct eye contact
“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” African proverb
- “The Science Behind the Growing Importance of Collaboration, Kellogg Insight
- “Collegiality Matters: How Do We Work With Others?” by Shin Freedman, Proceedings of the Charleston Library Conference