Getting on with other people is largely about managing your feelings about them and your feelings about yourself. 

We share a basic human need to feel good about ourselves, to have a sense of self-worth.  We get this sense of self-worth from feeling significant (that we matter), competent (that we are respected) and likeable (that others like us)[1]

We are very sensitive to any behaviour that appears to suggest that maybe we are not significant, competent or likeable.  This can trigger negative emotions – the more primitive part of our brain (amygdala and limbic system) kicks in with the fight or flight response before the more developed part (neo-frontal cortex) can give a more considered, rational response.  And suddenly, before we know it, we are either in an argument or running away.  And it usually ends badly. 

So how can you deal with this?  I use the three Ps – PAUSE, PARAPHRASE, PERSPECTIVE (and the most important is PAUSE!).  Here are my steps:

  1. When you find yourself reacting quickly to what someone else has said, PAUSE before you do anything else. 
  2. Be mindful of what is happening in your body and take some deep breaths to calm yourself
  3. Ask yourself what they might have intended – what other interpretation is possible?
  4. Next, check out what they intended by asking them what they were thinking – this gives them a chance to rephrase it
  5. PARAPHRASE what they have said – this give you more time to both understand their intention and give a more considered response
  6. Look for where is there common ground on which you can agree before adding your views.
  7. Take a fly on the wall PERSPECTIVE – what would an onlooker see and hear, and is this what you want?
  8. Then look ahead with a perspective from the future – in six months’ time, how important is this issue really?  what can you do or say now, that will help to build a better relationship for the future?

Finally, bear in mind that the best way to get on with other people is to act in a way that helps them maintain positive feelings about themselves and about you – show them that they matter and that you respect and like them.

[1] Schutz, W. (1958) FIRO: a three dimensional theory of interpersonal behaviour