Let's get real: the office can be a minefield of painful interactions, awkward run-ins and arguments with your workplace rival. But it doesn't have to be. And it shouldn't be. Make your coworkers work for you by winning them over, no matter their relationship to you. Whether you're looking to get ahead or simply enjoy your workday a little more, here are some proven tactics and mind tricks to connect with colleagues.
Enlist Someone As a Mentor
Start off by being honest with your desire. "If I meet someone I admire, from whom I think I can learn something, I say just that," says Sean Rad, cofounder of Tinder. "Then I try to find a conversational sweet spot—an intersection of our individual interests." Do your homework and don't waste the person's time. Make it clear to your potential mentor that you're ready to commit the time, energy and effort to make the most of their counsel (and time). And never underestimate the power of gratitude in a mentor relationship.
Observe People's Relationships
When a group of people laugh, each member of the group can't help but make eye contact with the person they feel closest to. "This trick can tell you which members of your team are bonding and learning to trust one another, just as easily as it can tell you if you might have a shot at landing a date with a certain someone," says Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0. Of course, you'll learn a lot about how you feel about other people just by paying attention to whom you make eye contact with.
Ask Someone a Favor
When someone does a favor for you, it actually makes them like you more. "When you convince someone to do you a favor, they unconsciously justify why they are willing to do so," says Bradberry. Typical justifications include things such as "he's my friend," "I like him," and "he seems like the kind of person who would return the favor." These justifications serve you perfectly. Not only did you just get help with something, but the other party also likes you more than they did before. But don't cop out and ask through email. Researchers at Cornell University found that asking a stranger for something face-to-face tends to yield better results than asking via email.
Get Through to the "I'm So Busy" Types
Time is a precious commodity at work. And we all work with someone who's constantly reminding everyone how busy they are. Which makes it difficult to connect with them. But what if they're your boss? Or someone you have to work with on an important project? The key is all in the timing. Catch them early in the morning, before the day gets away from them. Then open the conversation with how you can help them. "Hey, I know you said you were swamped but I had a quick thought about our project that might take a few things off your plate."
End an Unnecessary Rivalry
Work is tough enough without petty politics. And rivalries can be so destructive, it's not enough to simply ignore or sidestep them. You're never going to agree with everyone, but hearing others' perspectives can create empathy and give you information to strengthen your own concepts. Try redirecting your rival's negative emotions so that they are channeled away from you. Remind them that you're both on the same team, trying to solve the same problem. "It's easier to connect with others when it's clear you're both on the same side and neither one of you can get the job done alone," says psychologist and author of The Best Place to Work, Ron Friedman.