Everyone in the world is not like you. Get over it and get on with it.
I have been in too many team sessions where the team members are blind to the differences between people. They seem to believe everyone is, or should be, just like them. If you can figure out how people expect and need different things, you’ll be much further ahead.
The most common misunderstanding I come across stems from different ways of showing respect. Although we talk about respect as if it’s a single, objective construct, it represents different things to different people. Here’s how it works:
Did you come from a family where…
1. Family members showed respect for each other by engaging in rousing debates at the dinner table and giving straightforward feedback and advice? Or…
2. Where family members showed respect by never broaching difficult topics publicly and always being diplomatic at the dinner table?
The way you were raised informs the way you want to be shown respect. If you were raised in the Wild West straight-shooting family, you might describe a teammate who is indirect as “beating around the bush.” You might even feel uncomfortable or suspicious when you can’t figure out what they’re trying to tell you.
On the other hand, if you were raised in the diplomatic family, you might find the direct style blunt or harsh. People with a “just the facts, ma’am” approach may hurt your feelings.
It’s important to understand that the person is trying to show you respect the only way they know how. It’s a lot like cross-cultural sensitivity: direct eye contact can be a sign of respect in one culture and of disrespect in another. If you understand your teammate’s norms, you can appreciate the message of respect they’re sending.
If you thought you understood respect, take a look at it again through this lens. Maybe you’ll appreciate your team members a little more. In the next post, I’ll talk about differences in how team members express emotion.