Working Well with Others — the One Skill

Edmonton Counselling Resources

There are many keys to working well with others, but my focus here is to give you the KEY SKILL — the essential ingredient in most (if not all) successful interactions with others. This skill that will enable you to:

  1. Build rapport with bosses, co-workers and customers;
  2. Work successfully on team projects;
  3. Give challenging feedback to people;
  4. Empower your co-workers; and
  5. Make people want to be around you.

It is important to maintain this skill even when you are feeling badly treated by others. Are you ready for it?

The key skill is to treat everyone with respect!

Respect means treating people with value, honour and esteem. This seems like common sense, but how often does it get forgotten in the stress of day to day work and life? In fact, it may even seem counter-productive. We’ve all heard it said that “it’s a dog eat dog world”. When I first started working in the social work field, one of the first things a co-worker said to me was: “be careful what you say and to whom you say it”! There are job politics, competition for promotions, popularity contests and job survival. It is easy to succumb to workplace pressures, but you will likely lose your own self-respect, jeopardise the support of co-workers, and poison your work environment if you do things like engage in gossip and dishonouring behaviours.

On the other hand, if you respect people, you value every person in your office regardless of position. How? You will greet people with a smile and a hello. You will show care for people by asking questions so you know a little bit about each of them. Make requests of someone in a way that keeps his or her esteem intact. Respect is an attitude, a behaviour and a choice. Arrogance and bragging have no place in a work environment based on respect. Probably, not coincidentally, the guidelines for respect seem like childhood lessons: Listen, Behave, Be kind. Things you’re reminded of on the first day of school.

Listen Actively

Listening attentively to others is important because it communicates that you value what they have to say. Many of us speak first and listen later, if at all! Active listening means trying to understand what a person is saying and confirming that you understand them. It does not involve rushing them, concentrating on what you’re going to say, interrupting them, or discrediting their idea. If you change the subject quickly it says that you are really not interested in what they have to say. If you value their opinion you will listen, and try to understand their perspectives.


It’s as simple as this: Respect means that how YOU act towards others is much more important than how OTHERS act towards you. Even when others are rude and act badly, YOU can choose to continue to keep your own integrity intact. This will enable you to create meaningful relationships with few enemies. When conflicts arise (and they will arise) it is important to answer anger with calm words, and actively try to understand everyone’s point of view.

Be Kind

Most importantly, respect includes expressing compliments, gratitude and appreciation. Look for opportunities to encourage people and point out what they have done well. It is important that compliments are genuine and specific. Reminding people of their past mistakes is generally inappropriate. Criticism fosters frustration, and anger. Compliments, though, motivate others to work hard and improve themselves. It is of course necessary to give feedback when mistakes have been made. If you have fostered a relationship based on mutual respect, and your colleagues feels valued by you, then they are more likely to respond well to the feedback. Offer a personal experience about a similar mistake or behaviour that you have had to deal with. Remind them that we are all human and we all make mistakes. The goal is to motivate them to improve, not to demean them!

Treating people with honour and respect is sometimes easier said than done and we all have to work at it. The reward of respectful behaviour is a team that works well together. Everybody wants to feel respected and we are all in need of encouragement and praise. Do you treat everyone with respect? Who can you encourage today??

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