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Have you ever had a coworker who did something that you’d rather they wouldn’t do?

I was on a team once which worked really well together; we all knew our own areas of expertise really well, and our discussions were always productive – with one small exception: when one particular team member – I’ll call her Patricia – started to talk, there was this other team member who’d would start talking before she finished. I could tell that she felt interrupted, and wished he wouldn’t do it.

Unfortunately, Patricia was accommodating what he was doing. Every time she stopped talking when he started, she gave him the impression that it was okay. She might have hoped that her frustration would show, and he’d begin to wait until she finished before he started talking. But he wasn’t doing, so it was time for her to try something different.

Sometimes, rather than giving way to someone, you have to keep going, metaphorically speaking.

Here’s an example. I had a coworker once who’d always walk down the middle of the corridors between the cubicles. But the way I was taught when I was growing up, it was discourteous to make physical contact with someone in a work setting. So when I saw him coming towards me, I’d step to the side. Way to the side.

Eventually I noticed that he was still walking down the middle of the corridor. He never shifted over so he was taking up a fair amount of space. So rather than give way, I tried something different. If I saw him coming towards me, I kept going. I walked down my half of the corridor. We brushed against each other, which was uncomfortable for me, but he didn’t seem to mind. After I did this a few times, he started walking down his half of the corridor, and he never walked down the middle again.

What Patricia could have done when that teammate of ours started talking, rather than stopping and giving way, was to keep talking. She could have pretended he hadn’t started talking, and just kept saying what she’d planned to say.

Now, if you’re used to a turn-taking conversational style, you might feel uncomfortable when you do this. It can be hard for you to talk while someone else is talking. It’s easier if you simply say what you were planning to say anyway. If Patricia tried this, after a while, that coworker would realize that she wasn’t going to stop anymore, and he would probably start waiting until she was finished.

If a teammate of yours is doing something you wish they wouldn’t do, ask yourself if you might be accommodating them. If you are, try doing something different. Rather than giving way, keep going with what you’re doing. If you stop accommodating, they’ll probably stop whatever it is that you’d rather they wouldn’t do.

Photo credit: © 2015 XPinger (Chris Sutton), CC BY-SA 2.0.

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