Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships 17

For my write-up today on The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, I'll highlight something that Temple Grandin says on page 231:

"...I learned that I functioned for effectively [socially in the workplace] if I kept my interactions pretty simple: be civil, make small talk, stay away from discussing controversial subjects like religion, politics or personal issues like sex with coworkers or the boss, keep a low profile, concentrate on doing the job rather than gossiping and talking about other people. I had to learn a few other unwritten rules of the workplace in order to keep my job and develop my career: that many people you work with act in inappropriate ways, that some people won't like you despite your efforts to be cordial, and there was nothing I could, or should, do about it. That meant not offering my opinion or criticizing them or talking about them to other co-workers, and especially not tattling to the boss about what other co-workers were doing."

I think that these are good guidelines. I wouldn't absolutize all of those rules----for example, in some settings, talking about politics and religion may be a good social activity. But there are many settings in which it is not, necessarily. Speaking for myself personally, I probably would not have alienated people as much if I were not as abrasive in expressing my political and religious views.

According to Temple, at the work place, being non-threatening can help you, or at least protect you from being fired. You don't necessarily have to be the most admired or the most popular person at the job site (though that may help). You just have to be cordial and respectful. It sounds simple. Whether or not it is that simple, I don't know. But, as I look back, I probably would have done better in school or work settings if I just did my job, asked people how their weekends were, did not complain, did not feel hurt if I was not Mr. Popular, etc. Granted, I did the work, but I could have done better at practicing the soft skills----which does not mean being popular, necessarily, but rather being non-threatening.

I especially appreciate what Temple says about some people just not liking you. I've often felt like a failure if certain people did not like me. And, yes, part of that may have been my fault. But it's not entirely. Some people just don't like other people, due to personality conflicts, or being nit-picky, or whatever. Perhaps what I can do then (if possible) is not threaten them and to go about my business.

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