Does your co-worker scowl every time you walk by? Is that guy in your networking group consistently aloof? Sometimes, for no clear reason, someone may decide they dislike you – and if you want a more comfortable work environment, it’s up to you to change the dynamic. So what can you do to disarm a cranky colleague?
1. Give Honest Compliments. It may not be easy, especially if the person has been distancing themselves from you for a while. But if you’re objective, they probably have some qualities you admire. If you take a positive action and compliment them, it may well break the ice and make them re-evaluate their perceptions of you.
2. Ask for Their Advice. Cialdini notes this strategy – which involves asking for their professional advice, book suggestions, etc. – comes from Founding Father Ben Franklin, a master of politics and relationship building. “Now you’ve engaged the rule of commitment and consistency,” says Cialdini, in which they look at their actions (giving you advice or a book) and draw a conclusion from it (they must actually like you), a surprisingly common phenomenon in psychology. “And suddenly,” says Cialdini, “you have the basis of an interaction, because now when you return it, you can return it with a book you think he or she might like.”
Cialdini’s advice makes you vulnerable, to a certain extent; you’re explicitly making a point of deferring to someone who may not like you. But if you’re ever going to change the relationship, you have to be willing to take that chance.
How have you repaired frosty relationships, or turned around someone who didn’t like you?
This post originally appeared on the Forbes website on September 16, 2012.
Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.