Ideally, your work is a place where people support one another, assume the best and never speak disparagingly. If it’s not always the case, there are specific things you can do to positively affect the environment where you spend the majority of your waking hours. That’s according to Frank Calderoni, CEO of Anaplan, a San Francisco-based company which provides a cloud planning platform which connects data, people and plans in every part of a business. Here are his words on how to see more of the Golden Rule–and less backbiting–at work.
1. Start with yourself.
Positive intent isn’t just for others. It starts with you, and the way you listen. Give the person you’re communicating with the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they are sharing the best information they have as they understand it. That doesn’t mean you agree with everything you hear–far from it–but take responsibility if something is unclear or misunderstood.
2. Involve everyone.
Everybody in an organization should learn positive intent techniques and concepts. And leaders–who set the tone for an organization–should get additional training, including one-on-one coaching if needed.
Communicating with positive intent isn’t a one-and-done activity. For me, it is a daily exercise. We need to be constantly vigilant and self-aware, because our defensive human nature and ego always lurk below the surface.
4. Skip the email.
If an email exchange gets contentious, back away from the keyboard and pick up the phone. Better, meet the person face to face. (In today’s dispersed workplaces, a teleconference qualifies.) Positive intent requires both parties to see each other as people, not adversaries, and that’s a lot easier when you’re looking each other in the eye.
5. Listen harder.
As my dear Italian mother told me when I was growing up in New York, “You have two ears and one mouth. Listen more than you speak.” It’s good advice. Don’t just hear the words people say; listen for the underlying thoughts, and ask honest questions.
6. Fight fire with… kindness.
When I think someone isn’t communicating with positive intent, I redouble my efforts. I ask questions, explore their intentions, and try to understand my role in any misunderstanding. It’s not easy, but it’s amazing how quickly this can shift another person’s attitude and turn a contentious conversation into a productive one.”
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.