You Don’t Think Like Your Neighbor: How to Relate To Co-Workers

Most people spend the vast majority of college sitting next to their friends in class. They do homework with their friends after class. They go to the cafeteria to eat what is theoretically food with their friends. Guess who they hang out with on the weekends? Some acquaintances they barely tolerate Friends. The working world isn’t like that though. It isn’t some quasi-paradise of endless hanging with your closest friends and being able to avoid or not get along with those who you aren’t naturally inclined to like. Here you need to learn to get along with those you normally would not. You cannot say all those jokes that come to mind that all your friends think are funny. Believe it or not, some people may share different values or political views than you do. They might process things differently than you. But you have to get along with them all. Here’s a road map on how to do so.

Be a Professional

You aren’t in college any more. You can’t just punch out every guy who dares deny that beer pong should be an Olympic sport (also, it shouldn’t. Stop thinking that, you’re an adult). Civility is king here and your old attitude of “you can accept me for who I am” should go out the window with your lanyard and the Axe we all know you still wear. Your job at work is to BE A PROFESSIONAL. Be that. Not a frat boy pretending to be a Mechanical Engineer. Not a washed-up SGA president posing as a project manager. You ARE whatever your job is at work. Can you be human? Of course- in fact you SHOULD be. But be a professional human.

Leave Religion and Politics Out

I can’t say I’m always great at this, but leave religion and politics mostly or entirely out of your work life. If you and your work-friend want to both talk about your love for the second amendment, go ahead. Just don’t be so eager to do it around people who might feel differently. But probably about 9/10 times I either get annoyed by someone or feel the need to be strictly professional with them is when they decide to shove their opinions down other’s throat at work. You’re a socialist? Good for you, don’t tell me that all non-socialists hate poor people. Libertarian? Feel free to not talk about guns 90% of the time. This stuff just isn’t relevant to your work and it isn’t generally conversation that makes friends. Talk about the NFL or what movie you think is the best or even how the Bachelor is trash. SOMETHING that won’t make more enemies than friends.

We Process Things Differently

I get that you and your friends probably think similarly. I get that college can start to convince you that most people think and work like you. They don’t. Different people learn differently. They have different worldviews. Maybe most importantly, they don’t always perceive things the way you would and maybe don’t respond well to the same communication style. It’s important to understand that “Well, I like people to do this for/say this to me, so I’m sure so-and-so would too” just isn’t a good way to deal with people. Understand what makes people tick and what they respond well to and do that. It’s like the whole birthday-at-a-restaurant thing. YOU might love the attention of a bunch of waiters and waitresses begrudgingly singing happy birthday to you in 5 different keys. Meanwhile, if you did that for me, I’ll probably still be throwing darts at a picture of your face 20 years later. You shouldn’t think “well I like that, so of course they will!”. Stop it. And, in the real world, where unicorns don’t exist, Star Wars is the best sci-fi universe in existence, and somehow the MLB still doesn’t have a salary cap, “It’s the thought that counts” is total garbage. Your family may be that merciful but most people and most of the professional world will not. “Sure, that was an inappropriate joke, but…” will probably not be the discussion. You sitting in an office with a write up in front of you and a disappointed boss is probably how that story ends.

You’re a professional now, so be one. Don’t come in on Monday and brag about how smashed you got over the weekend. Don’t loudly proclaim that all *religion or political leaning* are idiots. And don’t assume the guy next to you likes to be treated or talked to the same way you do. Figure out how to communicate with him and do that. Just because you like to be put on display like a trophy and have accolades thrown at you like you’re the last frat boy on that side of the dodge ball court doesn’t mean the engineer next to you wants the same.

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