It’s Not About You! Stop Taking Others’ Behavior Personally


When you talk to your friends and family about your day at work, what are those conversations about?  My guess is that these conversations are not about corporate strategy or the financial health of your organization. My guess is that those conversations are about human behavior, specifically the behavior of someone with whom you had difficulty that day.

Why do people behave the way they do?  It can be hard for us to understand, especially when they are different from us. What if you could have more insight into other people’s behavior?  What if we could stop taking their behavior personally and instead, we could understand their behavior and start adapting our own behavior to work more effectively with them?

This is what The Predictive Index is all about.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”

As humans, we are a pretty egocentric bunch.  And we have a tendency to believe that other people’s behavior is somehow about us.  But the vast majority of the time, their behavior is much more about them and the needs they have that are not being met.

Consider this recent example from a client of mine.  Brian, the CEO of a technology services company called me because he was having a problem with his sales team.  When I went in to meet with him and asked him to describe the issues he was having, he said “My sales people talk too much. They come into my office and interrupt me with things they could easier deal with via email.  They waste time talking about things that have nothing to do with work”

When I asked him to describe their role, he told me that they are on the phone all day, making 50-60 calls to prospective clients.  “So you hired them to talk and now you’re not happy that they are talking to you?" I asked. He admitted that was true! No surprise, all of Brian’s sales team members were high in Extroversion (B Factor).

When I spoke to Brian’s sales people, I asked each of them to describe their relationship with Brian. Every person (all 10 of them!) said, “He doesn’t like me!”  “How do you know that?”  I asked.  The responses were varied.  “He doesn’t look up from his computer when I go into his office.”  “He crosses his arms when I talk to him.”  “He never asks me how I am or how my weekend was, he just launches into work talk.”  No surprise, Brian was low in Extroversion!

The sales people were so relieved to learn that Brian’s behavior was NOT ABOUT THEM!  He was just being who he was:  a more analytically and technically oriented, heads-down, task focused guy who didn’t enjoy chit-chat.

I coached the sales team to do the following:

  • If you want to talk to him about a decision – email him in advance with the details. (Likes time and privacy to process info.) 
  • Set up time later that day to discuss it with him. Don’t “pop in” to his office. (Doesn’t like interruptions).
  • Keep the small talk to a minimum and get to the point (Not interested in or comfortable with small talk – he’s there to work).  

Brian was happy to learn that the sales people were not deliberately trying to drive him crazy.  They were just being who they were: socially focused people who thrive on building relationships and need to talk through issues to process them.

I coached Brian to do the following:

  • Make an effort to learn something about them – family, hobbies, etc. so you can engage in a little small talk in the beginning of the meeting. Ask specific questions to keep the conversation short. (Small talk makes them feel at ease and social connections are important to them).
  • Let them talk through decision. (They process information out loud).
  • Include them in the process of making decisions. (Like to be heard and feel their opinions matter).

Here’s the amazing thing, I went back to the office 2 months later and there was a completely different vibe to the office. As Brian and his sales team made more of an effort to adjust their behavior to the other party, they each found that their needs were being met in a way it hadn’t been before. They each appreciated the effort the other person was making and it strengthened the relationship and made the team more effective.  At the end of the year, the sales team exceeded their group quota by almost 15%. 

As this example illustrates, PI can help you stop taking things personally and start improving your professional relationships.  The result is not just a better work environment, but frequently increased productivity and an improved bottom line.