Friendly February

Friendly February

February is a good month for honoring friendliness. The advance of Valentine’s Day reminds us of warm feelings and sweet words and prompts us to reflect fondly on many of the people in our lives. What a good time to take advantage of that inclination to connect, and expand our friendliness fields. Opportunities abound! Every communication can be conducted with some degree of friendliness, and most communications will benefit from at least a small dose of it.

For some people, friendliness is spread over any encounter, while for others it is sprinkled sparingly, if at all. The spare sprinklers conduct many encounters with a minimum of relationship exertion. Cool, correct, cordial, crisp- get on with it. No valentines here.

From the sprinklers:

“I’m not here to make friends; he’s fixing the whatchacallit.”

“I’m nice to her! What- I’m supposed to talk about her kid’s soccer team?”

This last was from a client who was surprised at my suggestion that he say more than Good morning to his secretary. Every day. He was pretty sure her name was Betty, but….

Sprinklers have told me that they want to “keep things on a professional level”, that they fear being asked to solve personal problems if they are seen as approachable. Some have confessed that they are uncomfortable stepping into friendliness because they fear that they then can’t step out and be adversarial, or give directions, or avoid sharing unwanted information. Some have admitted that they don’t know how to engage in what they call mindless chatter so they stick to business. Almost all of these friendly-avoiders remind me that they are in a workplace, not a party, and the purpose of being together is to get the work done. “I don’t care if they like me or not as long as the work gets done,” has been said many times.

Many non-friendlies extend this practice out of the workplace. I know a kind, warm woman who treats restaurant servers with disdain verging on rudeness. Others eschew friendliness as unnecessary and time-consuming, or they adopt the clinical tone and frown of the salesperson. In a hurry! We’re in a hurry! Hurry up! Frown, frown.

The addition to one’s communication of friendliness: the offering of a smile, the use of someone’s name, an indication that actual people –not machines- are involved in an exchange, has benefits. Here are some of them:

– It establishes a foundation on which to build further, perhaps complicated, communications.

– It builds trust.

– It makes everyone feel better.

So whether our motivation is to create comfortable communications at work, to be known as the person who is easy to work with, or just to feel a little warmth in the February freezes, we can give ourselves the valentine of friendliness.

Who knows? We might get some chocolate.

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