Bite Me! and other do’s and don’ts of dealing with our differences

Lynne Schinella was a guest speaker at the Executive PA Summit in Sydney and Melbourne. An extract from a book by Lynne Schinella

With a lazy summer barbeque in full swing, four friends sit apart, full and content after lunch, sipping wine and talking about holidays.

Mitch                    Adventure excitement, that’s what we need. Last year’s cruise was great – I mean, we met heaps of people, but it was just more the same stuff. Let’s go to Rwanda to see the gorillas! Let’s go to Venice and hire a palazzo! Let’s go to New York and live like locals for a month! Let’s go next month.

Adam                    Settle down, mate. We choose one thing, Mitch, and we do it. I like your gorilla idea. We can combine it with a South African wine tour and a safari. As long as I have access to internet, I’m free from 21 May and my PA can sort it.

Laura                     Hand on guys… we can’t just book it. We need to research it. Which companies have the best reputation? How much will it cost? Where are the best places to go? Can we even afford it? There are way too many different details to sort out first.

Mitch                    Who cares? We could be dead tomorrow! Let’s just do it! What do you think, Brianna?

Brianna                 Oh, I’m just happy to go with the flow.

Ever feel like no-one actually gets your way of thinking? You might have a relative you just can’t connect with or a boss you don’t understand. And what about the loud-mouthed guy in sales who makes your hair stand on end? The client who wears you down?

Meet the Fruit Friends – Adam and Brianna, and their friends Mitch and Laura. At first they may sound like any four people planning a holiday. But take a closer look and you’ll see four very different personalities. We’ll come back to the Fruit in a bit.

In this wonderful world of ours, as human beings we’re naturally attracted to people like ourselves. That’s why we often end up in stereotypical job tribes of similar types of people. Think engineers – analytical, logical, detailed. Think sales people – outgoing, spontaneous, friendly, party animals. Think surgeons – reserved, unemotional, workaholics. Think social workers – caring, nurturing, patient.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on which way you look at it, we aren’t always born into a family who share our best traits. (At least, that’s how we see it.) At work, we’re often fine working within our tribe (sales, marketing, finance, human resources) but struggle with those from other tribes.

But whether we like it or not, that’s what life’s like. We can choose our friends. We can’t choose our family and, in most cases, we can’t choose everyone we have to work with.

Some of our biggest crises come from misunderstanding and miscommunication with other human beings.

We suffer pain when we don’t try to understand others, when we carry on communicating in the same way we always have. It’s the three-fold pain of…

  • not being able to get your message across
  • not getting results without stress and argument
  • building up resentment and frustration

So where in your life would you like to minimise this? Do you want to get on with your Mum or Dad a bit better? Understand the guy in sales to help him get his expenses in on time? Tolerate your best friend’s partner so at least get-togethers are enjoyable? Take out some stress and find more success?

This isn’t about suddenly having perfect relationships, because they don’t exist. But it is about improving them to the point where they’re tolerable. As I’ve stumbled and crashed around through my personal and professional relationships in life, I’ve realised one thing. By learning more about how different people behave, by respecting those differences, and by seeking to change not others but ourselves in dealing with those differences, we can have more productive and healthy relationships.

Healthy relationships at work and at home lead to increased success and more happiness in both areas.

Find out more about Lynne’s book at