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Why Flexing Your Behaviour is Key to Collaboration

An important aspect of relationship- building is the ability to step towards someone and communicate well, particularly when they have a different preferred style of interacting and especially when this is causing friction.

Learning to be flexible to others’ styles of behaviour and communication is a vital skill for collaboration. For example, if you have observed that someone likes to think things through, send them an email with your thoughts prior to discussing it with them – the conversation will go much better. If someone is soft- spoken and you tend to boom, lower your volume to make them feel more comfortable. This is easier said than done because it requires heightened awareness and the ability to inhibit our deep neurological programming and impulses in order to choose a different response and move out of our comfort zone.

The less threatened and more physically intelligent we are, the more awareness we have of the data coming from our mirror neurons and the better we become at adapting to other people ‘in the moment’. Working out how to approach people over time also requires thoughtfulness and sustained commitment to the relationship. All relationships go through phases when they do not feel as rewarding as they once did and not as much dopamine is released as a result. It takes considerable effort to re- establish common ground.

LIFE HACK: Next time you meet someone new, make it your aim to discover three things that you have in common during your conversation. Find a way of pointing out the common ground before the conversation ends.

Analysing the physical components of preferred behaviour we find that some people’s movements and speech patterns are quick, direct and sudden and they prioritise action and results. Others are fast and flexible with sustained high energy, preferring collaboration and creativity. There are also people who move at a slower pace, are highly supportive of others and who prioritise harmony and consensus, as well as those who are most comfortable when they can be steady and cautious, with structure and time to think things through.

Using these guidelines as a lens to understand each other and develop our relationships enables us to accommodate each other, name differences in an objective way, and resolve conflict by flexing our style.

• Think about someone who behaves and communicates very differently from you.

• Recall an interaction with them in which your differences made it difficult for you to enjoy working/living/socializing together.

• Imagine for a moment that you have changed places with them. Adopt their posture, stance, breathing pattern, and feel what it might actually be like to be that person.

• How could you slightly flex your behaviour/the way you communicate to make them feel more comfortable?

• Take responsibility for your own reactions to others; they are not the cause of your feelings, but rather the trigger for them. It is your responsibility to work out why you react the way you do and to offer ideas for how you can accommodate each other.

• Be open, humble and vulnerable when building bridges.

• Despite the best will in the world, sometimes positions are too entrenched to change at that current moment. As a last resort, you may have to say, ‘This is not working. How could we do this differently?’ or ‘Let’s come back to this another day.’ It is of course important to be aware of being too accommodating – sometimes politely holding our ground (using strength) is the right approach.

Being flexible in our approach to relationships and in our verbal and non-verbal communication enables us to connect with a wide range of people and have a positive impact on the world around us. This matters as much for a parent of four children, each of whom has a very different personality, as it does for a global leader with employees around the world.

For more information on this subject, David W. Merrill, an industrial psychologist, along with Roger H. Reid, conducted research in the 1960s to explore ways to predict success in sales and management careers. They created a model that is still popular today and uses rigorous psychometric techniques and analysis to help people understand themselves and develop flexibility. Their book Personal Styles & Effective Performance: Make Your Style Work For You provides further reading on behavioural styles.

For more information about how Physical Intelligence can help you, your team or your organization, visit us at or order our book, on sale now.

About Companies in Motion

There are over 80 easy to use techniques and tips to build our Physical Intelligence. You can read about all of them in our new book, Physical Intelligence: Harness Your Body’s Untapped Intelligence to Achieve More, Stress Less and Live More Happily available from Simon and Schuster. (Order here.) (Multiple translations will be available later in 2019.)

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