Clue in to Cues to Avoid Social Slip-Ups

Decipher what people think about you with these tips (and some feedback from friends).

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Miscommunication on the Job

Social situations at work are harder to address because we don't have a partner nearby to nudge us. Fortunately, most people have only a few behaviors that they repeat. If you can identify two or three ways that you get yourself into trouble, you can notice when they happen. Think about what supervisors have noted in your evaluations as areas to work on. If you have a coworker you trust, ask for her candid advice. When Roberto did this, he was told that he looked like he was lost in thought during conversations and meetings. This made others think that he was bored. Roberto took this information to heart and thought about ways to look like he was engaged. When he caught himself drifting off, he made a point of showing that he was engaged in the conversation by making eye contact. If he felt like he had missed too much, or that the other person was offended at his seeming disinterest, he'd say, "I'm sorry, I got caught up thinking about what you said in the beginning and missed the rest of your comments. Could you repeat them?" This showed his supervisor and coworkers that he was indeed interested in what they are saying.

Canceling Commitments

James knew that he tended to bite off more than he could chew, but he didn't realize how often he did this until a friend angrily pointed out that he always canceled plans at the last minute. As James thought about it, he realized that he had the same problem at work as in his personal life — lots of projects and activities were interesting in the moment, so he would agree to them too quickly, without thinking about how they would fit into his existing commitments. James made a two-part plan. The first part was to make sure he put commitments into the calendar on his phone. The second part was to resist agreeing to anything new (no matter how interesting) without first checking his calendar and making an honest assessment of whether he could fit it in. He would occasionally take on too much, but it happened less often, and that made a big difference in how people thought of him. ARI TUCKMAN, PSY.D., MBA, is the author of Understand Your Brain, Get More Done; More Attention, Less Deficit, and Integrative Treatment for Adult ADHD: A Practical, Easy-to-Use Guide for Clinicians.

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