Those who don’t act right (like you) can actually be your most mutually beneficial allies. Here’s how: Some people believe we each have a set point in our temperament, along the continuum of pessimistic to optimistic, meaning we habitually behave at that point on the continuum. Psychology professor Martin Seligman believes that those who operate at the positive end of that range are more likely to thrive, have friends, and advance in their work. According to Seligman, those who instinctively react more negatively or helplessly to difficult situations tend to experience those situations through the lens of “three Ps”: Personal (most of all it happened to me) Pervasive (now everything feels worse in my life), and Permanent (it will always be this bad). In his book, Learned Optimism he suggests ways to move more towards the optimistic end of the spectrum.

Yet I agree with others, including (title here) neurobiologist, David Hecht <> who believes, “our survival and wellness require a balance between optimism and pessimism” that is key to resilience. Plus situational context has considerable influence on how we feel and act. In other words, some people and situations naturally make us feel more pessimistic and others make us feel more optimistic. Regardless of what you believe regarding these differing views, you can often make smarter decision and innovate when you keep this in mind. When you involve people who have different responses to a situation or idea than you, your get to see it from more sides. Someone, for example, with a more pessimistic respond that you will see possible consequences you miss or may have discounted. The key talent is your capacity to stay in a civil, candid exchange with them and enable others to do the same. Sometimes there is more than one “right” answer or solution. Relatedly you can tap the wisdom of the crowd. That’s where sufficiently diverse group often comes up with more accurate or better solutions that one very smart expert.

You can also accomplish more with others who different than you in other ways. Nobel prize winner and author of Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman describes how we each tend to make decision at different rates. For example, I am a fast thinker, instinctively coming up with several ideas in a conversation or when thinking something out. One of my closest friends is a slow thinker, meaning he does better taking more time to ponder an idea or problem or possible solution. Both approaches have benefits and pitfalls. I may make rash decisions and he may not respond in time, sometimes, when a deadline is vital. Yet, together we, are often able to mitigate the weakness we both have and optimize the upside of our behaviors. The key to our capacity to work together is not easy yet it has gotten easier over time. Because we operate differently from each other we can tend to irritate each other. We must continually remind ourselves – as say out loud, how lucky we are to work things out together. One important way is to recognize that organizations that support major decisions being made in meetings, are giving too much influence to fast thinkers. Instead, if participants are given apt background, including the pros and cons of a potential action, slow thinkers have time to ponder it before the meeting.

Plus, if the group agrees to have post-meeting input before a decision is made, they can optimize the input of the slower thinkers. Of course this can turn into a morass of back and forth communication if participants are not adept at being brief and specific, in person and in writing.

This familiar admonition is dangerously wrong: "If you are the smartest person in the room you are in the wrong room." What a huge mistake we make in capturing opportunities, accomplishments and fruitful friendships if we follow it. Instead, recognize that each person in the room is smartest at something. Our best way to capture a collective opportunity is to discover the sweet spot of shared interest we have and figure out how to collaborate on something related to it. If we persevere and even sort of succeed, the best is yet to come for us. Because once we have accomplished one thing well together, we understand trust each other more.

Thus it is often the next project that one of us suggests, one we couldn’t have imagined before we experienced working together, that may well be much grander. Furthermore, after learning we can rely on each other we are more adept and motivated at helping each other. We are not seeing a quid pro quo relationship yet we feel a comfortable ebb and flow of support between us.

Communicate to Connect: Increasingly, in the United States more people are living and working alone. That may be why we are more likely to refer back to ourselves in some way, more often in conversation. Instead, connect better by adopting ta three-step Triangle Talk approach, in conversation and in writing: with others: You. Me. Us:

This approach can help us gain traction sooner towards building trust and discovering a common interest, the strongest basis on which to build a healthy relationship

You: First refer to something they have done, written or said that you honestly admire and find interesting. Ask them to tell you more about it, including why they valueit. Listen closely and clarify that you actually understand the “what ‘and the “why” of their interest in that topic.

Me: If, upon gaining clarity about their motivation and activity related to that topic, offer to describe your interests, how they may coincide and/or suggest that you know of individuals or other resources that may be helpful to them. If that person indicates an interest in wanting to explore either, then elaborate. If not, do not press that person to proceed, and if they do not want to say why let it go and change the topic. We may never know fully what is going on in someone else’s life, even if we have known them along time, yet it seldom helps to push to proceed.

Us: If that person does want to hear about your interest and how it seems to dovetail with theirs, let them take the lead in asking questions. Be specific and brief so the other person is in control of the direction of the conversation. That way they can take the lead to get to know you and your interest their way and
explore what seems most vital to them about it. That boosts their trust in you and enables you both to discern how comfortable you can become with each other. You both will learn more, that way – and boost a feeling of mutuality.

Go slow to go fast to deepen the connection. Rushing through these steps can make them feel scripted, forced and formulaic. Such initial conversations do not have to immediately lead to a decision to collaborate in some way or help each other, and usually do not. It is enough for you both to recognize that there is a shared interest, or not. Sometimes you discover an unexpected other shared interest that is stronger or a different, more pressing issue for one of you, where the other person can be helpful. You have made considerable progress together if you two simply stayed in conversation long enough to sense a mutual trust and interest in supporting each other over time. And mutual support does not have to happen at the same time yet over time. Expect your relationship to have it an ebb and flow rather than a quid pro quo of support over time. What can boost camaraderie, morale and performance in an organization is when someone demonstrates this approach with someone else in it, then describes the process to the other person afterwards. Saying they are motivated by the possibility of creating more we-centric conversations can make it feel more natural and valuable to spur further, frank discussion about it.

Highlight Uncommon Commonalities
Adam Grant offered this insight for increasing the chances of connecting with someone new: “I felt a stronger connection to strangers who emphasized something unusual that we had in common. As the psychologist Robert Cialdini sums up the evidence from his trailblazing book, Influence, ‘Similarity literally draws people together.’ In Give and Take, I elaborate on this principle to point out that similarities matter most when they’re rare. We bond when we share uncommon commonalities, which allow us to feel that we fit in and stand out at the same time. Think of the last time you traveled abroad and met someone from your hometown. If you met at home, the connection wouldn’t stand out as unique, but on foreign soil, you’re the only two people from there, so you feel a sense of closeness. When I cold-emailed CEO Tony Hsieh, my first instinct was to mention that we attended the same college. After realizing that thousands of people share that connection with him, I looked for uncommon commonalities. I ended up writing that I first learned about him when my college roommate followed in his footsteps to run the Quincy Grille. And even though I’m aware of this principle, I’m apparently not immune to it. When I received emails from a fellow springboard diver and a former magician—two relatively uncommon hobbies of mine—I couldn’t escape the feeling of affinity.”
Affirm Their Better Side and Yours May Flourish Too

In a New Yorker cartoon, a bored-looking couple are sitting apart on a couch, facing a smiling therapist who says, “Any healthy relationship requires fundamental acting skills.” Clearly that therapist did not know about the Michelangelo Effect. That’s where couples who affirm and support each other’s better sides are able to “sculpt” each other in becoming and mutually beneficial ways. Thus they are more likely to become ever more deeply committed to each other and to enjoy fresh experiences and learning – through and with their partner, according to researchers, Arthur Aron and Gary W. Lewandowski, Jr. In psychology, this is called self-expansion – growing through experiences with others.

Imagine what a powerfully positive impact those effects enable them to have in their interactions with others, as well. In effect, that’s a scalable way to strengthen one’s capacity to connect better with complementary individuals.
Reading this research, it dawned on me that the behaviors that build sustainable marriages could also help inclusive-style leaders to model such relationship-building behaviors and thus inspire colleagues to optimize their talents for each other and their organization. They can become what I dub Opportunity Makers.

Such Opportunity Makers naturally encourage others, in work and in life, to support each other’s strongest talents and to introduce each other to new topics that can spur them to self-organize around vital projects where they can use their disparate, best talents together. In so doing, colleagues sculpt each other’s strengths as they succeed at projects they could not have accomplished alone. Such experiences whet the appetite for further deeply engaged work together.

The icing on the cake of love and life: many of the enduringly happy couples turn their differences into sources of interest rather than conflict, thus enabling them to learn from each other more often. You can enjoy the same benefit in other kinds of relationships it helps to recognize that we are overly confident about our capacity to read other people, even our spouses, according to Mindwise author Nicholas Epley. Even, “the scientific credibility of claims” about microexpressions, the “tells” in the face that last a fifth of a second, “is currently weak, at best,” according to Epley. We are better liars than we think we are. As Henryu Winkler, warned, “Assumptions are the termites of relationships.”

Ask. Don’t Speculate.
The key to understanding others better is rare yet blindingly simple. It’s simply to ask, not assume, listen closely to the answer and confirm that you heard it right by telling them what you heard. Epley suggests three ways to do so:
1. Talking Stick: Only the person with the stick speaks, then that person could hand it to another or someone could ask for it, yet first had to summarize what they just heard, to the first speaker’s satisfaction, before they continue the conversation.
2. Parroting: Simply “parrot” back exactly what you heard before proceeding.
3. Speaker-Listener: originally designed by psychologist, Howard Markman for couples to resolve conflicts, yet could work in any disagreements, one person tosses a coin to determine who speaks first. Each person describes exactly what they heard before responding.
A group of retired military officers assumed they knew how soldiers would feel and thus strongly opposed the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Yet when the Pentagon asked soldier directly, rather than attempting to “mind read” their views, “70 percent believed the repeal would have no effect or a positive effect on the military” according to Epley. Similarly Epley found that top management in companies tends to put more credence in outside consultants’ recommendations than on what employees actually want. Hint: “The less we know the more we project onto others.”

We Feel Closer When We Feel Heard and Understood

We are often far more revealing by the questions we ask than the answers we give, Consequently, to understand others better and to build trust with them, enable them ask several questions in sequence. Do this by answering each question directly, warmly, specifically and briefly, That can be illuminating for you both. As someone asks you a series of sequential questions, that person gains two benefits. They often becomes more clear how they feel, in the moment, and what they want in the situation . So can you. In other situations, the roles may be reversed. You may be the one who gets to ask questions in close sequence because the person answering is sufficiently succinct and direct in responding to you. Again you gain those two benefits. Either way you two can come to understand each other better.

Serve the Right Role in the Situation

More than the John F. Kennedy-style charismatic leader those who are most sought-after today are what I dub Opportunity Makers. Rather than always taking they lead, they often assist, meaning they look at a situation and see how they can be most helpful in it. Consequently they can boost the performance of more people in that situation and are thus viewed as valuable.

ADD example of Adam Grant here – who offrers the mosts assists in an org

They also go out of their way to cultivate relationships with individuals who have complementary expertise and temperaments. That way they have more opportunity to use best talents with others who are too. Over time, that mutuality-minded behavior often enables them to recruit the best team to solve a problem, or seize an opportunity faster and better than others. They also act as glue to hold a diverse team together because they explicitly describe what each person brings to an ad hoc team and how their participation will benefit that person and the team. That’s a great path to camaraderie, accomplishment, and adventure, in a meaningful life with others.

The Velcro Effect of Praise

Several years ago attended a conference where the next speaker, Chris Brogan was someone I long admired for his ???. When I saw him sitting in the front row I went up and thanked him for his ideas in his book XXX especially. advocating about XXX cite one. He looked warmly at me, asked my name and thanked me.

I then settled into my seat some ten rows back. Soon he was introduced and started his talk then stopped, mid-sentence, came off the stage and over to my side of the room to say something like, “I’m sorry. I didn’t give you my full attention moments ago, Kare. And I do now remember reading your ideas about connecting with others. Thank you for coming up to talk with me earlier.” The audience looked momentarily startled then most smiled. Some clapped as I turned beet red and he returned to the stage to continue his talk. Like Sean Stephenson, when unexpectedly acknowledged by President Clinton in a Rose Garden gathering, I will probably remember that praise for the rest of my life.

Magnify the Power of Your Praise

Shine a spotlight on someone in unexpected yet relevant times and places. To spur you to praise others more often, in writing and in person, consider this: The heaviest thing to carry is a grudge and the shortest distance between two people is a compliment. Praise what you want to flourish in yourself and in others.

Make an unexpectedly deep difference in someone’s life by how and where you give. Honor them in front of some of the people who most matter to them. Give a present to that special person in front of people who matter to them yet are from a different part of their life than the part you share with them.For example, the Friday night after Marco worked through the weekend to fix a problem at a start-up, he went to his bike club’s monthly dinner. With prior agreement from the club, his boss, the start-up founder, came in the door and was introduced to everyone by the club president. Then, in front of everyone, the boss gave Marco a gift coupon to his favorite bike store, describing how Marco’s astute, diligent work during the previous weekend probably salvaged the fledgling firm’s reputation.

When crafting a speech, have a core point with three supportive points that substantiate it. For each supporting point, think of the individuals who will be in that audience. If you are an outside presenter, involve the meeting planner in finding the action of someone in that audience that is a positive example for each supporting point. After the audience is seated, ask the meeting planner to discretely point out where three people are sitting. Then, when you describe each point you can be gazing at other parts of the audience, then turn to smile directly at the person you are going to cite as a positive example, saying something like, “And (that person’s name) is a great example of that, as many of you already know.”

Say Thank You in Ways That Show You Really Mean it

In 2014, a speeding car hit the vehicle in which 30 Rock TV star Tracy Morgan was traveling. The impact killed his friend, James McNair. Morgan nearly died too. He was rushed to nearby Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Morgan suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him in a coma for eight days. Morgan made his name as a brash stand-up comedian. Yet, his multiple ways of thanking the hospital after his discharge demonstrate a consistent mission of paying them back in ways that are truly valuable to those who helped him. As of this writing, he is still not fully recovered yet Morgan has:

• Publically thanked the nurses and doctors, by name, becoming teary-eyed, when he was a guest on The Today Show. < >
• Again gave thanks to the doctors and to his family and friends for supporting him in his recovery, after receiving a rousing standing ovation when he appeared on stage at the 2015 Emmy award ceremony.

• Performed at a private show in April, 2016, that was attended by many of the people who participated in saving his life. He thanked them during the evening and told People magazine that, "Last night was one of the most special nights of my life. To be standing on stage with the people that saved my life in the audience was an overwhelming experience. I will never fully be able to thank the doctors, nurses, first responders and everyone else that got me back on that stage enough."

• Donated all of the proceeds from that show to the hospital. Said Morgan, "The only good thing that happened on that horrible night was that I was close to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital when the accident happened."

How many times and ways do you demonstrate your thanks to those who have helped you? That generates a Triple Emotional Win: makes you feel better, boosts the recipients’ value and visibility, and spurs all participants (those who give, receive or hear thanks) to echo and emulate that life-affirming behavior.
To further motivate you to emulate this behavior: “You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving,” wrote Victor Hugo in Les Miserables.

Here’s a related and reinforcing companion method. Many Christians advocate living by what they call The Golden Rule. For them that means, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”. Here’s a funny thing. Even though most of us long to be understood and loved for who we are, we instinctively put up barriers. We praise others most about what we most like in ourselves and what we most want from others. In effect we give the kind of attention, comments and other help that we most seek. Consider, instead, living by the Golden Golden Rule: Do unto others as they would have done unto them. Praise the actions they take that reflect their positive self-image and that you admire. In so doing you support them in demonstrating those admirable behavior more often, especially when they are around you. That probably motivates you to be on your best behavior when around them. In effect you two boost your mutual admiration and your shared capacity to accomplish more for each other and together.

Enable Others to be Star in a Situation

People are more likely to like you and to buy your idea or product if they are placed in a situation where they can be respected and visible experts, exploring the topic their way. Better yet, enable them to gain bragging rights, proving themselves right—in front of others—in their choice to buy from you or to support you. Imagine, for example, the astonishment of the staff and sommelier at Bone’s, an Atlantic steak house when they started handing dining guests iPads at the table, loaded with a copy of the wine list. Purchases of wine, shot up 11 percent. Mused Mr. Reno, the sommelier, “With the information on the device, they seem more apt to experiment by buying a different varietal or going outside their price range. It stuns me, but they seem to trust the device more than they trust me, and these are people I’ve waited on for 10 years.” Or, perhaps diners feel more comfortable and confident, looking at various wines themselves and discussing them at the table. The key here is that they get to be the expert.
Hint: Let others take charge of your message, tweak it for their needs and thus sell themselves on it. Former Sony Pictures CEO, co-owner of The Golden State Warriors and author of Tell to Win, Peter Guber, is a passionate believer in the power of a purposeful narrative. That means sharing a story that is meaningful to others, leaving ways for them to jump in and become an important part of that story. In Tell to Win, Guber gives many examples of how people love to tell others about a story in which they have a great role. Surrender your story to their re-working of it, rather than correcting them, and they will re-tell it with passion and conviction. Organizations as diverse as LEGO and the S.F. Giants, and individuals as diverse as Nicholas Kristof and Tony Hsieh have attracted passionate supporters, in part, by letting others take over their story to re-tell it in their own way.

Ways to Spur Others to Be More Trustworthy With You

Even though it was more than a decade ago, I vividly recall my shock when sitting in a board members’ committee meeting for a non-profit. The chair asked us each to report back on the task we agreed to do. The second told us that she hadn’t started on her assignment because it had been a very busy month at work. Also, she didn’t offer a deadline by which she would get it done. Nor did she acknowledge how her lapse was going to stall our project.

As a journalist, I lived by deadlines and, unless I was at death’s door, I was expected to keep them. The man across from me, a former Marine, was the only other person who looked momentarily startled as the chair continued around the table, asking others to give their reports. When our committee took a break, and the Marine and I fell into step towards the coffee, he turned to me and said, point blank, “My wife’s also a journalist. She warned me that things would be different in civilian life. She’s encouraged me by saying that perhaps only soldiers, surgeons, and journalists must be utterly accountable for the task we are given.”

As serial entrepreneur and investor Brad Feld noted, some people don’t even follow up on a chance to participate in their declared interest. He discovered a powerfully simple way of weeding out those who lack follow-through. Assign them a task and see what they do or don’t do. If this is a hot button behavior for you, too, here are four ways to spur people to keep the agreements they make:

1. Specificity Boosts Clarity and Accountability
The more concrete the agreement, the more clear the obligation and the more difficult it is for someone to misunderstand. “Please get right on that” does not create as much clarity nor accountability as, “Please finalize your choice of vendors by 5 p.m. tomorrow.”

2. Peer Accountability Pins Us Together
Although this did not work on the non-profit committee, when peers meet face-to-face or via group video and make specific agreements with each other, and they all have a stake in the outcome, there’s a higher probability of securing accountability.

3. Written Proof So We Don’t Goof
To reinforce the power of mutual accountability, have a designated meeting recorder (or take turns with the role) so one participant is responsible for recording action items, deadlines and who’s responsible for each item. The recorder sends that list to all participants’ computers before they leave the meeting.

4. Upfront Rules of Engagement Are Our Guardrails
A company, team, or committee is more likely to spur mutual accountability when it adopts a few, specific agreements about how people will operate together, from punctuality to pithiness in writing or conversing.

Not keeping one’s word is a form of betrayal akin to lying by omission. Alternatively, Margaret Paul offers five reasons to do what you say you will do. Carl Jung wrote, “You are what you do, not what you say you will do.”
“Consistently doing what you say you will do is the foundation of integrity,”
writes to Skip Prichard and I heartily agree. Not keeping agreements pushes others away. Conversely, keeping our commitments to each other cultivates the mutuality mindset that makes us want to provide smarter support sooner.

We Mark Ourselves by the Stains of Our Critical Remarks and Actions

Criticizing others leaves an indelible stain on one’s reputation. , Just as our primitive “fight or flight” brain reacts faster, more intensely and longer to negative actions than positive, even the unintentional appearance of criticism lasts longer than praise. If, for example, someone see five things they like in what you say or do when first meeting you and then feels criticized, just once, that negative moment will be the one most indelibly remembered and will most affect their future behavior towards you. Yet, ironically one of the easiest ways to be seen in a positive light is by shining a spotlight on a remarkable side in someone else. The multiplying power of praise happens as people tell others about such incidents. Praise individuals for praising others. This is a vivid, credible and becoming approach to bringing out the best in all of us. Heck, even waiters who compliment customers get three percent bigger tips, on average

When You Throw Mud You Tend to Get Dirty
”When you throw mud you tend to get dirty, U.S. diplomat and politician, Adlai Stephenson’s responded when advised to criticize his political opponent in the face of vicious, personal attacks on his character when he ran for president.. He lost the campaign. Yet, despite Donald Trump’s ability make vicious personal attacks on others and attract many fervent supporters, I remain convinced that one eventually loses ground over time via that approach. Instead praise the part of someone that you genuinely admire when you are tempted to go negative. That way you can avoid being stained by your own criticism via spontaneous trait transference. That’s where listeners automatically and unintentionally associate with you the trait you cite in describing someone else.

Ever wondered why people want to kill the messenger who brings bad news? That’s trait transference. Amy Sutherland wrote about a variation of this effect in her New York Times article, “What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage.” That article was so popular she got a book deal. In conducting research for her book, Kicked Bitten and Scratched, she watched exotic animal trainers reinforce positive behaviors. A light bulb went on in her mind. Why not try the same successful animal training techniques on her husband? Wrote Sutherland, “I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don’t. After all, you don’t get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by nagging. The same goes for the American husband.” She began offering what animal trainers call approximations—“rewarding him, via praise, for his behaviors she wanted ro reinforce. Parents and teachers have been taught to use it with kids, others to overcome phobias—and one person even suggests it for shaping behavior in church.
Even more startling, perhaps, two studies conducted at the University of Wisconsin seven years ago found that when women spoke generally and positively about a trait that their husbands had not exhibited, at least recently (“Thank you for being so thoughtful as I go through this stressful time at work”) the husbands began exhibiting caring behavior, often using the words she used in praising him. “Honey, want to talk about your day and let go of some of that stress?” Ironically, after awhile, her husband recognized the method she was employing with him, and started using it with her, praising her for her behaviors he longed to see appear more often. After several months of his practicing this approach he told her what he was doing. Thankfully they both laughed about it and agree to be more candid, sooner, about what they sought from each other.

Author's Bio: 

Kare Anderson’s TED talk on The Web of Humanity: Be an Opportunity Maker has attracted over 2.5 million views. She is an Emmy-winning former NBC and Wall Street Journal journalist, now a speaker on connective behavior and quotability. Her TEDx talk on Redefine Your Life Around a Mutuality Mindset is now a standard session for employees and invited clients at 14 national and global corporations. Her ideas have been cited in 16 books. Her clients are as diverse as Salesforce, Novartis, and The Skoll Foundation. She was a founding board member of Annie’s Homegrown and co-founder of nine women’s political PACs. For Obama's first presidential campaign she created over 208 issues, formation teams. She was Pacific Telesis' first Cable TV and Wideband Division Director and a founding board member of Annie's Homegrown. Kare is the author of How We Can Be Greater Together, Opportunity Makers, Mutuality Matters, Moving From Me to We, Beauty Inside Out, Walk Your Talk, Getting What You Want, and Resolving Conflict Sooner. She serves on the boards of The Business Innovation Factory, TEDxMarin, and World Affairs Council Marin.