How good a guest are you?

Lisa Frank

Apr 5, 2022

How many have you have lived for a period of time with a friend or relative? Wanting to be a good guest, you observe the little things and try to follow suit out of respect and consideration. For example, you may notice that every time you go into the bathroom, the area around the sink is clean and dry like they maintain it in a hotel room. You start to use your towel to mop up any droplets and may ask about a designated cloth. You notice the garbage is continually taken out and the dishes washed. You find yourself in a routine of bringing down the pails from the upstairs every morning and emptying them. After each meal, you wash the dishes.

Some of these may come more naturally if they also align with your value of keeping things clean and bug-free! You notice what your hosts eat so you can pick up staples such as eggs, avocado, or bananas when they're running low. You pitch in by cooking meals, and washing and folding laundry. In other words, you adapt your style to better mesh with theirs and support them and the household. Some things will come easier than others. Some things, you may never do. When you need to discuss seeming differences in values, you may bring them up with curiosity (rather than a declaration or assumption), for example, "What is your routine regarding emptying the dryer lint trap?" After all, you must also honor your own values and concern over a potential fire hazard.

As a guest in someone else's home, we pay attention to create harmony, realizing that how the home is set up, the routines followed, all create ease and comfort for the hosts. Why should a workplace be any different? Why wouldn't we notice and try to harmonize, for example, with the communication preferences of our colleagues, managers, and employees? Anyone who has participated in a group has witnessed the dynamics of different communication styles. Some team members are quick to react and verbalize. Others need processing time before responding. Note the difference between "react" and "respond." "React" is immediate and may overtake those that need time to reflect and consider before they respond. They may need more facts and information before sharing their thoughts. We want to hear from each person and may need to check in to clarify silences, especially when working through Zoom or other online platform. Asking "Are we processing, confused, or lost?" may elicit a response of "Processing" or "Could we scroll back up to the previous point?"

What we notice in communication may also extend to ideal working environments. A staff member who prefers quiet and to stay with a task or project in increments of hours rather than minutes may function better with a working space further from the office entrance where colleagues are likely to stop in with a friendly knock to update them on the weekend. They may appreciate receiving an email or message rather than someone bursting into their working space, causing them to lose their train of thought. Obviously, there are many communication styles and working preferences.

The question is, what are you doing to notice and adapt, to pay attention to the person and their preferences, not just the task?