Sitting in traffic I’m amazed at how few drivers let others in. It’s rush hour, I know, and we all want to get home. Then I start to notice other small ways that we don’t yield. Keeping our place in line when the person behind us has one item. Hoping no one stops the elevator on our way down. Impatience with servers who are busy with other customers. Checking our phone when someone is talking to us. Our collective self-absorption is a bad habit.
I’m reminded of a leader who became convinced he was being kept out of the loop. He was upset and curious too: Why weren’t people coming to him directly and keeping him informed?
A little research showed he was not very accommodating to others’ needs. Knew what he needed and boldly asked for it. At the same time, he kept busy and was too impatient to sense others had needs also. No one felt bold enough to stop him and ask for consideration. Instead, they reciprocated his stinginess by offering him less and less.
It’s easy to forget the simple norm of reciprocity. Social psychologists say we are obliged to repay in kind what we receive from others. Comedies, like My Name is Earl joke about the negative karmic reciprocity of disregarding others. In real-life, leaders who don’t include others get ignored or even circumvented. Eventually, good people abandon their teams.
You can practice yielding to others in small ways, like in the shops and on the road. Notice and accept the gratitude of others. At work, insert pauses and make it clear you are interested in what others must give, as well as what you have requested. Like the leader who I coached, you will find that when you include more people, more people include you.