How do they do it? At heart, they care about other people. Beyond that, they understand how to establish and maintain rapport in virtually all conversations, especially with their peers. Apply these techniques to put co-workers at ease:
Ask open questions rather than prying. If you’re concerned about a colleague’s waning energy, ask “How’s it going?” rather than, “You looked so exhausted getting out of your car this morning. Did you sleep well?” Intrusiveness kills rapport.
Think twice before you volunteer unfavorable observations (“You’re acting strange today,” “You seem upset”). Stick to safe questions such as, “Is this a good time to discuss our project?”
Nag indirectly. If you must pester a co-worker to follow through on an assignment, do it subtly. Don’t blurt out, “Have you completed that report yet?” Instead, try a more roundabout approach, such as, “I want to bat around some ideas with you, but first, do you have that report ready?”
Show interest in what colleagues say, even if you must force yourself. When they share dreams, relate their kids’ latest triumph or brag about how they handled a customer, indulge them. Urge them to continue. Never tug the conversation back to you.
Respect their space. Even if you feel comfortable with co-workers, don’t treat their office as your own. Ask their permission before you use their phone or computer. And don’t peek at papers on their desk or fax while they’re momentarily distracted.