work discussion around laptop

How You Are Silently Signaling Your Co-workers to Treat You

It could be a look or how you walk into a room. Your co-workers have been trained to recognize these signals and treat you accordingly. We learn these social cues at a young age.

It’s hard to break these habits. We can’t walk around with a friend who is willing to hold a giant mirror so we can see how we look in every situation.

What can I do? I want my co-workers to like me and treat me with respect.

I used two easy tricks that worked well for me. I was not a naturally outgoing person who wanted to enter the room with a bang. You may be shy too, but you can learn to adjust your body signals so people like and respect you. You’ll be giving me silent thanks when your co-workers start smiling when you walk in the room.

If you want everyone to like you then…

Treat Everyone Like Family

The best way to be liked is to like others. I know that we’ve all heard this, but it’s true. When you walk into the room think of them as family and know that they love you even if they don’t show it.

When I stopped worrying about what people at work thought of me, I just treated everyone like they were a brother or sister. If they did something stupid I laughed. If I did something stupid I laughed at myself. Family is meant to share in misery and victory. So allow these people into your life. You don’t need to tell them about your latest ailment and what the doctor is doing for you, but share your feelings with them. The key is to try learning how to open up the emotional barrier that will bring you closer. This works for co-workers too.

Make sure you start slowly when you become friendlier to your co-workers. The best way is not to start right off talking about yourself, but listening to them. People want to be around great listeners because they can do all the talking. You’ve noticed how most people just want to tell you about their lives. Let them do it, and the next time you see them ask how their son, daughter or whatever they talked about was doing. You’ve just made a friend for life.

Getting people to like you is not that hard. Make sure that they know you like them first. People don’t want to put themselves out there and get burned, but now you know better. The only way to make friends is to give 60% and only expect 40% back. This works in any relationship whether it be personal or business related.

By treating everyone as family, your body signals should change. When you love someone you are more confident and willing to approach them. You aren’t afraid of what they think because you have the family connection.

Do you appreciate every moment you have with friends and family like it’s your last? Being grateful for the people, moments and things in your life will help you live longer and build a more resilient mindset.

Retrain How They View You

I’m a man of average height: 5’ 10” with shoes on. I have soft brown eyes and a pleasant demeanor. This doesn’t command respect in most organizations, so I have to work for it.

You can retrain how a person views your body signals by showing them how you want to be treated. This is hard for the shy person because it means you have to be assertive. It’s very simple. If you walk into a room and someone tries to intimidate you with a loud voice, you do your best to mirror their response. Easy to write, but hard to implement.

You can practice this by actually having a work shop at home with friends and family. A workshop at home? Are you crazy? Well, if you want to put it that way then yes. I want you to practice with people that you trust. Try to explain what is happening at work and role play with them until you have it down. Then when you go into work try relaxing and just having fun with the person as you respond back. See above Treat Everyone Like Family to take on this mindset.

The world often will laugh with you if you are laughing. Most people want you to reciprocate the greeting that they’ve given you. If they are excited to see you then let them know you appreciate it with an excited greeting back. This will gain you respect because it shows that you aren’t afraid of that person. We are still animals and people can sense fear by the way you position your body. So by mimicking their reaction you are telling them that you belong on their level.

I had trouble with bullying at work a few years ago. The group picking on me wouldn’t have called it bullying, but it was and it bothered me. They made fun of me, in a little brother way. They amplified the inner bully inside my own head, which was rough. Laughing at my clothes or a comment I made. I would get upset and just wait for them to get tired and stop teasing me. One time I blew up and let them know that they were going too far. They stopped for a little while, but eventually their old habits came back, so I tried a new tactic. I began to laugh with them, joining in on making fun of me. I never put myself down, but was always willing to laugh at myself. They understood this type of behavior and began treating me as a friend. You can’t take things too personally at work, otherwise your thin skin will bleed, not literally but figuratively. You’ll slowly get angrier and work will only get worse.

Please don’t try to change your personality. You need to be you, but following the social rules at your work will help you get the respect that you need.

Love and Respect at Work

You deserve to have a great working environment and I will write about design, managers, and great companies, but one of the greatest skills you can learn is to enhance your emotional intelligence. People with a high EQ are the ones that make friends and enjoy their job.

Improving your EQ is easy when you take baby steps. Most people don’t come out of college with a high EQ, it’s something they slowly develop through the years. Next time you feel like you aren’t getting the love and respect that you deserve, try to give them the love that they need or use the mirroring technique. Your EQ will jump a few points, making working life just a little more enjoyable.

One tip that I want to share with you before you click away I try to always teach my clients is to have trust in their superpowers. That means doing work that excites you, gets you in the zone and comes easy to you. If you aren’t doing work that plays to your superpowers then people won’t come to you for help. When they aren’t coming to you for help they don’t think they can trust you. Building people’s trust by being amazing at what you do makes it a lot easier to earn respect. You do this by building your inner awareness. It took me a long time to figure out that I love to build things. I’m a designer. I don’t build logos, but I love service design. It’s about building an experience that will help people get to point “B” a little quicker and with less detours. It took me 20 years to figure this out. It’s why I created the Dig to Fly Method. It’s a method that helps you turn your struggles into stepping stones. I want to help people build their self-awareness quickly so they don’t struggle like I did in my career.

What is your greatest emotional strength? Mine would probably be the ability to see situations from multiple angles. Responding to this question is not about being conceded; it’s about understanding who you are at work and how to maximize your potential. So let us know what makes you good at what you do.

20 thoughts on “How You Are Silently Signaling Your Co-workers to Treat You”

  1. Hey Chris, sometimes we just need to stick out our chins, do our best and forget about what everyone else thinks. I’ve noticed that when I do this most of my co-workers will follow my lead.

  2. I like this list, but I am not convinced that one can retrain people to view you differently even if you implement the good suggestions here. Unfortunately people tend to be less forgiving and an attempt to change your relationships especially at work can appear false and garner more annoyance than anything. I know this is a bit cynical but I am a psychologist and have studied groups as well as Org. psych and my opinion is skewed by these. Plus I am having difficulty with the idea of having people like you, at work or just in life. You have to like you, your friends should as well as your family. Co-workers don’t and that is not your purpose in the office. You doing a good job consistantly is important at work, but expecting eveyone to like you in a competative work environment sets up diappointment. Thanks for sharing this and putting so much thought into it. I enjoyed reading it. Veronica

    veronicaromm’s last blog post..Healing is the painful part.

  3. Hey Veronica, thanks for your kind words. I try to put great thought into each post.

    I understand how you may be skeptical about how one would retrain people to view you, but it is possible. I’ve seen it happen at a few jobs.

    I also believe that it makes work easier when you have a good relationship with co-workers and supervisors. We may not want to admit it, but it’s not always the best person for the job that gets the promotion. Sometimes the person who gets along with everyone else gets the job. They might not perform quite as well, but pretty close. The other person may perform slightly better, but just doesn’t get along with their co-workers. The person who does a good job, although slightly inferior, but has a nice personality and is fun to have around will most likely get the promotion. I hate to admit it, but it’s the politics of working with a large group of people.

  4. A contracted coworker of mine just got let go yesterday because he couldn’t get along with people. He THOUGHT he got along with everyone, but he also thought he knew everything, he was patronizing, and he acted like he was a supervisor. He was a hard worker and took initiative to make some needed changes, but that wasn’t good enough to keep him. Granted, he was a contract worker and therefore the company could let him go without even really giving a reason.

  5. Hey Teresa, it sounds like your co-worker could use a personality adjustment. Sometimes it’s tough for people to see how other people actually view them. That’s why we need to be able to pick up on these silent cues and adjust accordingly.

  6. Hey Work happy guy,
    I failed to mention that I like your blog a lot, it is important information you are sharing. I wrote my comment from the devils advocate position, because logically I agree with you. So I hope it didn’t come of the wrong way. For Teresa, I feel like there are so many people who are simply not self aware and social cues are non-existant. Again, work should be merit based but if it is in a group situation the person loses out if they don’t pay closer attention. On the flip side i still read about and have experienced behavior such as bullying at work, and the bully (usually not the nicest person) maintains their power position through fear and knowledge that no one will likely stand up to them. It’s a tough issue and one that I know many employees grapple with to the detriment of their work performance, health and well being.

    veronicaromm’s last blog post..Healing is the painful part.

  7. Hey Veronica, I’m glad you came back to comment again. I like a person who enjoys being the devils advocate. I’m a fan of it during parties. It gets people talking and finding out new things that boring conversation doesn’t bring to the table.

    I think you make a good point about bullying. I bet most people don’t report it, but it goes on a lot in the workplace. People like to throw their weight around. The funny thing is most people wouldn’t call it bullying, they are just “being themselves.” No matter how you label it, it’s not right. People do need to be aware of how their actions affect other people.

  8. I Have this problem, I am very shy and sometimes people at work think of me as an outkast because I see the way they act and its really just the same as everyone else. They try to be what their not, IM not about that. I like to be an individual. All they do is talk madness about people at work. Nothing else. I am not judgemental just loveable. SO yes i’ll try it. Its very had to respected when your shy and you HAVE TO MAKE DECISIONS AND BE TUFF ON CERTAIN PEOPLE.

  9. Hi-

    I just came across your sight. You offer some good tips. My problem is that people are nice to me but, feel they can say whatever they want to me in a aggressive manner. For instance, if they are frustrated at something, or stressed they take it out on me. I only see that they are stressed after they say something rude to me and apologize. Up until that moment there interaction with me is normal. How can I get them to stop this? Also, how can I compete with the popular kids at work. I am on contract and think those that Manager is very friendly with will get the job.

  10. I read somewhere that 95 percent of your impressions of someone are formed in the first 5 minutes of meeting them…. just food for thought

  11. Hi I love this post and it helped me rethink the way my body language should be. I was recently hired at a call center part time at night while I attend school and the people have been absolutely TERRIBLE!!! It’s about 50 reps in cubicles who are miserable with life itself. I’m a happy go lucky fashion forward plus size girl who comes from a middle class family. Most of my purses are name brand like Dolce and Gabbana, Prada, Dooney and Burke, and Fendi. I didn’t know that you have to adapt to your surroundings in order to fit in I suppose. People automatically gave me the cold shoulder and weren’t very responsive when I said hello, I guess because they felt like they couldn’t identify with me. I would ask simple questions and would get snapped at, or if I attempted to sit in a available seat in which no one occupied, they would yell at me saying the seat belonged to someone else. I would walk through the rows and everyone would stare and make side bar comments. I’m Dominican, Bahamian and Jamaican and unfortunately the only group of people who I’ve found accepting and friendly have been either Caucasian or Indian. I don’t know what it is and it frustrates the hell out of me because I love PEOPLE it doesn’t matter what race but unfortunately my own ilk hates me. I tried to look in the mirror and ask my self why people would perceive me as contemptuous or supercilious when I show the upmost humility. I even tried not bringing my purses to work, dressing like them (our dress code is business casual but I just quit my job as a senior sales exec for a precious metal firm so all of my attire looks somewhat more business professional)with dress pants and sweat shirt which was really hard for me because I wouldn’t dare pair the combination together but a lot of them do that. The thing is I’ve suffered with this since I was in high school. Although I was one of the most popular girls in school because I was dancer, I still suffered with issues with some of my peers.

    Let me ask you a question, can the way you dress affect the way people perceive you? What is the proper attire to wear to work? Can plus size women who dress fashionably and have confidence be perceived as haughty?

  12. Ever since I was a kid, people have considered me to be “weird.” I have a very hard time connecting with people. The reality is that I love being alone. I love to write and read–watch birds…stare at the night sky. I have a rich imagination–and can entertain myself with my thoughts alone. I fantasize about moving to a little town where no one knows me, buying a little house, and not having to work…I’m not rich, I’m married, have children, and work with a group of people who ignore and avoid me. I’m pretty invisible. Then when I have to work with my team–it is a nightmare for me. No one listens to me, or they tell me my idea won’t work, then later someone else brings it up…and it is the greatest idea ever! I think I read somewhere that that means you’re the person with the lowest status in the group.

    I’ll admit I feel impatient–I tend to see things quickly and clearly, and it is hard to wait while people hash things out…trying to understand. I’m sure with my poor social skills my impatience shows and that I’m not always pleasant to work with.

    Anyway–I am in a lot of pain. My boss seems to be giving me fewer and fewer assignments, doesn’t work with me anymore–and I read that this could mean that she’s pushing me out.

    Are there people who spend most of their time alone–and lead productive lives? Are there any jobs out there that I could do all by myself?

    The pain of what is going on at work is tearing me apart.

    Is there a place in this world for me?

  13. Hi Jane, I feel your pain. I’m a shy person at heart. I’m afraid of all kinds of people and situations, but I’ve learned that this is the stuff I need the most. I need to be pushed to be outgoing.

    The first thing you need to do is try to make your present situation better. I always thought a change of jobs would help me. The thing is I kept falling back into the same problems.

    It seems like you are a good problem solver. Try to find small ways to improve on what you are good at. That means volunteering for work that fits with your strengths. Hopefully your co-workers will respect the quality work that you are doing. If they don’t then you at least know in your own heart that you are doing good work.

    While trying to improve your present situation keep looking for a new job. There are a lot of jobs that allow you to work from home, i.e. – virtual assistant, call center, computer programming, etc. The reality is, you can’t be an island. You will still have to interact with people, so building up your social skills will help you wherever you go.

    Life is a myriad of puzzles. This puzzle is one that you are just going to have to dive into and find some solutions. I know you can make your working life better. It’s why I started Work Happy Now. I wanted to make my working life more enjoyable.

    Remember that it all starts with you. You have to take 100% responsibility for your happiness. No one can make you happy. They can only assist in helping you become happier.

    Work relationships are never easy, but just keep trying new tactics and eventually you’ll find solutions that work for you.

    Please keep me updated. Everyone deserves to enjoy what they do to earn a living.

  14. Some people don’t deserve to be treated like family. I have a coworker who, no matter how nice i am with her, she will gossip about me. I wonder if you behave more aggresively, people will treat you with more respect. I think it works, because usually I am an understanding person, so people think they can walk all over me. So today some collegues made me angry, and for the first time i became visibly angry and I actually say it. and these people were shocked and they apologize for the first time.

  15. Hi Doris, It’s hard to treat someone like family when they act like a jerk. I will say that I had to take a hardline on some of my family members, actually yelling at them because they were acted like a spoiled brat.

    Sometimes we need to express our emotions, so people know that how they are treating us is wrong. By showing them your anger you were signaling to them that you deserved better treatment. Good for you.

  16. Hello, I am learning a lot from reading other people’s posts, and thank everyone for sharing. I am having a situation at work where I am working with a co-worker who was a bully to me at another job, over five years ago. I have been working with this person again for about six months, but things seem to be sliding back into old patterns. This person knows what “got to me” last time, and is using it to sway other co-workers of mine. I am a stronger person now, but I don’t see how “miirroring” behavior will help- if you want this to improve a situation, I am assuming that you mean to mirror positive body language and actions. If someone is looking at you like you are going to steal their first born- probably not a good idea to mirror back that facial expression or body language. Any tips on how to handle this besides “kill’em with kindness?”

  17. Hi T, You got it right. You can’t mirror their negative behavior, but you can expose it and demand for it to stop. If it doesn’t stop be prepared to take action.

    This technique usually requires a public display. This takes a lot of courage, but it works. When the person does this certain thing that gets to you. Stop the person in their tracks. Explain that you know what they are doing and you won’t tolerate it. Explain that you will take action that you don’t want to take, but you will if it continues.

    Have a back-up plan ready. Maybe create a co-worker alliance that will help you confront her/him and show her/him that you and your co-workers will band together to bring her/him down.

    Sure you can kill s/he with kindness, but we both know that a bully needs to be confronted.

    If the abuse continues you can fight fire with fire, but you have to decide if you are willing to go that far. You may have to go to plan C and get out of the toxic environment.

  18. Thanks so much for your advice. I will confront this person publicly when I have more “proof”. He is very insidious, all smiles and charm with everyone, except me, of course.We work in an environment with a lot of very young and impressionable people, flattery gets him everywhere. I have walked in on more than one conversation where he is telling everyone how awful it is to work with me (after telling them how great they are of course). In fact, the other day he thought I had left when I was actually in the washroom and when I walked out, got to witness him pretending to shoot himself in the head when asked how the day went working with me. I feel that he is “corralling” people- find a common denominator with co-workers that may annoy others and exploiting and embellishing it. (There are times where we are off site and have to work just the two of us). This kind of office gossip that “confirms” some negative opinions/stereotypes about me is really hard to battle out in the open, because of course no one else is going to admit to talking s**t about a co-worker. Not all bullys are in your face, steal your lunch money kind. There are those that attack, not by being loud or demanding, but telling embellished versions of situations, playing the victim, and using flattery and self promotion to make sure everyone is on “their side”. This is what I am dealing with. And I have no idea what to do!

  19. I am going through a similar situation, I started a new job about 3 months ago, someone I worked with in the past and was very close to got me this job and works with me now. My first week one co-worker started treating me badly, I had been nothing but nice to this woman from day one, she was 8 months pregnant when I started so I tried to go out of my way and ask her if she needed me to get anything for her at the printer, fax, etc. I tried making conversation about her family and nothing, I would say good morning and she would completely ignore me….I HAVE NO IDEA WHY. But she is the nicest, sweetest woman to everyone else, including the girl who got me the job.
    i thought about asking my friend, if she had any idea why this person didn’t like me but decided not to get her involved. Now, for the past few days my friend (who is not really a friend, just someone I have worked with in the past but had a decent relationship with) started treating me differently also. I will try to make conversation and she ignores me, she used to invite me to work functions and now they will talk about it in front of me and pretend I’m not there. It’s getting really difficult to work under these circumstances but I need this job! I don’t want to say anything because I don’t want to create drama at work, but I would love to know if I did something to this woman and how to better this situation.

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