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Deciding how much your coworkers' viewpoints should influence you can be tricky. On the one hand, you want to understand where they're coming from and why they feel the way the do. On the other hand, you have a viewpoint of your own, and you shouldn't let their feelings control your actions. The key is to find the right balance between being sensitive to others’ viewpoints and staying true to yourself.
A simple and effective way to become more sensitive to others’ viewpoints is to just ask them what they think. You might hear an unexpected point that changes your opinion about a subject, or you might learn something about your coworkers that helps explain why they act the way they do. In some cases, just making it clear that you want to hear others' viewpoints can make a tense situation easier. For example, being empathetic toward a visibly frustrated coworker might encourage her to share her problems, which will help clarify how to resolve the conflict.
Although you should strive to understand your coworkers’ viewpoints, you shouldn’t sacrifice yourself to protect their interests. Being sensitive to others’ viewpoints only means that you aren’t blind to the fact that your coworkers have needs and beliefs and opinions. But you do too, and that’s something they need to respect. For example, if it's your responsibility to make sure a project is completed on time, your job must take priority over the feelings of your coworkers.
Reacting to Coworkers
Being able to understand the viewpoints of your coworkers has advantages. For one thing, understanding why others act certain ways helps you react constructively. If you know one of your coworkers tends to become stressed as deadlines approach, for example, you'll know not to overreact as her anxiety becomes increasingly obvious toward the end of a project.
Another advantage of being able to see things from different viewpoints is that it can help you forge effective compromises. For example, if two of your coworkers get into a fight, you can help negotiate a peaceful compromise more effectively if you understand the viewpoints of both of the coworkers. If you ever find yourself in an office fight, understanding your coworker’s viewpoint can help you find a way to restore peace. An ability to broker peaceful compromises will become even more important after you advance to a management position, when it will be your responsibility to balance the needs of all your subordinates with the needs of the business.
Stan Mack is a business writer specializing in finance, business ethics and human resources. His work has appeared in the online editions of the "Houston Chronicle" and "USA Today," among other outlets. Mack studied philosophy and economics at the University of Memphis.