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12 Ways to Treat People Well (REVIEW)

treatThis review first ran in the March 10th edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Treating People Well: The Extraordinary Power of Civility at Work and in Life

By Lea Berman and Jeremy Bernard



There’s a public relations intern on our team at work who’s acing the airport test.

Imagine that you and a colleague from work are stranded at Pearson International. What’s it like waiting for your delayed flight? Is it enjoyable or exhausting? Is there a risk that only one of you will make it out alive?

You’d be in good company with our intern. She’s smart, upbeat, self-confident and unfailingly polite. There’s zero drama and she’s been blessed with both a sense of humour and the ability to carry a conversation.

She’d earn high marks from Lea Berman and Jeremy Bernard, authors of Treating People Well. Both worked in the White House as social secretaries and special advisors to the president. Berman served George W. and Laura Bush while Bernard oversaw events, announcements, visits and dinners for Barack and Michelle Obama.

Berman and Bernard’s primary job was to treat people well. “So much of success, however you define it, hangs on how well we treat others from all walks of life,” say the authors. “Insisting on your importance rarely works. Everyone is important and everyone deserves to be treated well.”

Based on their experiences in the White House, Berman and Bernard have identified 12 practices that are the cornerstones for treating people well. These practices include:

Carry yourself with quiet confidence. “A confident person inspires trust – one of the most important components of all strong relationships.” Maintain a positive attitude, be prepared for whatever comes next and reassure others to help build their confidence.

Use self-deprecating humour and charm as the great equalizers. “Like humour, charm is a crucial social skill that bridges differences of opinion and smooths the path to understanding.” Berman and Bernard say that just one charming person can change the dynamics in a room or an entire organization.

Be consistent. “When your behavior reflects your words and promises, people know what to expect and they appreciate and remember you for it. There is no trust without consistency.”

Listen first and talk later. According to Berman and Bernard, we will live in a world of constant communication with lackluster listening. “When you listen quietly to another person, you’re sending a powerful message: that his or her words are more important to you than anything else.”

Radiate calm in a crisis. “When you remain serene, you’re communicating that you have the situation under control and there’s nothing to worry about.” Build trust by staying composed, avoiding drama, finding common ground and maintaining perspective while everyone else is losing their heads.

Handle conflict diplomatically. “People who treat others well don’t stonewall or criticize; instead, they collaborate, seize opportunities and try to create a better result for everyone concerned.”

Give the gift of loyalty. It’s the key ingredient to achieving success and fulfillment in life, say the authors. Practice discretion, stay steadfast in your loyalty and go above and beyond for others with no expectation of anything in return.

And keep smiling while working with difficult people. “The battles they seek and the conflicts they create aren’t really with you but with themselves. Remembering that makes it easier to view them with some level of compassion. And continuing to treat such a person with equanimity, despite the abuse he or she hands out, is a reflection of your own good character and integrity.”

We get to make a choice every day. We can choose to treat people well, poorly or with indifference. “If you’re optimistic enough to accept that treating people with kindness and respect will make them likely to do the same, then you’re already on the right path,” say Berman and Bernard.

So if you’re looking to hire a soon-to-be freshly minted PR grad who’s far along that path and will treat people well on behalf of you and your organization, I’d be more than happy to make an introduction.

Alana and Andrew Podcast

@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

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