Whether operating, washing or maintenance instructions – every item requires a specific  treatment, be it socks, underpants or the new pot for the kitchen. What makes  the information such „washing instructions“ give so valuable for daily business?

Normally I only read instructions of a new item if it seems too complicated or too valuable for “ let’s just use it „. Or if the object used reacts differently than what I had expected. For example, if the sweater has – surprisingly – run in. To put it plainly: I only read instructions to assure myself afterwards whether I am to blame myself, or whether I can put the „blame“ on the item. Even though I already had the information about what the object needs and what I could have done to keep it that way.

We humans also have such instructions. They are just neither written down nor printed on us. Too bad actually.

Because how helpful could it be if we knew in advance how our new employee, colleague or boss would like to be treated. What might be important to him or her and what we should or shouldn’t  do. We could specifically avoid points of friction.

We are not talking about information that Amazon, Google and others collect from us and that we could get from the net. It is about preferences, peculiarities, dislikes etc. which, if not seen and understood, can quickly lead to ”spanners in the works”.

Now I could say: „It is understood that I treat my counterpart respectfully and in a friendly and polite manner. That suits everyone.“ But do I really know what „respect, kindness and politeness“ mean to my counterpart?

To my neighbour in the office „respect“ may mean that he prefers to be left completely alone until 10 a.m. and that every friendly „Good morning“ and „Hey, how are things today?”would put him off track.

And to the colleague I share the office with, „respect“ could mean that I ask before opening the window for ventilation and that I thank her for filling up the printer paper of the shared printer.

Is it possible to know these things without me actually knowing the other person? Not really. I usually only find out when the other person „reacts differently than expected“ and if living together no longer functions smoothly. For an item I would and could now consult the usual search engines, forums and instructions. But what about my counterpart? Asking might help. And while I’m at it – why don’t I also ask myself so that I can give my „washing instructions“ to others?

These questions can be helpful:

  1. What do I need to function well when being with others?
  2. What is an absolute „No Go“ for me?
  3. Do I have any peculiarities that could lead to irritation? (Examples: „When I look concentrated, others sometimes think that I am angry“ or „I am really approachable only  after the 2nd coffee.“)

It always makes sense to talk about it, even with long-standing colleagues and acquaintances, with family members or one’s own partner.
Because it may just be that there is an even better way to wash your „favourite jeans“ (i.e. colleagues, friends, partners, etc.) since years, in a.

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