A group of people sit at a table together, talking

By: Kim Setzer

When searching for the definition of literacy, I did what my 11-year-old son would do, I asked, “hey Siri, define literacy.” Siri told me that literacy is the ability to read and write. Siri might as well have been my schoolmate when I was growing up, because when I went to school it seemed as though the focus was only on reading, writing & arithmetic.

Spelling bee’s, read-a-thons and of course, memorization of the good ol’ times tables consumed my school days. It’s no wonder that as an adult entering into the literacy field, I was surprised to see that engaging with others was a core competency of the Ontario Adult Literacy Curriculum Framework (OALCF). I’d never considered my ability to work with others as a form of literacy. But now as I reflect, this makes absolute sense. Oxford defines literacy as, “competence or knowledge in a specified area”.

The ability to work well with others is an important skill.

Unless you plan on living in a cave by yourself for the rest of your life, you’re bound to have to work with someone at some point. Your success at school, work, with family and friends really does rely on your ability to engage with others.

Think back to a time when you had to work with someone who might have had the bad habit of always interrupting you. What about that person who’s always late, or arrives to your potluck dinner without the pie that they promised to bring? And of course, who could forget that person who erupts like a volcano every time they don’t get their way. Totally frustrating, right?

Based on these experiences, we know what not engaging well with others looks like. So, what does the OALCF consider when building skills in this area?

Some of the things you should consider when building people skills include:

Understand your and other’s roles

Whether it’s who will take out the garbage or who will walk the dog, there is less tension or chance of conflict when everyone knows what is expected of them.

Take responsibility for your part

If it’s your job to take out the garbage, what are you waiting for? Don’t leave it for someone else.

When we follow through on our commitments, others learn that we can be relied upon. This is especially important if there is a deadline that needs to be met.

Listen and accept other viewpoints

Ok, I know this one can be difficult at times. I’m not suggesting you change your viewpoint; I’m suggesting you take the time to listen. Sometimes the most bizarre option can trigger another person to come up with the perfect solution.

Help to resolve disagreements

Working with difficult people can be challenging. Stay calm. The ability to manage your emotions while others are having the equivalent of a toddler tantrum will help get you through it. Don’t react or mimic their behaviour. Ultimately, that’s just adding fuel to the fire.

Take a step back.

 If you are angry, frustrated or overall, emotionally charged it’s best to take some time to regroup. Time away from the situation will allow you to consider an approach which will lead to a better outcome.

Don’t take it personally.

Often, we feel responsible for other’s reactions. Stop and consider the possibility that the person’s mood has nothing to do with you. They may have received bad news about a relative or perhaps they are feeling pressured to meet a tight deadline.

It’s easy to see how one’s competence in the area of engaging with others directly impacts their opportunity for success. Literacy is not just about reading, writing, and numeracy, it’s also about working on our emotional intelligence. Sharpening our collaboration and conflict resolution skills in order to meet both personal and professional goals.