At the basic level of each business, below the structure of CEOs, directors, departments and managers, are employees. They are people just like you and me. To function well with them, requires a certain level of people skills. If you possess well-developed people skills, you have an advantage over your peers at every level. And if you don’t have them, well, you can develop them.
Being people friendly helped me get the position
I have been working in one of the most technical industries [IT] for over 12 years. I’ve observed and experienced firsthand how being able to deal competently with people gives you an edge. I’ve also spent the last few years deliberately improving my life. One aspect of this process has been overcoming my shyness. And overall, this has improved my self-esteem and self-confidence.
When I had a job interview in July 2015, I was a different person than in 2010 when I got my previous position. With my improved set of interpersonal skills I was able to navigate the recruitment process more effectively. My professional skills had not improved as much in the past five years, but I was able to impress my new employer with my new found self-confidence. I was hired for a team leader position even though I had no relevant experience.
This is the natural order of things. A job interview is a process too condensed for anyone to be able to check your knowledge thoroughly, especially when someone is hired for a technical position. Also, people from HR departments always have a say in the hiring process. For them, it’s important how a candidate behaves; how firm is his handshake, does he smile, was he on time and other such small but relevant details.
These assessments, and other, similar nuances during an interview have very little to do with how the new employee will handle his technical duties. You can learn from my experience: your people skills will multiply your technical skills and experience during the hiring process. This means that even if your technical skills are just ‘average’, you may make a better impression during a job interview than an introverted ‘expert’ who clearly feels uncomfortable in such situations. I can imagine that the importance of people skills only increases when it comes to non-technical positions.
But getting hired is only the opening of a door. Once employed, you show yourself to be a better worker, if your communication skills are better. Your people skills determine in a big way your chances for career advancement and a salary raise. Compared to an introverted genius, you simply know how to show up on the radar of your managers and how to conduct a conversation with them about a salary raise when the right time comes.
Here’s a handful of the most impactful people skills
So many people have trouble with this basic human communication tool. Introverts—roughly half the population—like to be left alone. The other half of the population loves the sound of their voice all too much.
The most important conversation subskill is active listening: asking questions and listening to answers, instead of preparing your own lines while paying little attention to what the opposite person in saying. It’s great for introverts, because it’s less taxing for them. It’s beneficial for extroverts who tend to talk too much and think too little about the viewpoints being expressed by others. Conversation skills can be developed. Are you a shrinking violet [like I was a few years back]? Then begin by making eye contact and smiling at others.
This skill is part of not only business life, but social life in general. You can bully your kids a few times into doing household chores, but it is so much better to negotiate some ‘deal’ with them.
I restrict my teenagers’ time in front of the computer; their machines are password protected. They know that they have to keep order in their rooms, help with chores and do their schoolwork. I’ll only type in the password once they have contributed as we’ve agreed.
Many times there is no clear “something for something” situation, but you need the final output nonetheless. Persuasion is also a universal tool, for work, business and family life. People work much better when they are convinced they’ve chosen their path themselves and were not forced into it. A leader needs sometimes to exercise persuasion, but not manipulation. There is a thin line between the two and it takes empathy and emotional intelligence to recognize on which side you stand. A manager isn’t effective without being a leader as well. It takes so much less effort when people follow you willingly, instead of waiting to be coerced into action
Speaking of “working better,” do you know the number one motivating factor for employees? It’s appreciation of their work.
The same goes with parenting. I know all too well, that physical and social evolution has primed me to search for my children’s faults and correct their ways. It was natural in prehistoric times, when humans lived in caves and dangers were all around. If you didn’t protect kids from their mistakes, their errors could prove fatal to them. So pointing out their mistakes comes naturally to us. However, praising and appreciating them may require a conscious effort. This applies are work place too. Look for the good things in people and communicate it to them.
This is a private and internal quality, yet simultaneously it is the ultimate people skill that binds all the others. Integrity breeds trust. When people trust you, arguments are fewer, persuasion is easier and when you praise them, they know you mean it. Integrity is saying what you think, and doing what you say. It’s very easy to start cultivating it, even if you have zero inclination to be social. You don’t need to reach out to others, either; integrity starts in your own bubble.
Keep your promises, especially those made to yourself. Let your actions follow your declarations. You don’t need to toot your own horn; people notice integrity when it shows up.
If you want to develop people skills, start studying them. And then dedicate yourself to practice.
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