- 7 Ways to Sharpen Your People Skills
- Part 1: Signaling that you’re friendly and open for interaction
- 1. Make eye contact and smile
- 2. Relax your face
- 3. Make light conversation
- 4. Seek out social situations rather than avoiding them
- Part 2: Making conversation
- 1. Use your surroundings as inspiration to come up with things to say.
- 2. Talk about F.O.R.D.-topics. Avoid R.A.P.E.-topics
- 3. Ask people you’ve met before about something you last talked about
- Part 3: Connecting with people
- 2. Be supportive and give compliments
- 3. Be positive
- 4. Listen closely rather than just waiting for your turn to talk
- 5. Show that you listen
- 6. Know that people are full of insecurities
- 7. Gradually share things about yourself and ask personal questions
- 8. Let people get to know you, your thoughts, and your personality
- 9. Observe others in social situations
- 10. Read a book on people skills
- 42 Ways to Make Sure People Like You—and Respect You
- 1. Do Your Job and Do It Well
- 2. Never Be Late or Miss a Deadline
- 3. Dress Up (the Right Amount)
- 4. Treat Everyone With Respect
- 5. Make Friends With the Right People
- 6. Be a Connector
- 7. Invite People Along
- 8. Use “I” Less
- 9. Ask for Help
- 10. Take Something Off a Colleague’s Plate
- 11. Listen—Really Listen
- 12. Ask People “How Are You?”
- 13. Remember Things About People
- 14. Own Up to Your Mistakes
- 15. …And Then Explain How You’re Going to Fix Them
- 16. Seek Out Feedback
- 17. Give Feedback, Too!
- 18. Never Say “It’s Not My Job”
- 19. Anticipate Needs
- 20. Do Small Nice Things for People
- 21. Say “No” More Often
- 22. Have an Opinion
- 23. Respect Other Viewpoints
- 24. Speak Up
- 25. Avoid the Gossip Mill
- 26. Never Waste Anyone’s Time
- 27. Make Your Meetings Worthwhile
- 28. Figure it Out Yourself
- 29. Never Say “I Don’t Know”
- 30. Become a Stellar Public Speaker
- 31. Work on Communicating Both Warmth and Authority
- 32. Have Clear Work-Life Boundaries
- 33. Don’t Leave Right at 5 PM
- 34. Learn Your Colleagues’ Working Preferences—and Follow Them
- 35. Be a Teacher
- 36. Be a Mentor
- 37. Help Out Newbies
- 38. Champion Your Employees
- 39. Manage Upward
- 40. Don’t Complain
- 41. Get Out in the World
- 42. Question Yourself
- The 16 Most Important Customer Service Skills
- 1. Patience
- 2. Attentiveness
- 3. Ability to communicate clearly
- 4. Knowledge of the product
- 5. Ability to use positive language
- 6. Acting skills
- 7. Time management skills
- 8. Ability to read customers
- 9. Unflappability
- 10. Goal-oriented focus
- 11. Ability to handle surprises
- 12. Persuasion skills
- 13. Tenacity
- 14. Closing ability
- 15. Empathy
- 16. Willingness to learn
- How to Improve Your People Skills With This One Quality
- What are People Skills?
- How to Improve People Skills By Mastering Charm
- 1) Acceptance
- 2) Appreciation
- 3) Approval
- 4) Admiration
- 5) Attention
- How Good Are Your People Skills?
- 10 Simple Ways To Improve Your People Skills
- Make eye contact.
- Remember names, and use them frequently.
- Compliment, and mean it.
- Listen intently.
- Ask questions.
- Focus less on “I” and more on “You.”
- Watch your body language.
- Don’t argue or be aggressive.
- Leave on a good note.
- 10 Essential People Skills You Need to Succeed
- Four tips for improving your people skills
- 11 Cheap Online Classes You Can Take to Improve Your Interpersonal Skills
- 1. Soft Skills: The 11 Essential Career Soft Skills
- 2. Coaching Skills for Managers
- 3. Build Authentic Relationships Using Emotional Intelligence
- 4. Leading With Emotional Intelligence
- 5. Developing Interpersonal Communication Skills for Work
- 6. Decision Making: Solve Problems With Emotional Intelligence
- 7. Working With Upset Customers
- 8. Conversation and Communication Mastery
- 9. Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills
- 10. How to Win Arguments by Not Arguing
- 11. Inclusive Leadership Training: Becoming a Successful Leader
7 Ways to Sharpen Your People Skills
2. Resolve Conflict in a Positive Way
Be it at work or at home, a certain amount of conflict is unavoidable in any relationship.
Try these three ways to improve your people skills and resolve conflict in a positive way:
- Focus on the present. Holding onto old hurts or grudges makes it hard to move forward and build a better future.
- Think about respecting the other person, not controlling them. “The goal is to adapt to situations and people, not impose yourself on them. You can show respect for other people’s opinions without agreeing with them,” Mandel notes.
- Focus on compromise rather than on winning or losing. “In a constructive conflict the goal is to aim for an equitable compromise. There are no winners or losers,” says Mandel.
3. Learn to Listen to Others
Talking is simple; real communication requires good listening skills.
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Practice these tips to become a better listener:
- Pay attention to inflection. “Research shows the vast majority of communication occurs at the non-verbal level,” advises Roeder. “Pay attention to not only what people are saying, but also how they are saying it.”
- Take time to really listen before you respond. When others are speaking, instead of actually listening to them, many people are concentrating on what they plan to say next. Doing this can cause you to miss key elements of the other person’s point and results in a lack of true communication. Take the time to be patient and simply listen before launching into your own point of view.
- Don’t interrupt. “Let the other person speak without interrupting. Focusing on what another person is saying and making eye contact helps us truly understand what is meaningful,” notes Mandel.
4. Ask for Feedback
When you take a moment to ask for feedback, you communicate better and you are more likely to hear and share ideas.
Understand why feedback is important:
- No one likes to be preached to. People don’t want to feel like they are hearing a lecture. By asking for feedback and other people’s opinions on a matter, you show that you are willing to hear and explore other points of view.
- Interpretation counts. What one person says and what another person hears are often two strikingly different things. Taking time to ask for feedback such as “Do you understand what I mean?” or “How would you have handled that situation?” is a good way to see if you are communicating effectively.
- Maintaining a positive attitude makes understanding easier. Asking for feedback shows that you have a confident and positive attitude. “People gravitate to positive people because good moods are contagious,” says Mandel.
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5. Respect and Be Aware of Cultural Differences
We learn most of our people skills from our parents and others in our community. When communicating with someone from a different culture, however, it is important to acknowledge cultural differences.
Try these approaches to ease communication:
- Understand eye contact. In our culture, direct eye contact often indicates sincerity while in another culture it could be considered rude.
- Expect some misunderstanding. In cross-cultural communication, it is best to go slowly and step back instead of getting frustrated. In our culture we like to get to the point. In other cultures it may be important to establish rapport before discussing potentially controversial issues. Keeping these differences in mind can minimize your frustration if and when you encounter any snags in communication.
- Get some help. To foster improved communication, it can be helpful to rely on an intermediary who understands both cultures.
6. Seek out New People
Meeting new people can enhance your creativity, help broaden your perspective on life, and improve your emotional intelligence. Remember these people skills when meeting someone new:
- Use body language. Pay attention to non-verbal communication cues such as good posture, appropriate eye contact, and friendly gestures.
- Listen up. Rely on good communication and listening skills. Truly get to know people by allowing them to express themselves without immediately interrupting with your own ideas.
- Be aware of the situation around you. “That includes awareness of yourself, awareness of others, and awareness of the situational context within which the relationship is occurring,” says Roeder. Keeping external factors in mind, such as potential stressors and distractions, can make it easier to help navigate new situations with people you don’t know very well.
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7. Maintain Relationships
Healthy relationships boost your confidence and make your life more rewarding. Here are some final thoughts on people skills that promote good relationships:
- Take the time to be aware of the important people and relationships in your life. “People are more intuitive when they have the time to be intuitive,” notes Roeder. “In other words, if you are constantly running from one meeting to the next you may be missing important clues in how to get along with others.”
- In order to respect others you must respect yourself. “Self-respect means knowing what you uniquely bring to the table. When you feel good about yourself, you will be positive and affirming to others,” says Mandel.
- Have the right attitude. The emotional intelligence needed to maintain relationships is more than just people skills. It also involves having the right attitude. This includes expecting challenges along the way, keeping things in perspective, having a sense of humor, and not taking yourself too seriously.
Practice even some of these skills and you may be surprised by the results.
I used to see others connect and make new contacts with ease, while I felt stiff and clueless around people.
Still, I knew how important people skills were, both at work and in personal life. I committed to becoming good at it. A degree in psychology and years of training later, this is what I’ve learned.
- Signaling that you’re friendly and open for interaction
- Making conversation
- Connecting with people
Part 1: Signaling that you’re friendly and open for interaction
Most people are insecure. If you look unapproachable, they won’t dare to come up to you and be friendly first. If we want to be more social, it’s our responsibility to come off as approachable.
1. Make eye contact and smile
Before I say a word to someone new, I make eye contact and give them a natural smile. It’s not a full grin, just a gentle smile that lifts the corners of my mouth and produces subtle crow’s feet near my eyes. Making eye contact and smiling shows that I’m friendly and open to conversation.
2. Relax your face
Facial expressions are the signals that tell others how we’re feeling. When I meet new people I try to have an open, neutral expression. However, when I’m nervous my face can tense up and I start frowning. It’s also jokingly described as RBF (Resting Bitch Face, which can happen to both genders by the way). To combat this, I relax my jaw and make sure that I don’t lower my eyebrows. This lessens the wrinkle between my brows and stops me from looking angry. Instant open expression!
Another trick is to in your mind see any new person as an old friend. When you do, your body language should follow automatically.
3. Make light conversation
Make some small talk, even if you don’t feel like it. I saw small talk as pointless, but it does have a purpose: It signals that you’re a friendly person and it’s a warm-up for more in-depth conversation in the future. It makes a big difference to say something simple like “What are you up to today?” or “How was your weekend?”.
Here’s more detailed advice on how to start a conversation.
I know how uncomfortable social situations can feel. But to improve our people skills, we want to get exposure to those situations. Putting yourself in social situations (even if you don’t feel like it) is an effective way to improve your people skills.
Join the others in the lunchroom at work. Say yes to social invites. Make small talk at the water boiler.
To me, an important realization was to see those moments as my training ground for being better socially in the future. That took the pressure off me to perform in each given social situation – it was just practice anyway.
Part 2: Making conversation
So you’ve said ‘Hi’ and started a conversation about a topic you like with a new person. How do you keep it going?
1. Use your surroundings as inspiration to come up with things to say.
Quick positive comments about the things around you are great at keeping conversations going.
If you’re out walking and say “wow, cool architecture,” that can look like a mundane statement. But simple comments like those can lead to interesting new topics. Perhaps it leads the conversation into architecture, design, or what your dream house would look like.
2. Talk about F.O.R.D.-topics. Avoid R.A.P.E.-topics
F.O.R.D. topics are Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Dreams. These topics help you get to know each other and form a connection.
R.A.P.E. topics are Religion, Abortion, Politics, and Economics. Personally, I think these topics can be interesting to talk about in a non-argumentative way with people you know well in the right settings. However, avoid them in light-hearted situations and with people that you don’t know well.
3. Ask people you’ve met before about something you last talked about
If you meet a colleague after the weekend, is there something natural to bring up from the last time you spoke?
Examples of bringing up past topics:
- “Did you go on that weekend trip?”
- “Did your cold get better?”
- “Were you able to wind down despite that server problem?”
This shows that you listen and care. What was just small talk the last time you spoke now became more meaningful as you paid attention and remembered.
Part 3: Connecting with people
Building rapport is about sensing what someone’s like and being able to act in a way that’s appropriate to the situation. When two people have rapport, it’s easier for them to trust and like each other. Here’s a summary of what rapport is from Mindtools:
- Check Your Appearance: Make sure you look good and your clothes are appropriate for the situation. If you’re under- or overdressed, it can create a subconscious feeling in people that you’re not part of their group.
- Remember the Basics of Social Interaction: Smile, relax, use a good posture, talk about appropriate topics.
- Find Common Ground: Show genuine interest in your friend and you can discover things you have in common i.e. you attended the same school, you grew up in the same city or you support the same sport/team.
- Create Shared Experiences: To create rapport you need to interact with someone. This can happen when you work on a project together, grab a coffee or attend a class or conference together.
- Be empathetic: Being empathetic is demonstrating that you understand someone’s emotions when you see something from their perspective. To better understand someone, try asking them questions to learn how they think. Open-ended questions are best because they allow the speaker to fill in the details about how they feel when they answer.
Note: To keep the conversation balanced it’s a good idea to also share your thoughts with your partner on the topic. That will create a shared connection on the topic and avoid the feeling that it is an interview.
- Mirror and Match Mannerisms and Speech: If your friend is calm and you’re energetic, see if you can calm yourself down and meet their calmness. If they are being positive, you want to meet them in that positivity and not drag them down. Likewise, if someone’s sad or devastated, meet them in that sadness before you try to cheer them up. It’s not about imitating people in a mocking way: It’s about meeting them on their level.
Read our guide on how to build rapport here.
2. Be supportive and give compliments
Pay attention to things that you think people are doing well, even if it’s just the effort of doing it, and praise them for it. Everyone appreciates kindness and support. By giving sincere compliments, it changes your relationship from professional acquaintances to something more human – you’re building a relationship.
3. Be positive
Have a generally positive outlook on life when you talk to people. It can be easy to seek contact by complaining about something or being negative in general. However, studies show that too much negativity can hurt our friendships. In my experience, negative people only make friends with other negative people. It’s not about being overly positive or fake. It’s about not making negativity a habit.
Try to be open and accepting of others and they will more than likely do the same for you. Be genuine. Find things you like about others and tell them. They will appreciate the thought and will dare to act in the same way toward you.
4. Listen closely rather than just waiting for your turn to talk
Some are preoccupied thinking about what to say next as soon as someone else is talking. When they do, they miss out on the details of what someone says. Be fully focused when someone’s talking. It will shine through, and you will stand out as someone who really listens.
Ironically, it’s easier to come up with things to say when you fully focus on something. Just like when you get intrigued by paying close attention to a movie you really like, you’ll get more intrigued by conversations by paying close attention to them. When you listen closely it’s also easier to come up with questions and share related experiences.
5. Show that you listen
Listening well is a skill. Showing that you listen is just as important. That’s when you listen to your partner and SHOW that you listen.
You do that by looking directly at the speaker, make listening sounds like “Uhm, hmm” when appropriate and laughing or reacting to what they are saying. It’s not about over-doing it or faking it. It’s about being immersed in what they say and showing it by giving authentic feedback. Show that you listen in one-on-one conversations, and in groups too. This is an effective way to be part of a group conversation even if you aren’t actively talking.
6. Know that people are full of insecurities
Even the most confident looking people aren’t confident about everything. In fact, everyone has insecurities. Look at this diagram, for example:
Knowing this helps us understand that we need to be warm and friendly for others to dare to open up and be friendly back.
The reverse is true as well: If you are critical and dismissive of others they will assume you dislike them and they will treat you in kind.
For two people to get to know each other, they need to know things about each other. The secret to connecting is to, over time, switch from small talk to more personal topics.
Here’s how to do it: If you start out talking about the weather, you can mention that you love the fall and ask them about their favorite season. Now, you no longer talk about the weather, but you’re slowly getting to know each other.
Getting to know people is about being curious and learning about others while also getting to share stories about yourself.
8. Let people get to know you, your thoughts, and your personality
Getting to know people is an exchange. It’s true that everyone loves to talk about themselves, but if the questions are only one-sided it can start to feel like an interrogation. When we share slightly personal things about each other we bond faster.
If someone asks you what you did on the weekend you could say, “I’m taking a class to learn Japanese” or “I just finished a book about World War II.” These phrases tell your partner what you’re interested in and open up bigger topics that you may have in common. If the conversation peters out just try a new topic, or go back to an old one that seemed to be more relevant to you both.
This is the masterclass to learn how to be more socially savvy:
We all know someone who is great at talking with others and who sparks a social event just by arriving. What is it about them that makes them thrive in social situations?
When you meet someone who lights up a room with their presence, take a moment to see how they do it.
Here’s what I’ve learned from analyzing people with social skills:
- They are authentic: Meaning, they’re not trying to play a role of someone else.
- They show that they like the people who are there (both existing friends and strangers).
- They engage in what’s happening, ask questions, make comments, listen and learn.
- They show confidence, dare to walk up to people, and maintain eye contact.
Analyze those around you, and you might find out one or two things you can use later.
10. Read a book on people skills
Like reading this article, doing some research on the topic that you want to know more about and improve is a good thing. Here’s our list of the best books on social skills, ranked and reviewed.
These are my top 3 recommendations on that list:
- How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
- The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism – Olivia Fox Cabane
- The Social Skills Guidebook: Manage Shyness, Improve Your Conversations, and Make Friends, Without Giving Up Who You Are – Chris MacLeod
42 Ways to Make Sure People Like You—and Respect You
We all want to be liked, yes. But—perhaps more importantly in the workplace—we all want to be respected.
Respect is so important when it comes to your career development. It comes into play when the higher-ups are considering your ideas, when they’re choosing people to participate in projects, and—yes—when they’re thinking about who’s getting promotions or raises.
But too often people associate earning respect with, well, not being very nice. We’re here to tell you that’s not often the right approach. Instead, try some of the ways below that you can make sure your colleagues like and respect you. You’ll be on your way to being seen as a leader in no time.
1. Do Your Job and Do It Well
The most basic way to get respect? Don’t spend your time worrying about getting respect, and instead spend that time doing your job really, really well. Get a reputation for being really good at what you do, and word will surely get around. As career expert Jennifer Winter explains, “It’s hard to ignore results, and when you’re striving for the respect of your colleagues, one of the best things you can do is show you’ve got the right stuff.”
2. Never Be Late or Miss a Deadline
Along similar lines, get a reputation for being incredibly dependable. That means, any promise you make—be it a date to finish a project, an appointment, or anything else—you keep.
3. Dress Up (the Right Amount)
You know the whole “dress for the job you want” spiel? While, yes, you should dress a little nicer than you’re expected to, don’t dress up so much that you look out of place or like you don’t fit into the culture. So if your company has a casual dress code? Avoid the sweats, but avoid the suit, too.
4. Treat Everyone With Respect
In order to get respect, you have to give it—and not just to the higher-ups. People will pick up if you’re nice to the bosses but mean to the receptionist or delivery guy, and think you’re a brown-noser rather than a genuinely good person. Aim for the latter.
5. Make Friends With the Right People
Seek out relationships with others in your organization who are well-respected and well-liked. And we’re not just talking about higher-ups here—think anyone who has a great reputation around the office.
6. Be a Connector
Know someone at another company who may be able to help with a problem a co-worker is facing, a friend who may be a great sales lead, or anyone else who you think could move the company forward? Introduce them! Doing this shows off that you have an impressive network—but also that you’re willing to share it in order to help others.
7. Invite People Along
If you got an invite to a snazzy event or are planning on networking after work one day, consider inviting along someone from work who you think might enjoy it. She’ll be thrilled you thought of her, and you’ll get a chance to get to know one of your colleagues a little better.
8. Use “I” Less
Studies have shown that people tend to use the word “I” more frequently when communicating with people they feel are more powerful than them. Want to level the playing field? Monitor your use of “I.” The people you’re speaking with will view you as more powerful without ever knowing why.
9. Ask for Help
While many people may think asking for help hints that you don’t know what you’re doing—earning you less respect—it can actually work in your favor in several ways (if done right). First, it shows the person you’re asking that you respect his or her opinion. Second, it will show that you’re productive enough not to waste tons of time trying to figure it out yourself. Finally, it shows that you care about your work (and your professional growth) enough to admit when you don’t know something—and then learn from it. For more on how to do this right, check out Winter’s advice.
10. Take Something Off a Colleague’s Plate
Have a little extra time? Ask your boss or another colleague if there’s anything you can help out with or take over for them. They’ll appreciate the lighter load, and your proactive willingness to help will not go unnoticed.
11. Listen—Really Listen
Nothing will make people lose respect for you quicker than if they feel like your focus is always somewhere else when they’re talking to you. So next time you’re in a conversation, make sure you’re really engaged. Adopt open body language, don’t let other things distract you, and ask validating or clarifying questions to show you’re paying attention. For more on upping your listening skills, check out career coach Lea McLeod’s advice.
12. Ask People “How Are You?”
Being all business all the time won’t make you very well liked. So take the time to ask people about their lives as well! You’d be amazed how good a simple “How are you?” can make someone feel.
13. Remember Things About People
Taking note of small details about people—their spouse and kid’s names, what they’re doing over the weekend, their hobbies, where they’re planning to vacation, and the like—and then asking them questions about those things or referencing them in conversation can be a surefire way to up your brownie points. It shows that you really listed, took the time to remember, and overall care about them as people. Have a terrible memory? Try Muse COO and productivity expert Alex Cavoulacos’ trick for remembering anything about anyone.
14. Own Up to Your Mistakes
Explains Winter: “I know, it sounds a bit counterintuitive, given you want your clients to think you’re a genius, but trust me: They know nobody is perfect. In fact, your clients will probably get a bit suspicious if you never, ever, make a single mistake. Admitting when you do, however, shows them you’re confident (and humble) enough to face the music. In my experience, that’s a trait most people respect.” (Hint: This applies to your boss and co-workers, too!)
15. …And Then Explain How You’re Going to Fix Them
That being said, simply saying you messed up and then not doing anything about it isn’t going to garner you much respect. Instead, when you ’fess up, make sure to come with a plan for how you’re going to fix things. And if you’re not sure what to do? Try to at least come up with a few options and then ask the person you’re talking to for his or her thoughts on the best course of action (see point #9).
16. Seek Out Feedback
Show that you know you’re not perfect and are constantly looking to improve and grow yourself by regularly seeking out feedback from everyone around you. And this isn’t just something for your annual performance review: Try setting up monthly meetings with your boss, team members, and even direct reports where you can solicit open and honest feedback from them about what you can be doing better.
17. Give Feedback, Too!
It doesn’t hurt to dole out some feedback from time to time, too. Obviously, you don’t want to become the office critic, but giving colleagues the occasional dose of constructive criticism shows that you’re committed to helping everyone around you grow and be the best professionals they can be. Here are a few tips on how to give this advice without seeming like a jerk.
18. Never Say “It’s Not My Job”
Notice the trash is overflowing? Take it out. See your colleague struggling to carry all the stuff for the conference booth? Grab a bag. Showing that you’re willing to pitch in on small things—even if they’re not part of your job description and may be beneath your capabilities—shows that you don’t think too highly of yourself and that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to help the company succeed. And that’s something that people can respect.
19. Anticipate Needs
“‘I’ve actually already started on that’ is music to your manager’s ears,” explains Muse career expert Katie Douthwaite, “It means that instead of waiting for him or her to ask you to do something, you’ve already thought of it and taken action.” You obviously can’t anticipate everything, but thinking of things your boss commonly asks for or that will make his or her life way easier is a good place to start.
20. Do Small Nice Things for People
Whether it’s grabbing an extra coffee on your way to work for your boss (or your intern!) or getting some flowers for your colleague’s desk when you know she’s had a rough day, small gestures like this can speak wonders to your character.
21. Say “No” More Often
Really! While you may think jumping at every opportunity is the way to gain more respect, the opposite is actually more often true—especially when you don’t have time to do what you’re being asked to do right. “When you become known for having the guts to speak your mind, put a stake in the ground for the sake of everyone’s success and find better ways to navigate the rough waters, you’ll land as a person people respect, a leader,” explain leadership trainers Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin. So when you don’t have time, show that you respect your time and the quality of your work too much to agree. Other people will follow suit. Nervous to say it? Try these strategies for turning people down nicely.
22. Have an Opinion
Agreeing with everything everybody says won’t make people think of you as a leader. Instead, have a well-thought-out opinion on things, and don’t be afraid to bring it to the table. Whether it’s an idea about a new product or service or a thought on how a process can work better, people will appreciate you thinking of ways to help the organization improve.
23. Respect Other Viewpoints
Caveat: Don’t dig your heels in the ground too much when it comes to your ideas. Instead, consider other people’s viewpoints, too, and be willing to compromise and work together to reach a solution that works for as many people as possible.
24. Speak Up
Nothing shows lack of confidence in yourself like mumbling. So speak up! PR professional Ashley Colbert explains, “To be taken seriously in a meeting, speak clearly, firmly, and loudly enough so that people can hear you. And avoid trailing off at the end of a sentence or using fluffy language like ‘I hope to have this done’ or ‘I think it will get results.’”
25. Avoid the Gossip Mill
If you’re known for regularly putting down other people, people will start thinking down on you. So don’t waste your time speculating about the lives of others. Instead, spend your time by the water cooler genuinely getting to know your colleagues—you’ll still be involved in the social side of the office, without tarnishing your reputation.
26. Never Waste Anyone’s Time
Get more respect by showing people you respect their valuable time. What does this mean? Don’t ask questions you can answer yourself, don’t plan meetings that you don’t need, and don’t take forever getting back to people. You get the idea.
27. Make Your Meetings Worthwhile
People are pretty skeptical of meetings, and so will likely think less of you if they think your meetings are a waste of time. Make sure you’re following the 21 unwritten rules of meetings to have meetings that people seriously find valuable.
28. Figure it Out Yourself
Instead of always running to your boss for help when faced with a problem, do everything you can to figure it out yourself. Even if you ultimately need approval before moving forward with a solution, it’s better to come to your manager with a plan for him or her to give an OK to than to come asking “what should we do?”
29. Never Say “I Don’t Know”
At least, not on its own. Simply saying “I don’t know” leaves the person asking you a question at a dead end and doesn’t make you seem very willing to help. Instead, offer to help figure it out, get more information, or direct him or her to the right person to help out. See leadership coach Jo Miller’s suggestions for better responses when you’re really not sure.
30. Become a Stellar Public Speaker
Learning to speak well will gain you respect in many ways. First, you’ll have the ability to present more confidently in meetings. Second, you’ll be comfortable speaking at industry events, giving you credit as a leader in your field. But finally, all this practice and training will give you a more powerful speaking presence even in day-to-day conversations.
31. Work on Communicating Both Warmth and Authority
Body language expert Amy Cuddy explains: “When we judge others—especially our leaders—we look first at two characteristics: how lovable they are (their warmth, communion, or trustworthiness) and how fearsome they are (their strength, agency, or competence).” This is a fine line to balance, but Miller has some ideas for how to do it.
32. Have Clear Work-Life Boundaries
People are likely to connect with you more if you understand the importance of not working all the time. So set clear work-life boundaries—and then stick to them! Whether it’s that you never check email on the weekends or you leave work by 6 to eat dinner with your family, if you’re upfront about your boundaries, people should respect them—and you.
33. Don’t Leave Right at 5 PM
That being said, don’t jet out of the office every day when the clock strikes five, especially if there’s work that really needs to get done. Have boundaries, but show that you’re willing to pull extra weight when it’s really important.
34. Learn Your Colleagues’ Working Preferences—and Follow Them
Have a chat with the people you work most closely with about how they work best, and find ways to help them achieve that. Maybe one prefers conversations to emails and will appreciate you coming over to her desk rather than sending a lengthy message. Maybe another needs quiet working time in the morning and will notice if you stop scheduling meetings during that time.
35. Be a Teacher
When a teammate or direct report is having trouble or does something wrong, instead of getting angry, get helpful. Walk him or her through how to do it. You’ll get better employees, and they’ll respect you for helping them grow.
36. Be a Mentor
Take junior employees under your wing—even if they don’t report to you—and help advise them on everything from company politics to career growth. Not only will the employees you’re advising gain more respect for you, but others will notice the gesture, too.
37. Help Out Newbies
When someone new joins the company, make sure to say hello and let him know you’re there if he has any questions or needs help—even if he’s not in your department. People all over the company will start seeing you as a leader in the company from day one.
38. Champion Your Employees
Have direct reports you’re proud of? Understand their goals—and do what’s in your power to help them achieve them! Whether that’s setting up a meeting with your boss because you know they want to grow at the company or helping them find opportunities to grow important skills, look for ways to help them succeed.
39. Manage Upward
By simply waiting around to be told what to do by your higher-ups, you seem like a follower—not a respectable leader. Instead, learn to tell your boss what you need to get your job done well. You’ll improve your performance and command your boss’ respect. Check out some tips for learning this elusive skill here.
40. Don’t Complain
Are you tired after a long day, and still have more to do? Are you sick of one menial task you seem to be stuck with? Never whine about it, at least not in the workplace. Having a positive attitude about your work is critical to making other people think highly of you. And if you really have a problem with something? See if you can come up with a proactive way to solve it.
41. Get Out in the World
People will hold you in higher regard if you don’t just do your job in a vacuum. So make sure to stay up with the latest and greatest in your industry. Go to events and conferences, and report back on what you learned. Get meetings with experts, and maybe even bring them in to talk to your team. Read relevant articles and share them around to help others.
42. Question Yourself
Great leaders are good at self-reflection. Check on yourself regularly with questions like these and always be looking for ways to be better.
The 16 Most Important Customer Service Skills
In lists of customer service skills, things like “being a people person” often take the spotlight.
But being a people person isn’t a skill — it’s a trait — so it’s not really actionable advice. You can’t develop the skill of being a people person, nor can you observe whether or not someone is a people person in an interview.
So to put together our list, we asked two questions: What skills can customer service professionals develop to get better at their jobs, and what skills can leaders look for during interviews to make sure they’re hiring the right people? The result: a list of skills — not traits — that are both developable and observable.
Here are the 16 customer service skills that are necessary for success in this key role.
Patience is crucial for customer service professionals. After all, customers who reach out to support are often confused and frustrated. Being listened to and handled with patience goes a long way in helping customers feel like you’re going to alleviate their current frustrations.
But patience among customer service teams is also important to the business at large because great service beats fast service every single time. It’s not enough to close out interactions with customers as quickly as possible. You have to be willing to take the time to listen and fully understand each customer’s problems and needs.
If you deal with customers on a daily basis, be sure to stay patient when they come to you stumped and frustrated, but also be sure to take the time to truly figure out what they truly need.
The ability to truly listen to customers is crucial to providing great service for a number of reasons. Not only is it important to pay attention to individual customers’ experiences, but it’s also important to be mindful and attentive to the feedback that you receive at large.
For instance, customers may not be saying it outright, but perhaps there is a pervasive feeling that your software’s dashboard isn’t laid out correctly. Customers aren’t likely to say, “Please improve your UX,” but they may say things like, “I can never find the search feature” or “Where is the _____ function, again?”
You have to be attentive to pick up on what your customers are telling you without directly saying it.
3. Ability to communicate clearly
It’s important to be mindful of how some of your communication habits translate to customers, and it’s best to err on the side of caution whenever you find yourself questioning a situation.
More importantly, you need to be cautious about how some of your communication habits translate to customers, and it’s best to err on the side of caution whenever you find yourself questioning a situation.
An example: The last time I went to get work done on my car, I was told by an employee that if I wanted to get an oil change, it would be “included” in my final bill.
I thought that meant I’d be getting it for free, yet as it turns out, that wasn’t the case. The employee apologized — and I truly believe it was an accident — but I haven’t been back to that shop since because of the miscommunication.
When it comes to important points that you need to relay clearly to customers, keep it simple and leave nothing to doubt.
Free PDF: How to Talk to Your Customers
Communicating with customers is an art, a science … and a competitive differentiator. Get your own free copy of this comprehensive guide to talking with customers.
4. Knowledge of the product
The best customer service professionals have a deep knowledge of how their companies’ products work. After all, without knowing your product from front to back, you won’t know how to help customers when they run into problems.
Take the time to get to know your company’s product as well as a customer who uses it every day does. Every new Help Scout employee, for example, is trained on customer support during their first or second week on the job — it’s a critical component of our employee onboarding process.
Knowing the product that you support inside and out is mission critical for anyone in support,” says Help Scout support team member Elyse Roach. “Having that solid product foundation not only ensures you’ve got the best tricks up your sleeve to help customers navigate even the most complex situations, it also helps you build understanding about their experience so that you can become their strongest advocate.”
5. Ability to use positive language
Effective customer service means having the ability to make minor changes in your conversational patterns. This can truly go a long way in creating happy customers.
Language is a crucial part of persuasion, and people (especially customers) create perceptions about you and your company based on the language that you use.
For example, let’s say a customer contacts you with an interest in a particular product, but that product happens to be back-ordered until next month.
Responding to questions with positive language can greatly affect how the customer hears your response.
- Without positive language: “I can’t get you that product until next month; it is back-ordered and unavailable at this time.”
- With positive language: “That product will be available next month. I can place the order for you right now and make sure that it is sent to you as soon as it reaches our warehouse.”
The first example isn’t negative per se, but the tone it conveys feels abrupt and impersonal and could be taken the wrong way by customers — especially in email support when the perception of written language can skew negative.
Conversely, the second example is stating the same thing (the item is unavailable), but it focuses on when and how the issue will be resolved instead of focusing on the negative.
6. Acting skills
Sometimes you’re going to come across people that you’ll never be able to make happy.
Situations outside of your control (they had a terrible day, or they are just a natural-born complainer) will sometimes creep into your usual support routine, and you’ll be greeted with those “barnacle” customers that seem to want nothing else but to pull you down.
Every great customer service professional needs basic acting skills to maintain their usual cheery persona in spite of dealing with people who are just plain grumpy.
Related: How to Deal with Difficult Customers
7. Time management skills
On the one hand, it’s good to be patient and spend a little extra time with customers to understand their problems and needs. On the other hand, there is a limit to the amount of time you can dedicate to each customer, so you need to be concerned with getting customers what they want in an efficient manner.
The trick here is applying your time management skills when realizing when you simply cannot help a customer. If you don’t know the solution to a problem, the best kind of support professional will get a customer over to someone who does.
Don’t waste time trying to go above and beyond for a customer in an area where you will just end up wasting both of your time!
8. Ability to read customers
You won’t always be able to see customers face-to-face, and in many instances, you won’t even hear a customer’s voice. But that doesn’t exempt you from understanding some basic principles of behavioral psychology and being able to read the customer’s current emotional state.
You don’t want to misread a customer and end up losing them due to confusion and miscommunication. As Emily Triplett Lentz wrote in Boost Customer Happiness with Exclamations and Emoticons:
“I rarely use a smiley face in a support email when the customer’s signature includes ‘PhD,’ for example — not that academics are humorless, just that ‘:)’ isn’t likely to get you taken seriously by someone who spent five years deconstructing utopian undertones in nineteenth-century autobiographical fiction.”
Look and listen for subtle clues about their current mood, patience level, personality, etc., and you’ll go far in keeping your customer interactions positive.
There are a lot of metaphors for this type of personality: “keeps their cool,” “staying cool under pressure,” and so on, but it all represents the same thing: the ability some people have to stay calm and even influence others when things get a little hectic.
I’ve had my fair share of hairy hosting situations, and I can tell you in all honesty that the #1 reason I stick with certain hosting companies is due to the ability of their customer support team to keep me from pulling my hair out.
The best customer service reps know that they can’t let a heated customer force them to lose their cool. In fact, it is their job to try to be the “rock” for customers who think the world is falling apart as a result of their current problems.
10. Goal-oriented focus
This may seem like a strange thing to list as a good customer service skill, but I assure you it’s vitally important.
In my article on empowering employees, I noted that many customer service experts have shown how giving employees unfettered power to “wow” customers doesn’t always generate the returns many businesses expect to see.
That’s because it leaves employees without goals, and business goals and customer happiness can work hand-in-hand without resulting in poor service.
Relying on frameworks like the Net Promoter Score can help businesses come up with guidelines for their employees that allow plenty of freedom to handle customers on a case-to-case basis, but also leave them priority solutions and “go-to” fixes for common problems.
11. Ability to handle surprises
Sometimes the customer support world is going to throw you a curveball.
Maybe the problem you encounter isn’t specifically covered in the company’s guidelines, or maybe the customer isn’t reacting how you thought they would.
Whatever the case, it’s best to be able to think on your feet … but it’s even better to create guidelines for yourself in these sorts of situations.
Let’s say, for instance, you want to come up with a quick system for when you come across a customer who has a product or service problem you’ve never seen before. You need to know:
- Who? Decide who should be your go-to person when you don’t know what to do. The CEO might be able to help you, but you can’t go to him/her with every single question. Define a logical escalation path so you won’t be left wondering who you should reach out to.
- What? When the problem is noticeably out of your league, what are you going to send to the people above? The full conversation, just the important parts, or maybe some highlights and an example of a similar conversation?
- How? When it comes time to get someone else involved, how are you going to contact them? For instance, at Help Scout we use our own product to assign conversations to another team member, or @mention the person from whom we need help in a note within the conversation.
Deliver great customer service with Help Scout.
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12. Persuasion skills
Experienced customer support personnel know that oftentimes, you’ll get messages in your inbox that are from people who aren’t looking for support; they’re considering purchasing your company’s product.
To truly take your customer service skills to the next level, you need to have some mastery of persuasion so you can convince interested prospects that your product is right for them (if it truly is).
It’s not about making a sales pitch in each email, but it is about not letting potential customers slip away because you couldn’t create a compelling message that your company’s product is worth purchasing!
Related: Customer Service Quotes Database — 500+ bits of wisdom to delight and inspire your team
Call it what you want, but a great work ethic and a willingness to do what needs to be done (and not take shortcuts) is a key skill when providing the kind of service that people talk about.
The most memorable customer service stories out there — many of which had a huge impact on the business — were created by a single employee who refused to just follow the standard process when it came to helping someone out.
Remembering that your customers are people too — and knowing that putting in the extra effort will come back to you ten-fold — should be your driving motivation to never cheat your customers with lazy service.
14. Closing ability
Being able to close with a customer as a customer service professional means being able to end the conversation with confirmed customer satisfaction (or as close to it as you can achieve) and with the customer feeling that everything has been taken care of (or will be).
Getting booted before all of their problems have been addressed is the last thing that customers want, so be sure to take the time to confirm with customers that each and every issue they had was entirely resolved.
Your willingness to do this shows the customer three very important things:
- You care about getting it right.
- You’re willing to keep going until you solve their problems.
- The customer is the one who determines what “right” is.
WYou know the conversation is over when you get a customer to “Yes, I’m all set!”
Perhaps empathy — the ability to understand and share the feelings of another — is more of a character trait than a skill. But since empathy can be learned and improved upon, we’d be remiss not to include it here. In fact, if your organization tests job applicants for customer service aptitude, you’d be hard pressed to look for a more critical skill than empathy.
That’s because even when you can’t tell the customer exactly what they want to hear, a dose of care, concern and understanding will go a long way. A support rep’s ability to empathize with a customer and craft a message that steers things toward a better outcome can often make all the difference.
16. Willingness to learn
While this is probably the most general skill on this list, it’s also one of the most important. After all, willingness to learn is the basis for growing your skills as a customer service professional.
You have to be willing to learn your product inside and out, willing to learn how to communicate better (and when you’re communicating poorly), willing to learn when it’s OK to follow a process and when it’s more appropriate to choose your own adventure.
Those who don’t seek to improve what they do — whether it’s building products, marketing businesses, or helping customers — will get left behind by the people who are willing to invest in their own skills.
The good news: if you came across this article and read all the way to the bottom, you likely already have this skill!
Which of the 16 customer service skills addressed above do you feel is most important? Are there any we missed? Let us know in the comments!
How to Improve Your People Skills With This One Quality
If you want to improve your people skills, one quality stands out as far more important than others.
Do you know what this quality is?
This quality is charm.
Charm is the ability to create extraordinary rapport with anyone, and make him or her feel truly exceptional in your presence.
You might think that you need to be born with charm, but although some people seem to come by it naturally, charm is something that you can learn.
No matter how skilled, smart, or experienced you may be, most of your ability to succeed at anything depends on your ability to win people over, to convince them, to charm them.
It is important to note that the deepest craving of human nature is the need to feel valued and valuable.
Therefore, the secret of charm and improving your people skills is to make others feel important.
The more important you make people feel in your presence the more charming they will perceive you to be.
In this video, I discuss the key to improving people skills:
Gain more self-confidence and become a more charming person. Click to download my free self-confidence assessment.
What are People Skills?
People skills are your ability to accept, appreciate, and admire others on a personal or professional level. Good people skills also extend to your ability to listen and empathize with others, as well as work towards common goals with others.
How to Improve People Skills By Mastering Charm
There are what I like to call, the 5 A’s to mastering charm. Learning these can empower you with the ability to charm anyone you meet.
The greatest gift you can give other people is the attitude of “unconditional positive regard.” That is, you accept them in their entirety, without limitation. The best way to express complete acceptance is simple.
When you smile with happiness at seeing people, their self-esteem jumps automatically. They feel important and valuable and they like the person who is making them feel this way.
You can show your appreciation by saying “thank you” on every occasion, for any large or small reason. You make a habit of thanking everyone in your world from everything they do.
Thank your secretary for her work. Thank your spouse for his help. Thank your children for anything they do that you appreciate. Whenever you smile or say thank you to another person, not only does that person’s self-esteem and feeling of importance jump, but so does yours.
You actually like yourself more every time you do or say anything that causes other people to like themselves more. And the more you like yourself, the more you will genuinely like and care about others and the less concerned you will be about whether you are making a good impression, making your charm even more natural.
All humans have a deep subconscious need for approval.
For this reason, giving approval or praise to others often will make them feel wonderful about themselves, and they will find you to be more interesting, perceptive, highly likable, and extremely charming.
When you give people a genuine, sincere compliment about a trait, possession, or accomplishment, they automatically feel better about themselves.
They feel acknowledged and recognized. They feel valuable and important. Compliment a person on an article of clothing, on a trait like punctuality or persistence, or on an award they’ve won.
Compliment for small things as well as large.
Attention is perhaps the most important quality of charm. It is the most powerful behavior for building rapport and is the key to instant charm.
When you pay close attention to other people, the more valuable and important they will feel they are.
If someone wants to talk to you, immediately discontinue all other activities and give that person your entire attention. Listen as if you are transfixed by what they are saying and then take a moment to pause before replying, rather than jumping in as soon as they take a breath. This shows that you actually heard the person, not only what they said but what they meant.
If you practice the 5 A’s you will be a more charming person and improve your people skills almost immediately.
Before we wrap up, I’d like to leave you with a thought to share with your friends and followers:
“The fastest way to improve your relationships is to make others feel important in every way possible.” @BrianTracy Tweet This
If you want to gain more self-confidence and become a more charming person, click the button below to download my free self-confidence assessment. Discover your level of self-confidence and learn how to improve it immediately.
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About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian’s goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.
How Good Are Your People Skills?
Interpersonal Communication Skills
(Questions 6, 9, 13, 15)
Your score is 0 out of 0
Many people spend more time working with other people than they do with processes or products. This means that they need to communicate well with others, and this makes communication skills some of the most important skills in the workplace.
Some of the key communication stumbling blocks to be aware of include:
Message barriers: These occur when the person communicating fails to communicate clearly.
If you find that you often confuse people, then a good starting point for fixing this is to figure out what you want to say. Do you want to persuade? Are you trying to motivate? Are you simply informing? Or are you attempting to build a relationship? The purpose of your communication will largely determine what you say and how you say it, and our article on Communications Planning shows you how to prepare for a variety of communication exchanges.
Receiving barriers: These barriers occur on the receiver’s end of the communication, and they typically result from ineffective listening. We hear and understand faster than we speak, and this can lead to boredom and a wandering mind when on the listening end of communication.
To combat this you should try to listen actively to what the speaker is saying. When you engage active listening you respond in a way that makes it clear that you understand the feelings and intent of the speaker. In our article Active Listening , you’ll find some useful guidelines to follow when you are on the receiving end of communication.
Decoding barriers: Here the real message is not fully grasped or translated because of misperceptions, misinterpretations or missing information.
The most common problem here is with mismatched non-verbal communication. A lot of non-verbal communication is unconscious – meaning that the sender isn’t aware of the messages he or she is sending, yet these messages can reveal a great deal of someone’s true thoughts.
If you can learn to understand people’s non-verbal communication, you can improve your people skills significantly. Our article on Body Language will show you how to understand other people’s non-verbal communication – and manage your own.
For more on improving your communication skills see the Communicate! Learning Stream, and visit our main Communication Skills page.
(Questions 3, 5, 8, 11)
Your score is 0 out of 0
People can seem to disagree about almost anything – what caused a problem, how to solve it, what values are right, what values are wrong, what goals should be pursued; the list goes on! On top of this, you have the personal, non-job-related differences between people that lead to obvious differences in outlook and approach.
Because of this, respecting and managing the differences between people can be one of the most important skills you can develop! Indeed, it can be a huge advantage if you learn to celebrate and enjoy differences, and make them work to your advantage.
Key to this is recognizing that, in many cases, conflict is not “bad”. In fact, conflict often causes significant, positive change. It spawns creative and novel approaches to problem solving, and can actually improve organizational performance if managed properly. In our article on Resolving Team Conflict , we discuss how you can build stronger teams by facing and embracing personal differences. And then, with our Conflict Resolution tool, we outline how to use the Interest-Based Relational (IBR) approach for solving interpersonal issues. Both of these articles outline how you can emerge from conflict with strong and healthy relationships.
When resolving conflict, it helps a lot if you can understand other people’s needs and points of view – this can often help you find solutions that may otherwise not have occurred to you. And when you take the time to understand another person’s perspective, you are demonstrating your willingness to work together to find a solution. Our articles on Empathy at Work and Perceptual Positions can help you develop this aspect of people skills. These help you to adopt different vantage points when resolving differences.
Finally, you need to be appropriately assertive if you’re going to manage differences effectively. Aggression is clearly counter-productive if you’re trying to resolve conflict, but also, if you fail to recognize your own needs in a situation, you run the risk of agreeing to a solution that works against your own interests. Again, it’s important to remember that differences aren’t necessarily negative, so suppressing your thoughts and ideas just to come to an easy agreement isn’t effective or efficient. You can read more about assertiveness in our article here . And our piece Yes to the Person, No to the Task is a useful approach to use in everyday situations where you need to manage differences assertively and effectively.
(Questions 2, 10, 12, 14)
Your score is 0 out of 0
While managing differences may be an obvious application of people skills, managing agreement may not seem to be. However, helping people come to an agreement with one-another is important, and requires a great deal of skill!
“Synergy” is one of the most important things that you’re looking for with teamwork. This is where the team’s output is better or greater than the sum of each individual’s input. To achieve synergy, you need to get people working together collaboratively.
If you’ve ever participated in a team decision-making process, you probably realize that reaching a decision by yourself can be much more straightforward. The problem with individual decision-making, though, is that you miss out on all of the insights that other people can give. With strong people skills, you don’t need to back away from collaborative situations: you can approach team meetings with a genuinely positive attitude!
When you’re engaging in group decision-making, make sure you avoid the common pitfalls. See our article on Groupthink for more.
Part of this involves feeling comfortable with different kinds of questions, and with when to use them, and how. In our article on Questioning Techniques , we look at open and closed questions, as well as other common types of question that you can use to keep conversation flowing and get the specific information you need.
As well as this, it’s useful to have a good selection of problem solving tools in your arsenal. When you are confident in your ability to find solutions you will be more likely to participate in these conversations and add value to your team. In our article Opening Closed Minds , we show you how to get your point across effectively, so that you can reach the agreement you are seeking. These types of tools will give you the confidence you need to confront differences, knowing that you can also manage the agreement side of the equation.
Another aspect of managing agreement relates to feedback. When given poorly, people reject feedback: it’s viewed as destructive criticism, and it can damage relationships. Delivered well, however, feedback can lead to an improved understanding of one another’s needs and perspectives, as well as improving performance and productivity. We look at this in detail in our article, Giving and Receiving Feedback . Also, in our article looking at the Johari Window we outline a great technique for increasing interpersonal understanding through self-disclosure.
The bottom line is that, to develop strong people skills, you need to be able to accept what others are saying and learn from this. Not only will this help you personally, it will help you relate openly and honestly with others.
(Questions 1, 4, 7, 16)
Your score is 0 out of 0
Integrity is the cornerstone of people skills. Integrity means basic honesty and truthfulness when dealing with others. It also means working with people openly, and in such a way that people’s interests aren’t compromised for the sake of the team or the organization.
Basic courtesies like saying “thank you” often, and giving credit where it is due, are the types of people-oriented behaviors that can make all of the difference to other people. Whether you are in a leadership position or not, recognizing your teammates’ contributions and acknowledging their efforts will go a long way towards creating a positive, harmonious, and productive team climate. Our articles on Rewarding Your Team , Leading by Example , and Ethical Leadership are all great resources that help you learn how to behave with integrity on a daily basis.
10 Simple Ways To Improve Your People Skills
Interacting with people is a part of every day life. We can’t make it through a day without making some sort of social interaction with words, body language, touch, etc. Humans are social creatures. We crave interaction, we desire the best for ourselves, we want to be noticed–admired. Deep down, we all want these same things.
But if we don’t understand the best way to communicate and interact well with one another, how will we be able to best achieve our goals and ambitions? We are innately social, but how we interact socially can make or break us…or another person.
So what do we do when we begin to realize that our interactions aren’t improving or benefiting us? When we cannot persuade, encourage, or be admired in our day to day lives? How do we make our voice more heard and respected?
People skills are an incredibly necessary and vital part of our lives, especially when it comes to getting what we want. After all, we all go into conversations and interactions expecting to gain a benefit from them. We are all driven by our selfish desires, whether we realize it or not, so why not learn to control these skills and use them even more to our advantage?
There are a good handful of books out there that will really help you hone in on people skills–skills you may already be doing without realizing it–and help you better control and think about them in order to help lead you to eventual success. The books go much further in detail on a variety of skills and ways to use them than this article does, but below are a list of key components that anyone and everyone can start using, bit by bit.
If you need more confidence, if you’re looking for more recognition, admiration, or power in a situation, or if you just want to elevate your self-image or simply want to do better in effectively and efficiently interacting with others day to day, here are some key ways to improve your people skills:
It may seem redundant, because obviously smiling is super friendly and welcoming in social situations, but the problem is, so few people actually do smile when they’re talking or listening to someone else. Think about a time when a simple smile from someone you knew or from a stranger lit up your day, maybe even put a smile on your own face. You felt accepted, noticed, appreciated by that simple smile, and because it elevated your mood, you were more willing to talk, laugh, or be productive about something. Smiling when talking to someone or out in social settings makes you and the other person feel confident, it boosts both of your moods, and more than likely you guys will continue to interact more in a positive way. Next time you’re talking to someone, force yourself a smile into the conversation, and watch the magic begin.
Make eye contact.
Eye contact is incredibly important in conversation and interaction. It shows you’re focused, interested, and intent on the conversation with the person. Sometimes, it may be intimidating to do, but it can make both of you feel important and more confident. And they will probably reciprocate the eye contact, and you’ll be taken more seriously. (Plus, you can learn a lot more about a person when you look into their eyes; cliche, but true.) The eyes are the window to the soul, as they say.
Remember names, and use them frequently.
Hearing our name is like music to our ears. Humans are selfish, so what better way to elate this than by someone calling us by our name (in a positively unexpected way, too?). What’s even better is first meeting a person and they remember your name right off the bat, or the next time you see them, they address you first by your name. And if you don’t remember their name, you feel bad about it and maybe finally try to make the effort to remember their name for future meetings. Even if you aren’t good with names, you can still learn them quickly and use them confidently. Maybe keep a journal of names on you, repeat it several times to yourself, connect the name and person to something, etc. But if you can remember and use a person’s name in conversation, you not only catch their attention, but you boost their (and maybe your) confidence, and you can start being taken more seriously.
Compliment, and mean it.
Compliments are like candy. We eat up them up, we love them, we crave them. So why not compliment others who desire them? After all, the best compliments are the sincere, unexpected ones. People can tell when a compliment is forced and isn’t meant–or when one is using flattery, especially excessively–and they’ll shut down and stop listening, talking, or overall interacting as enthusiastically. So next time you’re in a social setting, compliment someone sincerely and be genuinely interested in what you are complimenting them about. It not only grabs their attention and makes them appreciative, it also helps to lighten the mood and make conversation go easier from there.
Listening is a big problem for many people. We always want to interject, to speak our minds, to hear ourselves talk about what we want to talk about. Many people even spend half a conservation gazing off in the distance, replying a simple “Mhmm” or “Yeah” or “Okay” in response to gaps in the other person talking, to give the impression we are listening. Of course, we’ve all felt the adverse effects of this tactic, which is why, to better improve people skills, we have to be a listener. Listening in a conversation is as important, if not many times more important, than speaking. It shows the person that we care, we are interested, that we are paying attention and actually want to be a part of the interaction. If we spend half a conversation waiting on our turn to speak and say what we want, rather than listening, it becomes obvious to the other person. It makes the interaction less sincere and effective, and may make them avoid you in future confrontations if you just talk, talk, talk, and talk about what you want, especially. Next time, be sure to listen, reply with questions to what they’re saying, and show your genuine interest in the person’s words; it’ll open a smoother doorway for the conversation and future ones (plus, it just makes you more mature and professional when you pay attention to what the other person says).
And when you ask the questions, try to make sure that they are well thought out, related to the conversation, and that you are interested genuinely in the question you are asking. Asking questions fulfills the subconscious selfish desires of the other person to want to talk about themselves, and it also shows you are being respectful and sincere when you ask important questions. It shows you’re listening and makes you appear more mature. It can also lead to smoother conversation thereafter, and as you get to know the person, you get to understand them more and gain more of a trust between you two. We want to talk about ourselves and what interests us, so it’s very respectable when someone asks sincere, thought-out questions about such things.
Focus less on “I” and more on “You.”
Since we all are innately selfish, we have a desire to want to talk about me me me. And since other people are innately selfish, they don’t want to hear you talk only about yourself because they want to talk about themselves, too. To be a great conversationalist, you have to forcibly push aside the desire to talk only about yourself, and you have to start focusing on the other person. You’ll seem more interesting because you are (hopefully) interested in them and what they have to say. Going back to asking questions, this just shows further interest and allows them to keep speaking and soak up their selfish desires. In fact, don’t be dismayed that having good people skills means talking less about yourself to inflate your ego and more about listening and talking about the other person, because you may actually learn something you didn’t expect by focusing more on them.
Watch your body language.
It’s one of those, you say “yes” when shaking your head “no” kind of thing. If your body language shows anything other than what you are trying to say, this can lead to problems in the conversation. If it also over accentuates what you’re saying or feeling, this can also cause problems. Becoming more aware of your body language when speaking or listening can save a lot of confusion and can even steer the conversation how you’d like. Don’t cross your arms, don’t tap your foot or fingers for a conversation to end, don’t gaze into the distance. You want to seem interested, you want to seem professional, and shutting yourself off and being rude with your body language is not a people skill–it’s a people deterrent. Nod your head while they speak, shake hands, smile, point your feet and body directly towards them, talk with hands or keep them to your side. Body language many times says more than what your words do.
Don’t argue or be aggressive.
Big rule of thumb: don’t be aggressive. This means do not be aggressive in your tone, choice of words, body language and actions, etc. No one wants to converse with someone who’s just going to be rude or mean the whole time. When someone raises their voice, we raise ours, and then it just becomes loud bickering and subconsciously our body raises Adrenalin in us as our voice gets louder, whether we want it to or not or whether we’re angry or not, and this can lead to rash, not thought out decisions. Aggressive comments or actions can quickly turn any interaction sour. So if you do start to get heated in a conversation, take a deep breath and a step back (maybe even literally) and think about what you’ll say or do physically next that could set the interaction in a more negative or positive reaction. Think about how they would respond, and question if it’s worth it to be aggressive or not, because more than likely, it’s not.
Leave on a good note.
This is incredibly important. I mean, all of this is incredibly important, but just like first impressions matter, so do end notes to that first interaction (or any). If you use pretty much every one of these skills as you end an interaction (ex. smile, be complimentary and appreciative, use their name, wave, be cheery, look them in the eyes as you say goodbye, etc etc etc), then that’ll be the last and freshest thing they remember of you. So, leaving on a good note keeps them happy, keeps them thinking about you, and makes them want to interact again with you because, whether it started badly or not, leaving on a good note shows thoughtfulness and maturity–especially if the interaction initially didn’t start off well. And if it did start and go well, leaving on a good note gives an even greater impression of you.
If you’re interested in looking further into these simple people skills, here’s a couple of books that these key points were drawn from that you can check out to continue to improve your people’s skills!
How To Win Friends and Influence People
How To Have Confidence and Power In Dealing With People
Don’t be limited to just these few books or the tips in this article! There are many out there that go over similar principles in different ways, but these are just three good starters.
Now get out there, be confident, and go and get ’em.
10 Essential People Skills You Need to Succeed
People Skill #6: Highly Likable
Would people describe you as likable? Is it easy for you to get people on your teams or influence others to your point of view? Likability is an important facet of trust. We often hear about ‘being authentic’ or ‘genuine.’ These are all aspects of likability. In order to like someone we want them to be congruent with their words and actions. We like people who we feel are showing us their true selves. Psychologist Carl Rogers described a concept called Self-Actualization which speaks to how closely people show their real self compared to their ideal self.
People who are not likable:
- Have trouble getting people listen to their ideas
- Feel they have lots of potential, but rarely act as their ideal self
- Frequently feel left out or like the odd-man out
Highly likable people:
- Are highly respected and often asked to join in on teams, social engagements and groups
- Feel their ideal self and real self are closely aligned
- Are asked their opinions by others
Action Step: Making friends as an adult is a skill. It used to be so easy when we were younger! We had school, camp and sports to bring new people together. As adults, we have to work at it. I have a step-by-step guide on how to make friends as adults.
People Skill #7: Exceptional at Decoding Emotions
Would you consider yourself highly perceptive? People who are good at reading people are exceptionally strong at knowing how others think and feel. Decoding people, having a strong sense of intuition and being very empathetic are the emotional intelligence aspects of interpersonal intelligence. When we look at interpersonal intelligence or people skills, there are 3 main branches.
- Emotional Intelligence is how intuitive or empathetic you are.
- Social Intelligence is how you translate your emotions when around others, as well as how responsive you are to their emotions.
- Intrapersonal Intelligence is how well you know yourself, your social needs and boundaries.
Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses in different aspects of interpersonal intelligence. People who struggle with decoding:
- Struggle with empathy
- Have trouble reading and interpreting body language and facial expressions
- Often miss social cues
People with exceptional decoding abilities:
- Can speed-read people and their intentions
- Are very good at interpreting body language and facial expressions
- Are very intuitive
Action Step: One of the best ways to improve your decoding ability is to learn how to read the 7 microexpressions. We have a definitive guide to reading the face you can use to get started.
People Skill #8: Pitch Your Ideas
When people ask you, “What do you do?” do you know exactly how to pitch yourself well? When you have to pitch yourself or your ideas, can you do so confidently? Pitching is a very important people skills for professionals because it happens all the time — not just at networking events with your elevator pitch, but also during every meeting when you are asked your opinion, in emails when you introduce yourself and on conference calls. Now, I know it is never easy to brag about yourself, but you should be able to generate excitement around your ideas. Here’s the big question:
When you talk about yourself, can you get people excited to work with you?
People who struggle with pitching themselves and their ideas:
- Feel anxious when talking about themselves
- Undersell or minimize their successes
- Miss opportunities because they feel undeserving or are afraid to speak up. (They might even have impostor syndrome.)
People who are great at pitching themselves:
- Can get people to adopt their ideas
- Feel confident pitching themselves without bragging
Action Step: Do you have imposter syndrome? This is the biggest blocker for people struggling with pitching themselves. Make sure you conquer yours. You are worthy. You deserve success. I’ll show you how to beat impostor syndrome.
People Skill #9: Be Charismatic
What is charisma? Most people think that you have to be born charismatic. I couldn’t disagree more! While I was doing research for our flagship course People School, I found that charisma is the perfect blend of two essential people skills traits: warmth and competence. We talk about this more in the course, but here are the basics:
People who are not charismatic:
- Are seen as cold or intimidating — people have trouble opening up, trusting and getting to know them
- Are seen as flaky or shallow — people do not depending on them easily
- Are only warm or only competent — without both, you are not considered charismatic
People who are highly charismatic:
- Are seen as highly warm– they are approachable, trustworthy and likable
- Are seen as highly competent–they are seen as dependable, capable and knowledgeable
Action Step: My team and I developed a charisma quiz based on the charisma research. See where you fall on our charisma spectrum.
Four tips for improving your people skills
Human resources professionals and headhunters classify skills into two categories, hard skills and soft skills. “Hard” skills are easier to define because they apply to a specific function – computer programming, database management, driving a truck, piloting a plane, designing a house or office building (architect), building a cabinet (carpenter) or wiring a building (electrician).
Soft skills, on the other hand, embrace all the interpersonal relationships vital to selling a company’s products or services. In the past, many organizations considered hard skills more important than soft ones when considering job candidates. While an IT or engineering company may initially put more weight on technical skills when evaluating job candidates, they look for candidates who have both. They’re ultimately the most valuable because they have the potential to go the furthest.
People skills open career doors
Quality of interpersonal or people skills is one of the important reasons rank-and-file employees are promoted to management positions, according to John Agno, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based executive coach and career counselor. “As they move up the organizational ladder people skills become even more important. “Executives are promoted for their abilities to ‘bring in the numbers,’ take tough stands and create strategic plans,” says Agno, “But when they bomb, it is usually because of poor or mediocre people skills.”
To improve people skills, Agno offers four tips:
1. Learn to conduct productive conversations. Comfortable people skills open the door for easygoing conversation, says Agno. Excellent rapport between people is built through conversation. Initially, conversation may be hard to start. That’s why it’s important not to think about the structure of a conversation, says Agno. “Be open to conversations that you are unprepared for. Focus on theinterests of the other person rather than your own. And look for opportunities to ask non-threatening questions.”
“It may seem awkward at first, but it sets the stage for a respectful exchange,” Agno adds. Good decisions are usually made when the right questions are asked.
And don’t let anxiety or tension stand in your way. It’s normal to be nervous when interacting with people for the first time. Most people mistakenly dwell on discomfort, failing to realize that the other person is nervous as well. So take it as a given and use small talk (the weather, the economy, sports) as a bridge to relaxed and comfortable rapport.
2. Read body language. Successful salespeople have learned how to get a reading on people based upon their facial expressions, gestures, posture and eye contact. Once they read the body signals in others, they can apply it to themselves. A relaxed expression and constant eye contact communicate a sense of self-confidence and poise that relax the person you’re dealing with, making it easier to sell a product or rally support for a position.
3. Seek feedback and criticism. It takes time and hard work to build strong people skills. Learning can only take place if you’re constantly seeking feedback and criticism. Open yourself up to the notion of lifelong learning and bettering yourself.
4. Master listening. Masterful communicators have learned that building a comfortable rapport is finding the divine balance between speaking and listening. Most people are too intent on speaking. They don’t realize that the only way to get a true reading on another person is to listen to what they have to say. It sounds obvious. But listening often involves learning how to be silent and waiting for the other person to express his viewpoint. Silence often opens the door to active, fruitful conversation. In time, you’ll learn to be an empathetic listener.
Empathetic listeners are listening not just to be polite, but because of a genuine desire to understand the person they are speaking with. As soon as honest concern is sensed, the door is opened to sharing information. It’s a simple concept that leads to winning contracts, solving technical and business problems and mediating interpersonal conflicts – even saving lives.
About the Author
Bob Weinstein is a writer, reporter, editor and author. He can be reached via email at [email protected]
11 Cheap Online Classes You Can Take to Improve Your Interpersonal Skills
Whenever I used to meet charismatic people, I automically assumed they were just lucky to be born with great genetics—while I was the unfortunate girl born to be an awkward introvert for life.
But, then I learned that interpersonal skills are actually something that can be learned and improved upon—and online, of all places!
So, instead of hiding in the shadows, wishing your parents had passed down better traits, check out any one of these cheap online classes that can contribute to your personal development and professional growth. Quick note: The prices can fluctuate, so a given class may be more (or less!) than what’s listed below.
Learn how to flourish socially at work—from feeling more comfortable in meetings to being confident when talking to your CEO at the company happy hour. Because even if the majority of your day’s spent in front of a computer screen, being better at interacting with human beings (face to face!) never hurts.
1. Soft Skills: The 11 Essential Career Soft Skills
Soft skills can be anything from interpersonal skills to self-confidence to EQ—but regardless, they are some of the most important skills you need to make it big in the working world. This course will cover 11 big ones, plus how you can start improving each one today.
Length: 29.5 hours
2. Coaching Skills for Managers
Whether you’re a manager, CEO, or an entry-level employee, understanding how to effectively manage others and motivate them is a great skill to acquire. This class will talk about how to establish clear expectations, how to assess others’ performance, and best practices for having important conversations with your team. Take one for the basics, or complete them all and become a certified coach!
Cost: $79 per course (can be bought separately)
Length: 4 courses
3. Build Authentic Relationships Using Emotional Intelligence
Want to have a healthy relationship with your co-workers, your boss, and just about anyone? Good emotional intelligence leads to empathy, trust, and connection to another individual—and this course will help you get there. You’ll learn how your nonverbal cues, as well as your verbal ones, can be misleading, and how to overcome conflict and build lasting, productive relationships—in and out of the office.
Length: 2.5 hours
4. Leading With Emotional Intelligence
Part of being a great leader is being aware of the emotions in play around you. So, to help you do that more effectively, this class will teach you how to better work with others, manage up, and start practicing self-control, resilience, and empathy every day.
Cost: Free month with trial and $19.99 to $29.99/month for membership
Length: 1 hour 2 minutes
5. Developing Interpersonal Communication Skills for Work
If you’re looking for a quick overview of how to better communicate in the workplace, take this quickie (each lesson is eight minutes only!) to learn about proper business etiquette, conflict resolution, and how to work with others at all levels of business.
Cost: Free with trial or $49.99/ month for unlimited lessons
Length: Approximately 100 minutes/ 13 lessons
6. Decision Making: Solve Problems With Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is not just useful for your interactions with others, but for yourself as well. This course will teach you how to use EQ to proactively make decisions and confront problems. You’ll be coached on how to manage your emotions, follow your intuitions, and take a realistic, active approach to issues.
Length: 3 hours 40 minutes
7. Working With Upset Customers
If working with challenging clients has become a difficult hurdle for you, look no further. This short, hour-long class will cover ways to neutralize negative situations before and after they occur—and prevent them in the future.
Cost: Free month with trial and $19.99 to $29.99/month for membership
Length: 55 minutes
8. Conversation and Communication Mastery
Become a pro-conversationalist with this online class. By learning how to effortlessly approach others, start a conversation, and read body language, you’ll be better able to craft more meaningful and authentic interactions with others—and develop a knack for networking.
Length: 1.5 hours
9. Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills
Everyone should know how to negotiate, whether it’s for a business sale or a discussion between you and your landlord. This course will cover all the basics, from deciding whether or not to negotiate to planning your strategy to creating a contract and sealing the deal.
Cost: Free without certificate
Length: 15 hours
10. How to Win Arguments by Not Arguing
If you tend to get into long-winded arguments that don’t lead anywhere, you definitely need this class. It will teach you about the power of Socratic Jujitsu, or ways you can start asking questions—rather than arguing back—to persuade others to see your perspective.
Length: 1 hour
11. Inclusive Leadership Training: Becoming a Successful Leader
A successful leader is not only motivating, but also inclusive. This option will cover the four main skills needed to promote inclusivity—empowerment, accountability, courage, and humility—and how to apply these to everyday work experiences. At the end, you’ll create your own personal plan to continue to practice these skills and awareness of yourself and others.
Length: 1-2 hours per section/4 sections
Want to know more about your current strengths (and fine, weaknesses) before signing up for one of these? Take these free online personality tests to learn more about yourself.