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5 Tips for Better People Skills

What do we mean by “People Skills“?  
I believe every one of us has room to improve when it comes to:
  • Being more understanding
  • Listening with empathy
  • Showing respect for others
  • Being genuine
  • Demonstrating warmth
  • Being open and honest
  • Building stronger relationships
Most of us learned about the “golden rule” at a very early age.  When it comes to the workplace, though, it’s as if many people never heard of the concept.  Robert Bolton, People Skills, claims that 80% of people who fail at their jobs do so for one reason:  the inability to get along well with other people.  Think about it!  A leader can have a degree from a prestigious university, achieve outstanding financial results . . . but if he/she can’t relate well to people at all levels of the organization–it’s like a ticking time bomb.  Eventually this void will catch up with him/her.
How does a leader go about building better people skills?   Let’s review 5 easy tips to begin today.
1.  Be a better listener.  Sounds easy . . . but this is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for professionals and leaders as they take on higher levels of responsibility.  As they focus more intensely on results, they often lose sight of the fine art of people skills.  I’ve heard employees complain about leaders who will lead a meeting, ask questions and then proceed to tell everyone the way things will be done.  This often leaves the employees feeling like, “Why ask us if it’s always your way or the highway!”  If you need some specific steps on better listening please download my eBook:  Better Listening Skills:  A No-Nonse Guide.  
2.  Manage conflict.  Do you know what your default style is when you face conflict head on?  If you’ve never taken a conflict style assessment, consider taking one.  You’ll learn which of the five conflict styles comes most naturally to you.  The assessment I use most often with clients is the TKI (Conflict Mode Assessment).  According to this assessment, you probably use one style most often.  The five styles include:
    • Accommodating–giving in to the other person
    • Avoiding–ignoring the conflict, hoping it will go away on its own
    • Competing–winning at all costs
    • Compromising–meeting the other person half-way
    • Collaborating–working together to find a win-win solution that fully satisfies both parties

3.  Avoid communication pitfalls.  Can you name them?  Some of the most common traps when communicating include the following:

    • Judging people
      • Criticizing
      • Playing amateur psychiatrist (“I can read you like a book!”)
      • Name-calling
    • Playing the know-it-all
      • Barking orders
      • Threatening
      • Parenting (Offering unsolicited advice:  “What you should do, what you ought to do, what you need to do . . . “)
      • Excessive questioning
    • Minimizing the other person’s concern
      • Redirecting to yourself (“You think that’s something, wait until I tell you what happened to me . . . “)
      • Being inauthentic (“Don’t worry, it’ll work out, time will take care of it . . . “)
      • Appearing cold and logical (“I don’t know why you’re so upset, just look at the facts…”)

4.  Read body language.  If you believe the long-standing research about body language, you know that 55% of the impact of communication comes from body language.  Albert Mehrabian first reported the surprising findings that the verbal portion of a message accounts for only 7% of the impact.  It has often been said that a person cannot not communicate.  We are constantly communicating our thoughts, feelings or emotions through:

    • facial expressions
    • gestures
    • posture
    • use of space
    • appearance
    • etc.
Start by paying attention to the other person’s most telling cues:  facial expressions, vocal expression, posture, gestures, and appearance.  What messages are you seeing through nonverbals?  Are there any contradictions between what the person is saying and the nonverbal cues you are picking up?
5.  Express yourself confidently and assertively.  Just like conflict styles, many of us have developed a speaking style.  The continuum covers three distinct styles:
  • Submissive–These people sacrifice their own wants, needs and desires in order for the other person to satisfy theirs.  Their message is often apologetic, or they discount their own value by saying things like “I know this is a dumb idea  but . . . “.  They typically speak with a soft voice or often don’t speak up at all in important meetings.
  • Assertive–These people are masters at speaking up for their needs, wants and desires but never at the expense of the other person.  In fact, showing respect for the other is a true mark of the assertive individual.
  • Aggressive–These people often get labeled as bulldozers or steamrollers.  They quickly gain a reputation of getting their way and usually at the expense of the other person.  They are quick to use sarcasm or put-downs, seemingly unaware or not caring about the impact their behavior has on the other person.
To improve people skills, start with one area.  Look for someone who demonstrates this skill well.  Consider asking them to mentor you on how to improve.
For more information on workshops or coaching on people skills, contact Kathy:  kathy@kathycooperman.com or 720-542-3324.

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