People Skills Pay the Bills
To succeed in today’s workplace, it’s not enough to be smart, technically savvy, and experienced. You also need to develop people skills to get along well with people and bring out their best.
“We’re being judged by a new yardstick: not just by how smart we are, or by our training and expertise, but also by how well we handle ourselves and each other…. The new measure takes for granted having enough intellectual ability and technical know-how to do our jobs; it focuses instead on personal qualities, such as initiative and empathy, adaptability and persuasiveness.”
Daniel Goleman, Working with Emotional Intelligence
Five people skills help ensure success on the job:
The ability to establish an appropriate relationship with others, to tune into their feelings and moods, to understand their values, perspectives, and opinions, and to show an interest in their cares and concerns.
- Establish rapport with people.
- Pay attention to people’s facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice.
- See things from the other person’s point of view.
- Adjust your communication style to match theirs.
- Avoid criticizing, making negative judgments, or saying that the other person is wrong.
The ability to encourage other people’s open and honest communication, to understand what they mean (not just what they say), and to make them feel understood.
- Encourage people to talk.
- Show your willingness to listen. Minimize distractions. Attend to the other person with your whole body (your body language, eyes, facial expressions). Nod your head and give verbal cues to communicate that you are paying attention.
- Ask open-ended questions. Closed questions (like, “Do you agree with my proposal?”) limit people’s ability to communicate. Open-ended questions (like, What’s your impression of my proposal?”) invite reflection and sharing.
- Listen to what people are trying to communicate, not just to what they are saying. Listen to their emotions. Listen, also, to what they want.
- Check to make sure you understand. Use your own words to reflect what you have heard and noticed.
The ability to communicate who you are, what you mean, and what you want in a way that wins people’s understanding and cooperation.
- Speak with sincerity and conviction.
- Be sensitive to other people’s communication style.
- Know what you want to accomplish. Do you want people to understand your position? Lend their support?
- Approve your request?
- Listen at least as much as you talk.
- Attune what you say with how you say it. Keep your message congruent with your tone of voice, facial expression, and body language.
The ability to present yourself and your message to an audience of any size in a way that gains people’s attention, interest, and cooperation.
- Project confidence.
- Connect with your audience. Establish eye contact. Use words and concepts they’ll understand. Speak to their interests and concerns.
- Know what you want to accomplish. Do you want people to understand your position? To lend their support? To approve your request?
- Keep it short and simple. Most presentations can accomplish only one objective, develop only three main points, and hold people’s attention only so long.
- Keep yourself front and center. Use PowerPoint™, slides, or overheads to clarify or illustrate your points, not to hide behind.
- Encourage questions. Think of any presentation — even a technical one — as a dialogue with your audience.
The ability to change people’s attitudes and behaviors, to gain their support for your proposals, and to get them to do what you want them to do without manipulation or coercion.
- Make people feel understood.
- Find common ground. Begin with the concerns, values, and goals you share.
- Listen. This is the best way to make people feel understood and to find common ground. It also expresses respect.
- Don’t argue. Even if you “win” the argument, you rarely win the other person’s cooperation.
- Care about the person you want to influence. Have their best interests at heart. Respect them and they’ll respect you.
- Help people believe change is possible. Give people hope, reason to believe that they can change the situation for the better.
- Time your request well. People are never at their best when they’re stressed, or hungry, or tired, or angry.
# # #
Chris Witt, a coach based in San Diego, works with executives and with technical experts who want to improve their presentation and communication skills. If you’re interested in learning more about how you could benefit from his coaching, contact him for a complimentary call.