People Skills, or Interpersonal Skills are the emotional, verbal, and nonverbal skills necessary to successfully interact with others and build one-on-one relationships. Since people skills aren’t generally taught in school, we take what we learned in childhood from our parents, and go forth into our lives doing the best we can. However, sometimes our best isn’t good enough and we need to take a good look at our weaknesses so we can improve and build better, stronger relationships.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to find out if your people skills need a tune-up.
If you answer, “no” to any of these, look at that issue closely and identify what you can do to improve your people skills and become a better coworker, boss, or even friend to others.
Do your coworkers include you in their social/bonding activities at work and after hours?
If you’re left out of lunch invitations, the last to know about the latest “news,” and routinely left off the after-work invitation list, your coworkers may not like you. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone in your office, but you do need to be able to get along with others. Even if you’re the smartest person at your company, you won’t get far in your career if you can’t get along with others. Work on building your workplace relationships one at a time. When you do, you’ll get more cooperation, colleagues will “have your back,” and the workplace will be more pleasant overall.
Do you show sincere appreciation to people when they’ve helped you, even if that help is part of their jobs?
When it comes to appreciation and positive feedback, don’t hold back the applause. If a coworker does something for you, no matter how small, thank them! Identify at least one positive attribute in each of your coworkers, and let them know about it. Show colleagues you value their input by asking their opinions. By showing others how much you care about them, you’ll encourage them to do the same in return and give you their best work.
Are you able to keep your emotions in control and express them with words, not actions?
Are you quick to anger, or easily frustrated? Are you just as quick to let those emotions loose on your colleagues through sarcasm, yelling, being short with people, or having tantrums? If you can’t control your emotions and keep a cool head when the going gets tough, you won’t be respected at work. Additionally, those on the receiving end of your tantrums will soon get tired of being your target. One time, people might chalk your bad attitude up to having a bad day. Beyond that, you need to learn to cool it and not take your frustrations out on others. Emotional outbursts are threatening to co-workers and colleagues, and can result in low productivity and turnover. Learn to manage your emotions and express them appropriately. You’ll also need to learn to leave your personal problems “at the door,” when you get to work.
Have people told you that you’re a poor listener, directly or indirectly?
Do you find yourself asking others questions, only to have them say, “I already told you this,” as soon as you start? Do you forget commitments or appointments you’ve made? Have others flat out told you that you don’t listen? Good listening skills are necessary to develop the strong interpersonal skills that are so integral to your success. Being an active listener shows that you intend to both hear and recognize another’s perspective. Colleagues will feel more connected to you knowing that you’re a good listener, and you’ll begin to gain a better understanding of them as well.
Do you focus on the positive and keep complaints to yourself?
Almost every organization has Wendy Whiner or Larry Lamenter, and you’ll notice they tend to be the least popular person in the office. If you constantly complain, especially when you’re close-minded to solutions others offer, your negativity will push others away from you. If there’s something you really need to get off your chest, write about it in a journal or briefly chat about it with your friends and family. When in doubt, if you feel the urge to complain, stop yourself and ask, “What am I going to do about it?” At minimum, this will begin the process of searching for solutions rather than focusing on problems.
Can you put your views aside to understand other people’s?
No one likes a judgmental, self-centered person who can’t get out of their own shoes to “step into someone else’s.” People LIKE people who are empathetic. If you want to be liked and respected at work, learn to consider circumstances from another person’s viewpoint. You don’t have to AGREE with the other person’s position to empathize, you simply have to take the time to understand it. Then, you can make your own evaluation of the situation.
Now be really honest with yourself with this last one.
Can you be trusted to keep your promises and commitments?
Trust is the foundation of all relationships. It is difficult to earn and easy to lose. If you don’t keep your promises and commitments, your excuses won’t matter to others. Trust will be lost and so will the relationship. Therefore, before you make a commitment, think carefully about your ability to keep it. If you’re not sure, don’t make the commitment. If you make a commitment and find at some point that you’re not going to be able to keep it or you’re going to be late to deliver, tell the other person AS SOON AS YOU KNOW. Don’t wait until the due date, deadline, or appointment time.
Amy Castro is a workplace and leadership communication expert, speaker and trainer. She is also the author of Practical Communication- 25 Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Getting Along and Getting Things Done.