9 ways to improve your people skills
By Karen Schmidt
People skills can make or break your success at work. In his book “People skills” Robert Bolton states that “80% of the people who fail at work do so for one reason: they do not relate well to other people”. I agree with him. In my experience, people issues are the number one reason that we leave jobs and the number one cause of dissatisfaction and reduced productivity. So working on your people skills is vital to your success at work. But what sort of skills do you need?
Whilst there are literally dozens of individual skills you could develop, here is my list of the 9 most practical work related topics for you to start with. They are listed in alphabetical order but feel free to tackle them in whatever order suits you and your individual needs.
If you tend to respond to difficult situations by getting aggressive or crumbling into passiveness then you will find your ability to relate to others will be greatly improved by learning how to be assertive. Assertiveness is sometimes confused with aggression but the main differences are that the assertive person has respect for themselves and others and focuses on solutions rather than assigning blame when things go wrong.
The ability to read people based on their facial expressions, gestures, posture and eye contact is a valuable skill. Equally, learning how to control your own body language will greatly increase your rapport with others. The definitive book on the subject has been written by an Australian, Alan Pease, and naturally it’s called “Body Language”!
If you are the type of person who avoids conflict then watch out because it’s bad for your health. Resolving conflict doesn’t need to be painful once you learn a few simple rules about how and why conflict happens and what you can do to move past it.
Learning more about other cultures is an extremely important skill for the workplace, as the multicultural nature of Australia is only set to increase. There are specific cultural awareness programs for business or you can simply talk to people you work with about their culture and maybe even share some of yours.
The ability to give and receive feedback can make or break your career. We are not only talking about the negative kind but also the positive. Not being able to take a compliment is just as big a problem as refusing to take constructive criticism.
“Some people don’t listen, they just wait to speak”. This phrase is so true in our fast paced, impatient society. The ability to really listen is what separates the best communicators from the rest.
Negotiating time frames for a project, negotiating a pay rise or negotiating to ensure your ideas are heard. We all negotiate at work even if we don’t close big deals. Negotiation is an art that can be learnt.
Meeting new people can be daunting for some people. Being able to effectively network can set you apart from others when it comes to job opportunities and promotions. Robyn Henderson is a networking specialist who has written many helpful books on the topic.
There is more to asking questions than knowing the difference between the open and closed styles. A well placed question can turn a useless conversation into a valuable exchange.
About the Author: Karen Schmidt is an award winning professional speaker, workshop leader and author who is on a mission to create fresh workplace attitudes that help people and organisations grow!. Karen believes you can increase productivity and bottom line results if your people have the right attitude in 5 key areas of: work, change, customers, people and managing. To find out more visit
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