It takes more than a great resumé to get your dream job. To be a successful candidate and team member, you have to be able to connect productively with the people you encounter on the job. This takes “people skills:” the ability to create and sustain effective relationships at work. Here are a couple of core concepts to help you maximize your people skills.
1) Listen actively, and not just to the words. We all live in our own heads, focused on our own thoughts and emotions. This makes it hard to listen skillfully. When someone is speaking to you, see it as an opportunity to learn what’s on their mind. What do their words mean? What emotions are coming through? Are they giving you any clues with their body language or tone of voice? Focus on getting as much information as you can–you can formulate a response later. If you’re getting mixed messages, don’t be afraid to ask questions. There’s no better way to show that you’re listening than to ask, “Could you tell me a little more? I’m not sure I see the whole picture.”
2) Respond to the content, not the person. It’s very easy to feel stressed or threatened, especially at work. To avoid letting these and other negative emotions dictate how you communicate, try to ignore them and focus on what the person actually said to you. Do they want you to help with a project? Don’t worry about their hidden agendas–instead, ask yourself if their request makes sense in the context of the project, and respond accordingly. While your emotions are legitimate, they should not be the driving force behind your professional relationships. To keep your cool and maximize your effectiveness, focus on the work to be done and on meaningful solutions. Not only will this improve the tone of your relationships, it will boost your confidence and silence many of those negative emotions.
“People skills” are essential to professional success. Practice them at home and at work; when you go in for that next big interview, you’ll be ready to connect and conquer!