are so concerned about learning everything it takes to become successful
in our business lives, be it that we are self employed or working
for a large corporation, that we forget that one of the most important
things for our professional as well as personal lives is having
really good people skills.
We go to prestigious universities, we learn how to write good cover
letters, read books on mastering the art of marketing, develop awesome
web sites, and force ourselves to make dreaded cold calls, but we
neglect to analyze and upgrade the way we work and deal with the
people around us.
Let's face it, when was the last time you got a job or found a
place to live through an ad? It's usually someone who knows someone
else they also recently met and who is just being helpful that you
find what you need and that's how it works most of the time - at
least here in the Silicon Valley.
We are a diverse population from many different countries, but
what unites us is the wish to make it here and have a good life
- which brings us back to people skills.
Here are some considerations on making relationships with people
work to your and their advantage:
Look at people and smile!
Have you ever seen someone on the street or in a car and he looks
really grim and fierce and then you smile at him and the transformation
that happens is incredible? You can have the same powerful effect
on the people you meet and who work around you if you take the time
to look at them and smile. For some cultures, it isn't as natural
as for others, but it's not fake or manipulative if you smile at
people, it cuts across all cultures and it works.
To use an American idiom that is currently "in", just
"hang" with people.
In the US and in the Silicon Valley in particular, life is hectic
and everyone has a full schedule - but, there should always be time
to meet with friends, have some coffee, go to plenty of networking
events, make new friends and enjoy being with others without having
any reason to meet. Take the time to smell the roses around you
and see how you connect to friends and business colleagues.
Be genuinely interested in the people you meet.
Most people (and certainly here in the San Francisco Bay Area) have
something interesting to say, they just have to know that you want
to hear what they want to talk to you about. Ask open questions
that elicit other responses than yes and no and give appropriate
responses to what you're hearing. Many international professionals
have learned that it is important to make eye contact while listening,
and while that is important, you also have to react to comments;
acknowledge what is being said with a smile and nod of your head
. Smiling and encouraging people to speak will make your interaction
more genuine and comfortable.
Give people something of value in a relationship.
If you want to be a person people call on, give them something which
is meaningful for the relationship. Offer support, encouragement
and active help with a new job or a relationship problem, introduce
them to your friends and make them feel appreciated and convey to
them the importance you place on your relationship.
There are obviously many more things that are important in having
good people skills, but one thing many never consider is that they
can take classes or use individual coaches to improve their own
people skills; it comes naturally to some, but it is a skill that
can be learned.
Angelika Blendstrup, PhD, is a business communications consultant
who helps foreign-born executives with problems understanding the
complexities of American business culture and the English language
to communicate effectively. Learn more about