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What's more important? Being successful in your Job or having excellent People Skills?
You are here:Home Page > Columns > Angelika's Column > People Skills (Sep 17 2003)

Dr. Angelika Blendstrup

Professional Business Communications Consultant

We 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 Angelika...

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