Worth Repeating: People Skills

The other night my beautiful wife and I went out to dinner to see off a dear friend of hers that is moving to the east coast tomorrow. We have seen her a few times in the last few weeks, but this dinner was meant to be a more personal and intimate setting for this person’s  dearest friends. I should have felt privileged and honored  to go, but sadly I wasn’t.

We arrived a little late as April had to work, but not so late that people were already eating. We ordered and joined in on the conversation. I was at the end of the table, and the only people I really knew from the group besides the guest of honor were at the other end of the table.

So, what did I do? Did I take the opportunity to meet new people, learn something interesting about their lives? No. I was quiet. And, hopefully not too obviously, kinda rude. But as justification it was rudeness due to lack of involvement, rather than being outrightly rude…yeah, that makes it better, right?

I spent the balance of the dinner listening to this one girl across from me, who’s name I don’t remember because I never asked, nor cared to remember, make a great  example of how not to act in a group of people, which is to say she cut people off, only spoke about herself, and was a little abrasive in her subject matter. She kind of reminded me of Penelope… okay, that’s an extreme comparison, but a funny one…

Now, this post isn’t so much about her poor people skills as it is mine. She just provided another useful example.

I actually have, through various ways, learned quite a bit about people skills. I remember reading Dale Carnegie’s book How To Win Friends And Influence People back in high school, when I first realized that people skills are essential ones to have. After all, the point of high school is to be liked, right?

I served a mission for my church in Washington DC for two years, and not only is it an environment where you’re often disliked, but you’re trying to overcome those feelings and share something that is quite intangible with people. Talk about a huge barrier there!

Just recently I had the opportunity to sell cars at a large dealership here in Orem for about 4 months, and if people skills aren’t number one on the list of “top ten things to sell cars”, I don’t know what is. We actually had meetings every morning for about a half hour that were based around the selling process, which starts with building rapport…in other words, people skills.

People skills are often described as (a) understanding ourselves and moderating our responses, (b) talking effectively and empathizing accurately, (c) building relationships of trust, respect and productive interactions. A British definition is “the ability to communicate effectively with people in a friendly way, especially in business. (Thanks Wikipedia!)

I left that dinner feeling a little ashamed of myself for my actions. I didn’t really try to communicate or empathize, build a new relationship, nor did I have respect towards this new person. It was, in all honesty, the impetus for this post.

It’s important for us to not only obtain these essential people skills but use them. I wish I had an example of when I’ve had it benefit me in an insanely huge awesome way, but that is still yet to happen. But I can say that when I am actively trying to build rapport and build new relationships with people, the time spent is much more fulfilling, and I’m better for it.

So, if you haven’t actively done so yet, I recommend working on your people skills, and then putting them into action.

People skills: Worth Repeating.

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