How To Develop People Skills
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated March 28, 2021 | Published February 22, 2021
Updated March 28, 2021
Published February 22, 2021
People skills are important whether you are searching for a job or developing your career. Having good people skills can improve your performance in job interviews, help you build strong relationships with your coworkers and create good first impressions with important clients. You can also use people skills outside of work, whether with family or friends. In this article, we will explore what people skills are and how you can develop yours.
Related: 18 People Skills for the Workplace
What are people skills?
People skills, sometimes referred to as soft skills, social skills or interpersonal skills, are techniques you can use to help you relate to other people. They form a skill set that you can use to anticipate people's behavior, communicate persuasively and feel comfortable in social situations.
People skills are important for:
Resolving conflict: Even in the best workplace there can be disagreements among coworkers. Your ability to understand differing points of view and find common ground can help cultivate a tolerant and peaceful work environment.
Avoiding misunderstanding: Good people skills can enable you to communicate your thoughts and ideas in a way that is clear and understandable to your audience.
Improving customer relations: Your people skills can help you put yourself in the place of your customers to better understand their needs. This is particularly important for sales and customer service.
Influencing opinions: Being able to speak persuasively is an important skill to develop in business. This usually requires an ability to understand people and find what motivates them, which comes with good social skills.
Overcoming social anxiety: Not everyone is naturally comfortable in social situations. If you develop good interpersonal skills, you can build your social confidence and find ways to relax in the company of others.
Related: [Soft Skills: Definitions and Examples](https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/resumes-cover-letters/soft-skills)
How to develop your people skills
Here are some steps you can take to help you develop your people skills:
1. Cultivate emotional intelligence
Your emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand both your emotions and the emotions of others. Learning how emotions drive behavior and how to control those emotions is fundamental to developing your emotional intelligence. If you understand how emotional responses affect behavior, this may help you avoid hurt feelings when having difficult conversations. It can also help you motivate others, develop positive relationships and build strong teams that can work together.
2. Learn to listen
Listening is more than simply hearing what someone is saying. Learning to listen involves paying attention to what someone is saying so you understand them and can respond appropriately. There are many ways you can improve your listening skills, including:
Concentrate on what the person is saying. It's common to start thinking of your response to someone before they finish talking. To be sure you take in every word they are saying, wait until they finish before you consider your response. It's okay to pause for a moment before responding. This may, in fact, indicate to the person that you take what they said seriously.
Allow the person to finish speaking. Even if you already understand the point they are making or could finish the sentence for them, let the person finish before you speak. This shows respect and allows for the possibility that they might say something you were not expecting.
Pay attention to the person. Make eye contact with the person to show you are engaged. Also, be aware that while a person is speaking, they are also communicating using body language. Often, a person's body language can help you better understand nuances of meaning, such as seriousness or levity, that they might not communicate in words.
Make verbal acknowledgment. Find appropriate times to say, "uh-huh," "yes" or "I understand" while the other person is speaking. You could also ask for clarification if something they said was vague or you didn't understand their point.
Related: How To Improve Your Listening Skills
3. Develop conversation skills
Engaging others in conversation is an important people skill and one you can develop with practice. To overcome the initial awkwardness of starting a conversation, especially with someone you don't know well, ask about their interests, aspects of their work they enjoy or—if you are at an event—what inspired them to attend. Questions like these can encourage engagement and may help you both to relax. You could also pay the person a compliment, or use open-ended statements such as, "I didn't expect so many people here today" to ease into a conversation.
4. Respect cultural differences
When developing people skills, you need to be aware that forms of social engagement can differ from culture to culture. An accepted social practice in one culture may be offensive in another. For example, in Western cultures, it is polite to maintain eye contact when talking to someone, whereas in China and Japan, this may be considered rude. If you know you will be talking with someone from a different culture, research cultural differences so you can be prepared. You are more likely to be forgiven for well-intentioned mistakes if you are sincere in your efforts.
5. Talk to people you don't already know
Developing people skills sometimes requires stepping outside of your comfort zone. One way to do that is to engage people you don't already know in conversation. This can help you build your social confidence and emotional intelligence as well as potentially find new friends or develop new business contacts. Be sure to use good listening and conversation skills to maintain their interest and show you are paying attention to them.
6. Laugh at yourself
You could make mistakes in your interactions with other people. You may forget names or pronounce them incorrectly, or perhaps spill your drink or mix up your words when trying to tell a story. These are all human errors that everyone makes and it is important that you don't take yourself too seriously. If appropriate, laugh at your failings, as this might help everyone feel more comfortable and may make you appear more likable to those with whom you are talking.
7. Remember to give everyone a turn
When you are engaged in conversation, don't forget to allow the other person opportunity to speak. Ask for their thoughts or opinions on a topic and listen carefully to what they say. You could also ask if they understand what you are trying to say to make sure they are correctly interpreting your words. If they disagree with you, keep an open mind to their point of view and be willing to discuss respectfully.
8. Leave a positive lasting impression
Especially in business, it is important that people who meet you for the first time don't forget you. It's important for them to have a positive memory of who you are when they see your business card or when they recognize your name on a follow-up email or phone call. There are several ways you can do this, including:
Practicing good conversation skills: Show a sincere interest in them through the questions you ask and by listening carefully when they speak.
Asking good questions: Try to be insightful with the questions you ask. Think of all the questions other people might have already asked the person and ask something different.
Following up: Don't forget to send that follow-up email or make that follow-up telephone call.
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