Interpersonal skills: How do you get what you want?

bigstock-BLACK-FEMALE-PROFILE-SPEAKING-7796579 (1)The single most important factor in both career advancement and personal satisfaction is a mastery of interpersonal skills. Although people often spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on medical degrees or software training, they tend to neglect the soft skills that mean much more to coworkers and loved ones. This is more important than ever in the tight marketplace and higher stress of the current economy.

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What are interpersonal skills?

Answering that question may lead you down a long road of hard truths about yourself. At the end of that road, though, is a much better life. Interpersonal skills include persuasive speaking, debate, and writing that can move people into action. These skills are an absolute necessity for business leaders, but they are often dismissed as a mysterious “charm” or “charisma.” Some people are born with natural charisma, or taught themselves quickly, but anyone can become better at them through dedication and practice.

Interpersonal skills really come down to effective communication and listening skills. Since so much of what we understand comes from non-verbal communication, the way you say it is far more important than what you say. This is especially true in the areas of public speaking, assertiveness, conflict resolution and motivation. Are you as comfortable speaking to someone one-on-one in an informal setting as you are addressing a crowd at a professional function? Most people prefer one or the other, but interpersonal skills open up your range of communication, giving you the freedom to connect with whoever you need to reach effectively.

How confident are you asking for a sale, or asking for a raise, or asking for a little respect? Can you motivate a team? How hard is it for you to build a network of business partners or friends? If you could do all of this easily, imagine how amazing it would be if you could teach it to others.

So what are some of the most important interpersonal skills?

Is this thing on?

Even the words “public speaking” can drive some people into a cold sweat. Whether you need to speak at a wedding, a meeting of the board, or around the kitchen table, you could benefit by taking some tips from Toastmasters. They are the experts at showing you how to turn your nervous energy into an engaging speech. Try some of these techniques from their 10 Tips for Public Speaking:

  • Greet people as they arrive. It’s easier to speak to friends than “The Public.”

  • Remember that they are rooting for you. The audience wants to be entertained so they accept half the burden.

  • Make yourself comfortable in the space. Arrive early enough to test out the microphone and the setting.

Want to learn more? Check out: Public Speaking 101.

That’s not what I meant.

For your own sake, and those that depend on you at work or at home, you need to be able to state your case clearly and effectively. Just pointing out the facts isn’t enough, because people are emotionally attached to their own course of action. Learn how to get what you want instead of just getting into fights from Lifehack.org’s How to Win Arguments – Dos Don’ts And Sneaky Tactics:

Do: Agree with a good point. You don’t need to argue about everything. Agreeing over minor points helps you win major ones.

Don’t: Get sidetracked. Arguments usually bring up old wounds and side issues. Stick to your agenda.

Sneaky: Memorize some punchy one liners like “You’re just being defensive.” Throwing your opponent off-balance lets you control the subject.

Want to learn more? Check out: Negotiation: Problems Solved, Not Battles Fought and The Secrets of Body Language

I could go on and on.

Speaking and writing are very different skills. What can be engaging in person falls flat on the page. One of the most common problems faced by amateur writers is lack of brevity. If you take too long to make your point, instead of coming across as thorough, your writing will appear rambling and unclear. Practice Writing Concisely with this advice from The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina:

  • Eliminate qualifiers. “Actually, really, basically, probably, very.” All can definitely go.

  • Strike out prepositional phrases and start over. Don’t tinker with your existing sentences. Start fresh.

  • Beware compounding negatives. Positives state your case more clearly.

Want to learn more? Check out: Write less, say more: produce powerful written communication.

The great news is that anyone can learn these interpersonal skills as long as they make it a priority in their lives. It will take practice and a concerted effort to stay focussed to achieve what seems effortless for others. It doesn’t matter how much or little time they have spent to master interpersonal skills. What matters is what you can achieve by using them.

Posted by Kasia Mikoluk