Do your people skills need a tune up? Ask yourself these questions and find out.

People Skills, or Interpersonal Skills are the emotional, verbal, and nonverbal skills necessary to successfully interact with others and build one-on-one relationships. Since people skills aren’t generally taught in school, we take what we learned in childhood from our parents, and go forth into our lives doing the best we can. However, sometimes our best isn’t good enough and we need to take a good look at our weaknesses so we can improve and build better, stronger relationships.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to find out if your people skills need a tune-up.

If you answer, “no” to any of these, look at that issue closely and identify what you can do to improve your people skills and become a better coworker, boss, or even friend to others.

Do your coworkers include you in their social/bonding activities at work and after hours?

If you’re left out of lunch invitations, the last to know about the latest “news,” and routinely left off the after-work invitation list, your coworkers may not like you. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone in your office, but you do need to be able to get along with others. Even if you’re the smartest person at your company, you won’t get far in your career if you can’t get along with others. Work on building your workplace relationships one at a time. When you do, you’ll get more cooperation, colleagues will “have your back,” and the workplace will be more pleasant overall.

Do you show sincere appreciation to people when they’ve helped you, even if that help is part of their jobs?

When it comes to appreciation and positive feedback, don’t hold back the applause. If a coworker does something for you, no matter how small, thank them! Identify at least one positive attribute in each of your coworkers, and let them know about it. Show colleagues you value their input by asking their opinions. By showing others how much you care about them, you’ll encourage them to do the same in return and give you their best work.

Are you able to keep your emotions in control and express them with words, not actions?

Are you quick to anger, or easily frustrated? Are you just as quick to let those emotions loose on your colleagues through sarcasm, yelling, being short with people, or having tantrums? If you can’t control your emotions and keep a cool head when the going gets tough, you won’t be respected at work. Additionally, those on the receiving end of your tantrums will soon get tired of being your target. One time, people might chalk your bad attitude up to having a bad day. Beyond that, you need to learn to cool it and not take your frustrations out on others. Emotional outbursts are threatening to co-workers and colleagues, and can result in low productivity and turnover. Learn to manage your emotions and express them appropriately. You’ll also need to learn to leave your personal problems “at the door,” when you get to work.

Have people told you that you’re a poor listener, directly or indirectly?

Do you find yourself asking others questions, only to have them say, “I already told you this,” as soon as you start? Do you forget commitments or appointments you’ve made? Have others flat out told you that you don’t listen? Good listening skills are necessary to develop the strong interpersonal skills that are so integral to your success. Being an active listener shows that you intend to both hear and recognize another’s perspective. Colleagues will feel more connected to you knowing that you’re a good listener, and you’ll begin to gain a better understanding of them as well.

Do you focus on the positive and keep complaints to yourself?

Almost every organization has Wendy Whiner or Larry Lamenter, and you’ll notice they tend to be the least popular person in the office. If you constantly complain, especially when you’re close-minded to solutions others offer, your negativity will push others away from you. If there’s something you really need to get off your chest, write about it in a journal or briefly chat about it with your friends and family. When in doubt, if you feel the urge to complain, stop yourself and ask, “What am I going to do about it?” At minimum, this will begin the process of searching for solutions rather than focusing on problems.

Can you put your views aside to understand other people’s?

No one likes a judgmental, self-centered person who can’t get out of their own shoes to “step into someone else’s.” People LIKE people who are empathetic. If you want to be liked and respected at work, learn to consider circumstances from another person’s viewpoint. You don’t have to AGREE with the other person’s position to empathize, you simply have to take the time to understand it. Then, you can make your own evaluation of the situation.

Now be really honest with yourself with this last one.

Can you be trusted to keep your promises and commitments?

Trust is the foundation of all relationships. It is difficult to earn and easy to lose. If you don’t keep your promises and commitments, your excuses won’t matter to others. Trust will be lost and so will the relationship. Therefore, before you make a commitment, think carefully about your ability to keep it. If you’re not sure, don’t make the commitment. If you make a commitment and find at some point that you’re not going to be able to keep it or you’re going to be late to deliver, tell the other person AS SOON AS YOU KNOW. Don’t wait until the due date, deadline, or appointment time.

Amy Castro is a workplace and leadership communication expert, speaker and trainer. She is also the author of Practical Communication- 25 Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Getting Along and Getting Things Done.

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Don’t Whine About Your Job. Do Something!


My coworker hates her job. She keeps complaining to me. I have tried to talk to her about what she could do, but she is not listening. She is worried about finding a new position during the coronavirus pandemic. 
 

My husband keeps threatening to quit his job. He only comments negatively about his job and the people who work with him. I wish he would just do something.

My friend was having difficulty with her schedule, but she didn’t go to her boss to discuss alternatives. She just quit. When I had a problem, my boss adjusted my schedule. My friend’s might have been adjusted, too, if she had said something.

As these comments from participants in my seminars indicate, tackling problems that affect our work lives can be difficult. 

When some people become dissatisfied with their work, they do nothing. Perhaps they don’t know how to proceed, or maybe they don’t believe there is anything they can do to improve the situation. Usually, the only action they take is to whine about their bosses, their colleagues, or the work. 

Unfortunately, complaining doesn’t accomplish anything – except having your friends, colleagues and others stay clear of you.

Some, on the other hand, get so frustrated that they impulsively quit their jobs without having another lined up, or without even a plan for the future.


 Both reactions can affect your career negatively. However, there is an alternative that can help people evaluate their work situations. Answering the following four questions encourages people to take action and decide their next steps. 

1. Ask yourself, what is the real issue? It is easy to say, “I hate my job,” but it is important to identify why. What is the real issue that is causing you to be unhappy? Be honest and be specific. Is it the type of work you do, or just one aspect of the job? Is it the commute, the money, your boss, the people you work with, or any number of other causes? One man I coached liked most of the facets of his job, but wanted to quit because he had to make frequent presentations. Another realized that her new position involved using unfamiliar technology, which made her feel uncomfortable and unqualified.  

2. Can you solve the problem? Now that you have identified the issue, is there something that can be done? Is there a realistic solution? If so, what do you have to lose by asking for it? Make the case for your suggestion, including any benefits to your department or to the company. Remember that if you don’t speak up, chances are nothing will change. 

3. Are there advantages to this job? If you can’t solve the problem, think about what you are gaining from the position.  Don’t just quickly say, “Nothing.” Here are four possible things to consider: 

–Is the job a stepping stone?  Will you need the skills you gain from this position to qualify for a job on the next rung of the ladder? One of my early jobs involved working for a horrible boss. Yet I stayed until I had gained the experience I needed, and then I left.   

–Is there any education or training perk to which you have access? Some companies will fund part or all of your ongoing education. This can be a major benefit for many people. 

–Who are you meeting? Does the job allow you to interact with people and build your network? If so, it is possible that by having a strong network, additional job opportunities will come your way. 

–Can you learn to manage your boss? Learning to work with difficult people is an important skill that almost certainly will be beneficial to you at some point in your career.

4. Is it time to start a job search? Depending on how you answer the above questions, you may decide that it is time to start looking for a new position. (Specific suggestions for looking for work during the pandemic can be found in my blog, Looking for a job? 10 tips to help you succeed in a coronavirus world). You may even decide to change careers. Any number of alternatives may now be available to you. This doesn’t mean you just quit your job. Generally, it is best to look for a new job (or career) while you are still working at the old one. 

Information on conducting a thorough job search can be found in my book The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.   


Whether you decide to stay at your current job or to look for a new one, feel good about your choice. You are doing something: You have taken charge of your career. 

I post regularly on communication and etiquette. We can connect via LinkedInTwitterFacebook or my website:pachter.com
  
About: Barbara Pachter is an internationally-renowned business etiquette and communications speaker, coach and author of 11 business books. She helps individuals communicate more effectively and enhance their professional presence.  (bpachter@pachter.com)  

Looking for a job? 10 tips to help you succeed in a coronavirus world

The world is falling apart, so why bother looking?

I was just laid off. I’m too shocked to do anything.

Why look for a new job? There is nothing but the virus out there.

If you have avoided looking for work during the coronavirus pandemic, you are not alone. As the comments above — culled from my coaching sessions — illustrate, many people have not started their job search, or are approaching it in a half-hearted way.

I understand. The pandemic has really shaken the business world as millions of jobs have been lost. It is a difficult time to look for work, and it’s easy to think, “Why bother?”

But there are openings. Some businesses are hiring.
Earlier this month, LinkedIn stated that more than 180,000 people had recently been hired through its connections, and in May the United States added 2.5 million jobs.  Do not give up. Job seekers who are persistent and determined are more likely to succeed. 
Here are 10 suggestions to help you in your search:

1. Update your resume and social-media sites. This should be among the first things you 
do. Your resume may not be current, as you weren’t planning to be unemployed. Add any new jobs, promotions, activities, awards, or additional studies. There are lots of online resources that may help. Google “resume writing” and you will find numerous examples of ways to structure your information. Or hire a professional resume writer. You may need to create more than one resume, depending on the types of jobs you are seeking.
2. View your search as a full-time job. Since you are unemployed, you need to use the time you would have spent at your old job looking for a new one. Yes, I do mean 9 to 5!  Of course, you can be kind to yourself and take a longer lunch break and a day off occasionally. But the bottom line is this: At the end of the day, you want to feel that you worked.  (If you are taking odd jobs to help make ends meet, your day gets even more complicated.)

3. Have a quiet, dedicated work space. This is the place where you keep your job-search materials, and do your searching. If you have young children at home because of the pandemic, this may be harder to achieve. Get creative. One man I know took over half of the dining room table.  
4. Create a daily work schedule. List the activities you need to do. This makes it more likely you will actually do them. Some of these activities include:
      
–Checking online job sites, such as indeed.com or simplyhired.com
–Checking the websites of companies you want to work for – many companies list job openings  
–Spending time on LinkedIn, applying for jobs, and connecting with your network
–Reading articles on the web about conducting a job search 
–Taking an online class to enhance your skills
–Allowing time to exercise! Yes, build that into your schedule, too
5. Respond to openings quickly. You don’t want your application to get lost in the shuffle. Many people may apply, and you want your resume to be one of the first to arrive. This makes it much more likely to be reviewed.  
6. Stay in touch with your colleagues and network. Let people know you are looking. More people get jobs through networking than any other way. Your friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and friends of friends can’t help you unless they know you’re looking. 
7. Participate in your professional associations. Though you may not be able to network in person, you can still interact with other professionals online through virtual training, conferences, and networking events. For example, my son’s professional association recently held a “Cocktails, Conversation, & Connections” Zoom meeting. 
8. Be prepared to interview via video conferencing. In addition to preparing answers to questions you think you may be asked, you need to prepare to present yourself professionally online. Know how to use the technology. Practice. Position yourself in front of a neat, uncluttered, and quiet setting. Be aware of what others will see behind you. Make sure there are no controversial objects in bookshelves or on the wall. Dress appropriately – as though you were being interviewed in person. Your location needs good lighting. You want to be seen clearly, without any shadows hiding your appearance. 

9. Use your college career center.  Though most centers have suspended in-person meetings, they still provide many resources, including reviewing resumes, holding virtual workshops, and posting job openings. 

10. Be a resource for others. Let other job seekers know if you learn of openings that might be suitable for them. When you help others, they are more likely to help you. 
    
Additional information on job-search activities may be found in my book, The Communication Clinic:99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes. 

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on business etiquette, presentation skills, career advancement, professional presence, and business writing. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at Joyce@pachter.com. (www.pachter.com) 

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