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People Skills

People Skills (or Social skills) are most often thought of as a set of skills that allow us to communicate, relate and socialise with others. People skills include both verbal and nonverbal forms of communication. They often are the way others determine our status, consider us as potential friends or mates, and consider us for employment or promotions in the workplace. The opposite of good People skills is social ineptitude, which is an inability to use the defined set of social skills that would make one integrate and get on well with others.

People skills are both verbal and nonverbal. Verbal social skills include being able to determine the appropriate thing to say at the appropriate time, being able to communicate in ways that are engaging, have a range of vocal tone and quality, and being able to speak in an educated but reasonably understandable manner.

People with good verbal social skills are thought to speak with a clear voice, have inflection, speak appropriately to a situation, and have confidence in their voice. Poor verbal skills might be read as having a monotonal voice, saying the wrong thing, speaking too softly to be heard or too loudly to be tolerated, or simply speaking on boring topics. The person who can only address one topic is thought to have poor social skills.

The other aspect of social skills is nonverbal. Body language, standing up straight, making eye contact, making appropriate gestures, leaning toward the person one is speaking to, smiling appropriately, and keeping the body open can all define good nonverbal people skills. It should be noted that these things can be overdone. Gestures can be too dramatic, people who smile too much may not be trusted, and leaning too far forward into someone elseís personal space may be considered rude.

In addition, the person with good people skills listens well. Nodding of the head, the occasional quick comment, and clearly taking in someone elseís communications is valuable. People donít simply wish to be talked to; they want to be talked with. A sense that both communicators are taking equal part in a conversation demonstrates advanced social skills.

Though People skills can be learned, some people seem to have an innate sense of good social skills. Others may struggle because of communication disabilities. For example, those with autism, nonverbal learning disorders and Aspergerís all have an extremely hard time interpreting voice inflection, sarcasm, and body language. They also may have difficulty using voice inflection or sarcasm, and their body language may poorly communicate with others.

Those with social anxiety disorders may be challenged by feelings of panic when in certain social situations that make putting social skills to work very problematic. Though many can conquer social anxiety, those with known language disorders often face an uphill battle in having relationships and learning to be judged by their inner qualities, rather than by their lack of what the culture defines as people skills.

Examples of People Skills:

Sensitivity to others Shows ability to maintain a deep interest in the concerns and feeling of others. Inclined to find ways to help people.
Insight into others Shows an understanding of what makes people do what they do, and tolerance of the actions of others. Good at reading the moods of others.
Openness to others Is open to, and communicates with people at all levels. Inclined to share personal experiences and trust people.
Respect Shows consideration for the feelings, needs, thoughts, wishes and preferences of others (including other cultures and races).
Speaking / Presenting Presents information clearly and confidently to other individuals or groups. Maintains good eye contact and keeps the attention of an audience or individual.
Active listening Pays full attention to what other people are saying, takes time to understand the points being made, asks questions as needed, and does not interrupt inappropriately.
Conversation Speaks clearly and listens attentively. Attends to other people, not to themselves. Seeks clarification where necessary and attends to body language appropriately.
Persuasion Shows ability to influence peoples beliefs and actions. Shows ability to win peopleís cooperation and support for ideas or activities.
Team membership Works easily with groups of people and shows loyalty and commitment to the teamsí objectives. Attends to each memberís views equally.
Team participation Openly expresses views and opinions within a group. Shows willingness to take on tasks and responsibilities as appropriate to oneís experience.
Leadership Shows the ability to communicate a vision or goal to others and lead them towards achieving it. Pushes for action and results, and wins the support and help of others.
Your Career Skills distinguish you from others more than you might think!
Where do I start?
You can use the exercise on this downloadable worksheet to discover the most sought after skills needed to get jobs in the modern workplace. By rating yourself on these skills, you can see where your strengths and weaknesses may lie. Then, you can look for opportunities to develop and practice your underdeveloped skills.

Worksheet - Career Skills Self-Assessment
[pdf - 540Kb, 4 pages]
Download Self-Assement Worksheet