By Goke Ilesanmi
I was held up in traffic jam one day, and as I was thinking about how I could wriggle my way out, a hawker came close to me and rudely knocked on my window glass. I thought he wanted to draw my attention to something on my car, so I wound down. To my amazement, he said he had been signalling to me for some minutes to buy something from him but I did not look at him. That was why he had to knock on my glass like that. I looked at him angrily and then told him to leave.
Shortly after, another hawker came towards me in the traffic jam, bowed head in greeting and smiled, and I waved at him. Later on, he showed concern about the terrible traffic hold-up and suggested to me alternative roads that I could take next time and we started interacting. Before long, I asked him the prices of what he was selling and bought things from him because of his interpersonal skills, a kind of social credibility needed in selling and marketing.
Importance of interaction
Ability to interact and communicate with others is very important if we hope to succeed in whatever we do. Strong interpersonal skills accelerate human success. This is because the way we are perceived by people around us plays a major role in our day-to-day happiness at home, in the office; and also determines our career future among other things.
So, no matter how hard we work or brilliant we are, if we cannot relate well with the people around us, our chances of success may be negatively affected. It is noteworthy that interpersonal skills, otherwise called soft skills, communication skills, life skills, social skills or people skills, are so natural that we tend to take them for granted, especially that we never consider how we communicate with other people at times. The good news is that we can develop these skills with minimal efforts.
In this column last week, I stressed the need for job-seekers and others to always emphasise their unique selling points. For instance, organisations that have adopted the modern method of emotional intelligence assessment in their recruitment process are basically looking for interpersonal skills, even though consciously or unconsciously almost all employers stress these skills in their employment adverts, thus, “Applicants must possess strong interpersonal skills”.
According to SkillsYouNeed, organisations emphasise these attributes because they want people who will work well in a team and are able to communicate effectively with colleagues, customers and others. Interpersonal skills are not just important in the workplace, our personal and social lives can also benefit from better interpersonal skills. People with good interpersonal skills are usually seen as confident, charismatic, optimistic and calm.
One error that is very common in interpersonal relationships is to think that it is very simple. Dr. Brenda Shoshanna, an author, a psychologist and relationship expert, says cultivating what one hopes will be a successful relationship requires hard work and most people think that relationships exist to make them happy. Despite all the training in life, we often fail to learn how to build a relationship in a way that brings out the best in us.
But it is a must that we should endeavour to take our relationships to the next level. The fact is that conflict is inevitable when people interact and it is important that we should know how to handle such conflict. Azriel Winnett, a relationship management expert says, “But when handled properly, conflict need not drive the parties further apart. On the contrary, it could bring them closer together.”
On what inhibits the harmony that we seek so much and deprives us of the peaceful co-existence that is missing in our workplace and social environment, the answer is the three-letter word called “EGO”. Is the Ego really so bad? It is not always bad. For instance, if by ‘ego’ we mean ‘self-esteem’, it is indispensable. It is believed that we cannot start loving others until we love ourselves first. That is perfectly true if we are talking about the right kind of self-love. Winnett says, “But if my Ego means my needs, my honour, my sensitivities, always come first (and probably middle and last), boy, we’re playing with dynamite!”
However, the good news is that there are several concrete things you can do to improve your social skills and become closer to your colleagues, all of which will ultimately help you succeed in your endeavours. The first of these is to endeavour to smile. Only few people want to be around someone who always frowns. Therefore, be physically friendly with your co-workers and people around you. This will attract people to you.
Another thing is to show appreciation. Find one positive thing about people you work with and let them hear it. Be generous with praise and kind words of encouragement. “Say thanks when someone helps you. Make colleagues feel welcome when they call or stop by your office. If you let others know that they are appreciated, they’ll want to give you their best,” says Dr. Loren Ekroth, a specialist in human communication.
Proficiency of communication
Practising effective listening and communication is another strategy. Listening is a way of demonstrating that you intend to hear and understand another person’s point of view. It means restating, in your own words, what the other person has said. People will appreciate the fact that you always listen to what they have to say. You should also pay close attention to both what you say and how you say it. Being a clear and effective communicator helps you avoid misunderstandings with others. Verbal eloquence projects an image of intelligence and maturity, irrespective of your age.
Harmony and humour
Another thing you can do to enhance your interpersonal skills is to create an environment that encourages others to work together. You should also take a step beyond simply bringing people together and become someone who resolves conflicts when they arise. You should also try to be funny or clever. People are naturally drawn to a person that can make them laugh. Therefore, exploit your sense of humour as an effective tool to lower barriers and gain people’s affection.
If you can do all these, you will be able to accelerate your pace to success through effective interpersonal skills.
Till we meet on Wednesday.
GOKE ILESANMI, Managing Consultant/CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Certified Public Speaker/MC, Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker and Career Management Coach. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.
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