People skills are extremely important no matter what type of business you’re in, but great people skills don’t come naturally to everyone. If you feel like your ability to connect and converse with others is severely lacking, here are 13 ways to improve your people skills and start interacting with people in a positive way.
1. Ask Great Questions
The key to connecting with people is great conversation, and when you’re trying to improve your people skills, you may not know where to start. You can’t always be prepared for conversations ahead of time when you’re not sure what topics may come up, but the one tip you can carry with you, but if you get stuck, remember you can start a great conversation by asking great questions. Everyone has something they’re passionate about and asking a few initial questions can help you figure out what makes the other person tick. By asking intuitive questions and allowing the other person to tell you about themselves, you’ll be able to connect with others and the conversation will start to feel more natural.
2. Learn About Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence means being aware of your own emotions and the emotions of those around you. Having emotional intelligence also means having empathy for the people you connect with and using the emotional information you have to guide your thoughts and behavior. If you’re able to develop your emotional intelligence, this will lead you to be more understanding of others which will make it a lot easier for others to talk to you. Self-awareness is an important skill to have in social situations, and even if you don’t understand what someone is sharing with you, emotional intelligence gives you the ability to clarify and give positive feedback to the person you’re connecting with.
3. Learn to Read Body Language
If you’re someone who struggles with realizing the emotions of those around them, being able to read body language is one way to develop those skills. Body language can say a lot about how someone is feeling, even without that person realizing it. Although everyone’s body language may be a little bit different, as you begin to study the body language of other people, you’ll notice that there are some universal gestures that are used by many. You can tell a lot about a person by reading their facial expressions, hand gestures, or even posture.
4. Be a Good Listener
Being a good listener means being an active listener. Simple gestures such as nodding your head or making eye contact make a world of difference when someone is talking to you. Being a good listener also means being an empathetic listener. Don’t just pretend to care about what they’re talking about, show a genuine interest in what the speaker is saying. Ask clarifying questions to show you have a desire to understand how they’re feeling. When genuine empathy is shown, the speaker will feel more comfortable and they’ll be more willing to share what’s on their mind.
5. Respect Those Around You
Respect can go a long way when you’re trying to connect with someone. There are many people who believe respect should be earned, and they also believe it certainly can be lost, but respect is simply showing care and regard for the feelings and beliefs of others. When you’re having a conversation with someone, it’s important to show you respect the way they feel, as this will lead to them feeling more comfortable conversing with you.
6. Be Confident
Confidence attracts other people and is a key part of improving your people skills. If you approach someone in a conversation and show that you feel comfortable speaking with them, they’re more likely to want to talk about their abilities and be confident as well. Confidence is not the same as arrogance, so it’s still important to take the time to listen to others before you speak and give them the opportunity to utilize their skills as well.
7. Think Positive
Positive thinking is not always the solution to every problem, but it does help when you’re trying to learn a new skill. Working on your people skills especially can be nerve-racking, but having a positive attitude can help you get up again when you feel like you’ve failed in a conversation. Don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes longer than you expected to develop these skills. People skills are not something you learn overnight! Experience and practice are the best way to learn and both of those take time.
8. Stick to Your Personal Values
Improving your people skills doesn’t mean you should mimic what everyone around you thinks or feels. Even when you’re trying to get to know someone new, it’s important to stick to your core values. Dealing with conflict is not easy for anyone, but challenging situations usually require the most people skills. Sticking to your personal values is so important, especially when dealing with conflict because it means you can be honest without sacrificing your integrity or the integrity of the person you’re in conflict with.
9. Appreciate Others
Despite how much people love to feel appreciated, we’re not usually quick to offer appreciation to others. Even if it’s just a quick “thank you,” let the people around you know that you appreciate what they do. Appreciation opens the door for relationship building and genuine friendship. When people feel appreciated, they’re happier and more likely to connect with those around them.
10. Communicate Clearly
Communicating clearly is an important part of improving your social skills because it’s hard to have a productive conversation if you’re hard to understand or if you struggle to get your point across. Remember to take deep breaths if you’re nervous and don’t be afraid to pause in a conversation if you need a moment to think about what you’re going to say. Ask clarifying questions to make sure you’re on the same page as the other person and make sure you both understand each other.
11. Ask for Feedback
If you truly want to improve your people skills, it’s important to be open to constructive criticism and feedback from others. After you participate in a conversation with a group of people, choose someone from the group you can trust and ask for their feedback on your people skills. There are a lot of things that we may not notice about ourselves that someone else will. The best way to get better at something is to find our areas of weakness and work to improve them.
12. Don’t Dwell on the Discomfort
It can be uncomfortable talking to someone for the first time, or if you’re particularly shy, talking to anyone other than those close to you can be uncomfortable. Dwelling on the discomfort, however, will make the other person feel uncomfortable as well. Try to move past it by recognizing you’re probably not alone in feeling that way! Many people feel uncomfortable in social situations, sometimes even those who appear confident and at ease. If you do feel anxiety or uneasiness, start with small talk and once you feel a little more confident, you can move on to bigger topics.
13. Be Yourself
The best thing you can do when starting a conversation with someone is to be your authentic self. You’re not going to connect well with every single person you meet, but even if you don’t, people will respect you and enjoy being around you if you’re genuine. People love authenticity, and no one wants to talk to someone who is trying too hard or who appears fake.
People skills are something most of us will continue to work on and improve for the rest of our lives. With experience and practice, connecting and conversing with others does get easier, but these 13 ways to improve your people skills are a great place to start.
Keith Miller has over 25 years experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entreprenuer, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.