Career and professional success depends on excellent relationships with clients, vendors, peers, colleagues, stakeholders, and others in your network. Positive relationships depend on great interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence and social interactions.
After leaving the formal world of ‘work’ the same skills are needed with friends, neighbours, family and others in your post work network. Maintaining a vibrant social network is essential for postworksavvy as interactions with people will create a satisfying life. The loss of social contacts through the daily office experience is most-often cited as the greatest challenge of retirement.
In searching through antique markets in South Western Ontario, I found some historical advice books in a flea market near our cottage. Interestingly, one book contained a great list of basic human relations advice given a couple of generations ago. The advice has enduring value and forms the backbone of this post:
- Speak to people. A cheerful greeting is always an easy start to a successful interaction. Whether it is the server at the coffee shop, the clerk at the variety store, or a difficult family member, beginning the interaction with a genuine and friendly greeting lays the foundation for a similar response which can build into a great exchange of conversation and more.
- Smile at people. Nobody wants to spend time with a grouch bag so don’t begin by looking like a grouch or presenting with aloofness. It is too easy to forget the old adage that it takes 72 muscles to frown and only 14 to smile. Coupled with your cheerful greeting, a big smile invites a similar response from people.
- Call people by name. Personalize the interaction with using the person’s name as you speak. The sweetest music to anyone’s ears is the sound of his or her own name. This simple technique recognizes the uniqueness of the individual. If you are interacting with someone you don’t know personally, observe their name tag and address the person. This gives the message that you have taken enough time to read the name tag and that you respect their name. If interacting with a stranger, ask their name as another means of initiating interaction — and give them your name in response.
- Be friendly and helpful. Treat others the way you want to be treated. By showing interest in the the other person and demonstrating goodwill in the interaction you indicate your intentions. Your friendliness opens the door to further conversation and exchange. If you want to have friends, you need to be a friend.
- Be cordial. Speak and act as if all you do is a genuine pleasure. Surprisingly, you will find that what you are doing becomes pleasurable.
- Be generous with praise — and cautious with criticism. People respond to praise. Using this technique also helps you to find the strengths in others and to appreciate them. Coupled with a smile and the friendliness, a comment praising some aspect of the person takes a relationship, even a casual relationship to a new level. Criticism diminishes esteem — yours included.
- Be considerate with the feelings of others. We all have feelings and we all have our fragilities. Nobody appreciates hurtful comments — stop talking before you hurt the people with whom you are interacting.
- Be genuinely interested in people. You can usually find something to like in all people. Look for those qualities that make a person unique; look for those aspects of their job or their personality in which they take pride and compliment this. Recognition is appreciated!
- Look for opportunities to serve. What counts most in life is what we give back and what we do for others. Giving back may involve volunteering in your community or it might just involve a favour for someone who needs a hand. Use your gifts and they will multiply for you. This is how you get good karma.
- Be respectful of others and of yourself. Paying attention to the subtle aspects of these essential skills for good human relations will lay the groundwork for good self esteem and for rewarding social relationships.
Healthy relationships are rewarding. However, there are no shortcuts and the skills need to be applied consistently. The skills build on each other and compliment each other.
Once these skills are part of your daily repertoire, add your good sense of humour, a big dose of patience and a dash of humility. You will be rewarded many times over.
NOTE: These essential skills are adapted from a community publication of community recipes and advice by the Vanastra & District Lioness Club, Vanastra, Ontario entitled the “Ten Commandments of Human Relations” — no further attribution is noted in the publication.