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Article | 31 Oct 2014

Develop & improve interpersonal skills

Posted in Top tips, Tools & Advice,

Talking to friends and family is one thing but can you walk into an office setting and start a conversation with confidence and grace? Interpersonal skills may be one of the most valued things to have within a workplace and can mean the difference between getting the job or not, despite your other expertise and experience.

People choose to do business with people they like. So whether you're going for an interview, trying to create the perfect pitch or in an everyday work setting, here are some things to consider in order to create the right impression.

Know who you are and show it

In order to present yourself to others, know who you are and have the confidence to reveal it. “Being comfortable in your own skin is important,” says Charlotte Frische, a communication coach and owner of www.howtoassociates.com. “People will make quick judgments about who we are on first meeting. Therefore, knowing who we are and managing our reputation through what we say and what they see is crucial.” Being comfortable with who you are and how you present yourself in any particular situation portrays everything about you in a business setting.

In her Ted talk titled Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, Amy Cuddy discusses the concept of a powerful presence, stating, “It’s not about the content of the speech, it’s about the presence that [people] are bringing to the speech.” If you don’t feel you have this presence, not to worry, having this presence can be learned and adapted; in fact, Frische runs a course exactly on this topic.

Smile

Putting a smile on your face, despite how you really feel inside, will not only make you appear friendlier, it will also make you feel better and more relaxed about your situation. People are more drawn to positive and happy people. In a study done in the UK by Dr. Tom Hartley, 1000 random faces were taken from the internet and strangers were asked to rate them based on personality traits.

The faces that were smiling were most widely connected to approachability and trustworthiness. Smiling will give you the appearance of being calm and collected in any business setting, as well as give you an advantage over colleagues and other interviewees.

Rehearse

Just as an Olympic athlete trains for years prior to the Olympics or an actor practices their lines before going on stage, you should rehearse what you are going to say before entering an interview or any sort of formal business interaction, Frische explains.

Think about the kind of questions that may be asked and develop appropriate answers to these questions, or, if presenting, know exactly what you will say in your presentation. Rehearsing will make you feel more confident which will show to your audience. Whether it’s in front of a mirror, walking through the park or in front of your child, speak the words out loud so when the time comes you’re ready.

Listen

“The top flaw I see within the workplace is an inability to be 100% focused on what another person is saying,” Frische says. We all have chaos and commotion within our lives, but it’s extremely important to cut through that and focus and listen to what is being said to you in the moment.

“The rule of thumb,” suggests Frische, “is the 80/20 rule. Spend 80% of your time listening and 20% talking. If you can do that, paradoxically, people will walk away thinking you are the best person they have ever met because you have allowed them to talk about their favourite topic, themselves.”

Be clear

Whether you’re in a business meeting, an interview or just a casual conversation between colleagues, always be clear and concise in what you are saying. This requires preparation and thought in knowing what you are going to say ahead of time. Others will appreciate you not wasting their time and you are more likely to get results when you make your point clear.

Tell a story

“Telling a story gives you the power to be memorable and engaging,” Frische tells us. When speaking to a colleague or groups of colleagues, you don’t want to bore them by going on and on about a topic, as they will tune out. Throughout your presentation, add in relatable stories to grab their attention. Then, when you are finished speaking they will remember a specific point you made based on the story you accompanied it with. After all, Frische continues, “Stories have successfully been used across nations, societies and cultures. It is not a management fad!”

Be confident

People often misinterpret being told to be confident with being cocky. They’re not the same. Be confident in what you are saying to someone. Whether you are in a job interview or pitching an idea, you are selling yourself and your ideas. You’ve rehearsed your words, you know who you are, so go out and present that with confidence. And, as Cuddy says in her Ted Talk, if you don’t feel confident “don’t fake it till you make it; fake it till you become it.”