Photo: Tresal Photography
Devon Ryan is IEEE-USA’s Young Professionals Voice columnist, and the Young Professionals Representative on the IEEE-USA Board of Directors. Follow him on Twitter @DevonRyanI.
In my last article, "Making It Happen," I discussed the top qualities of highly effective people, and embracing people was one of them. People skills are not only vital for successful professional careers, but in life itself, so let’s take a deeper dive into this topic.
You are only as good as the people around you; and you can be even better, if you master the ability to embrace people. The good news is that with a little bit of intention, anyone can foster the skills necessary to work in a collaborative environment--with only a few fundamentals. What do these fundamentals entail? The first fundamental to consider is the ability to…listen.
If there is one thing I want you to take away from reading this column, it is the unique ability to listen. The hard truth is that real listening is a rarity these days. The majority of people simply do not listen attentively. It’s no surprise, with all the various distractions in our lives. How many times have you started a conversation with someone, only to see them glancing at their phone when they get notifications? Now think about that for a second. If they were in tune with you, and what you were saying; if they were 100% vested into engaging in a conversation with you, they would not be distracted.
Don’t be this person. Instead, stand out by making an extra effort to really listen to the person you are engaged with. By doing so, you will instantly become more memorable--highly beneficial in a collaborative and social environment.
How well are you listening? Well enough to pick up on subtle social cues? Some people are simply not interested in conversing, and it’s not always obvious. For various reasons, some people do a great job appearing to be engaged, but they are really thinking about something else--like what they are going to eat for lunch. Time is valuable--so why waste their time? Why waste yours? Here are some subtle social cues to look for to combat disengaged listeners:
- Look at their feet. Are they pointed to you, or away? Imagine walking up to someone sitting at their desk to start a conversation. If they turn their whole body towards you, they are engaged. If they slightly turn only their neck to look at you, they are not engaged.
- Look at their eyes. Are they making eye contact? If so, they are engaged with you. If not, time to make better use of your time.
- Assess their brevity. Are they short with you? A good indicator is if they are answering you with short, yes and no responses.
At the very least, you can listen; but if you really want to make an impression, then dial it up a notch by providing some…support.
Some people need to vent. Others need a gentle affirmation to give them the impetus to just get started . You can be someone’s motivation, and all it takes is a little bit of support.
I learned early on in my life that you just can’t control some things--especially people. When engaged in conversation, you will hear things that you simply do not agree with. Most people immediately compare what they are hearing to their own lives, and will react as a result of it. Rather than impress your thoughts or opinions on them, just listen and support. Be mindful that people come from different backgrounds, with different circumstances; so I encourage you to embody different perspectives.
A little support will go a long way; but if you are really in tune while listening, you can take it to the next level by…helping.
While you are listening to, and understanding, the other person’s needs, you might discover they need help with something. Another way to build rapport and synergize your working relationships is by helping those in need. While listening, ask yourself:
- Is this person asking for my help?
- If they are seeking help, how can I assist them; or direct them to someone who can?
Simply listen more to people, and you will stand out in the crowd. Always remember a little support will go a long way. And lend a helping hand to people who seek it—and at the same time, you will be personally helping yourself.
This framework will help get you started on your people skills. I challenge you add to it--by embracing and leveraging your own personal unique qualities. With some self-contemplation, you will tap into your own innate charisma.