How would you classify your social interactions in the work place?
Are you the kind of person who clocks in and out at the allocated time, barely lifting your gaze from your computer screen to acknowledge those around you?
Or do you live for the water cooler moments? Are you the life and soul of the office, on first name terms with everyone from the intern to the CTO?
Whatever your natural disposition to communicating your thoughts, feelings, and messages to other people, having an adequate social skill set at work can help you reap advantages that go way beyond top marks on the popularity front.
First off, let’s make this clear. Stronger and better relationships are not the exclusive remit of your personal life.
At work they can translate into opportunities. Building interpersonal relationships can help you advance in your career, open up the possibility of promotion, and – importantly – lead to greater satisfaction and a heightened capacity to deal with stress.
Being a better communicator can expose you to conversations and interactions that can help you become more efficient, whatever your role. And it can help you acquire knowledge you need to do your job better or understanding of issues that might be blocking progress.
Most jobs and employers today require that all-important “people component.” Whether it is simply sharing information or proactively managing and inspiring information, you are inevitably going to have to hone those interpersonal skills.
And the good news, if you are a shy and reserved type, is that social skills can be improved.
Nailing the Interpersonal
Think of it like this. Social skills, just like any other set of aptitudes and capabilities, are under your own cognitive control. That means that they can be learned, practiced, and honed.
The way that you deal and interact with other people is down to learning a set of behaviors, then how and when to use them..
Start by thinking about what it is you want to achieve. Maybe it is connecting better with your immediate colleagues. Perhaps it is improving the two-way communication lines between you and your manager. Or it might be that you have a direct report or a team that you need to align to your plan and motivate to perform well.
Whatever it is, there are simple techniques and habits that you get to kick things off and get you interacting more efficiently.
Seriously: say hi.
Greeting a colleague in the morning as you enter the workspace is the easiest and most natural place to start. And better yet, spark a conversation. Most people like to be asked an opinion or have some area of their own expertise tapped into. Remember, conversation is a two-way street. So look interested, keep your focus, and keep those questions coming.
And in the same manner… why not ask for advice?
Oftentimes we do not ask for help or advice for fear of looking weak or ignorant. In reality, asking for direction on a topic, whatever it is can help you in two ways:
- You might actually get some information you need.
- It tells the other person that you respect their opinion.
And it can engender mutual trust and confidence. Sounds like a win-win, right?
Mind Your Manners
Being courteous is also a win-win strategy. Having the manners to thank someone, or being gracious if you are at fault (as well as when you are successful!) says a lot about you as a person. It suggests confidence and self-esteem, which are attractive personality traits.
Basic courtesy also tells other people that they and their opinions are important to you.
Being courteous also implies being sincere and honest in your dealings with other people. Being someone that other people can trust is the keystone to encouraging good relationships – especially at work. So keep it sincere.
Aim to be someone that is true to their word; someone that others can rely upon. If you cannot do it, do not know how to do it, or simply do not have the time to do something, say so. But say so courteously and be mindful of the person or people you are talking to.
The Rules of Engagement
Engaging positively with other people in the workplace is predicated really on putting yourself in the shoes of someone else.
Essentially, successful social interaction is about respect and social etiquette. It is about doing your very best to put yourself in the place of other people and seeing things from their point of view.
Be guided by this more globally-mindful adaptation of the old adage: treat others as they would like to be treated.