Whether you’re heading out the door to college or into your first real job – nailing down a command of basic interpersonal skills is a great way to prepare yourself for a successful future.
Knowing how best to interact with others and knowing what to do in every social situation will not only help boost your confidence but it will also help you be perceived positively. The good news is the basic rules are very simple and will become natural to you with a bit of practice and application. In the event you already know the rules but are not applying them as often as you know you should, you might want to consider getting in the habit of presenting yourself at your best at all times. Good interpersonal skills appear natural and automatic – they don’t feel awkward because you’re not just bringing them out on special occasions while trying to remember what’s in the rulebook.
The foundation for social skills, etiquette and good manners is respect. It’s treating everyone respectfully and operating with mindfulness and awareness about how your behavior is affecting others. We all know what it feels like when we think someone has treated us disrespectfully, so it’s easy to see why some version of the “Golden Rule” is still part of the philosophy of all the major spiritual traditions, and a growing number of corporate and small business cultures, as well.
Shake hands correctly. For both men and women a good handshake is firm, connecting the space between your thumb and forefinger with the same space of the hand you are shaking. Be sure not to grab just the fingertips. As well, make sure you don’t bend your hand and extend just your fingertips. Fully connect and shake, using a gentle up and down motion from the elbow. Be mindful not to squeeze too hard or shake too long. Do not hesitate in extending your hand. Regardless of gender, shaking hands is the acceptable greeting and should be done again when you say good-bye.
Greet people effectively. Introduce yourself to people you do not know. Offer your hand, say your name slowly and clearly, and give a little information to help get the conversation going.
Introduce people properly. Learn the mechanics of both a business and a social introduction. In business, introductions are based on precedence, not gender. This means you would introduce a peer to your boss, where as your boss would be introduced to a client or customer. In social introductions, a person is generally introduced to an older or more “distinguished” person and in most circumstances a man is still introduced to a woman.
Stand up for introductions. Whether you are male or female, stand up when you are introduced to anyone and everyone unless there is a compelling reason for you not to do so, even when you hear, “Oh, don’t get up.”
Maintain eye contact. Maintaining good eye contact with the person you are talking to gives the impression that you care what they are saying and that you are respectful. Avoid staring by occasionally looking at another feature of the face.
Sound pleasant. Try not to be lazy in your speech. Whether we like it or not, we are all judged by the way we sound. Constantly using words such as “like,” “you know,” and “um” will not be to your best advantage.
Truly listen. Really listening to people is a skill that few fail to appreciate – almost everyone just loves a great listener. This skill alone will help you immensely and when coupled with the practice of never interrupting others, it is a sure winner.
Be aware of others. Be aware of how considerate your behavior is in public. Do you open doors for someone approaching behind you? Are you quiet and respectful in public places? Are you annoying others with your wireless phone conversation? How we treat people matters. The person you cut off at an intersection today may be the person you face at an employment interview tomorrow.
Be friendly. Smile. Be warm. Learn the social skills you need to be comfortable with all people and practice your new skills until you appear at ease wherever you are.