The art of connection and influence: Polishing your people skills to become a star performer

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Welcome to the last in our series of posts examining the importance of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in personal branding. Our recent posts offered strategies to help you develop various components of EQ, such as self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation and empathy. This post examines social skills (or people skills) and their importance in becoming a star performer.

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You typically know when you’ve met someone with good people skills. They tend to be likeable, easy to talk to, great communicators and influential leaders. They form genuine connections with others and help them shine and grow. Their social skills help them understand, negotiate and diffuse disagreements or conflicts. They also tend to be collaborative team players that energize the group. These star performers have mastered the art of connection and influence, skills that are tantamount to a successful career…and life.

So, how can you improve your people skills?

  • Examine your effect – This is a simple but important one: step back and think about how your actions will affect the other person, before you act. If your decision will impact others, try your best to put yourself in their place. Ask yourself the following: how will they feel if you do this? Would you want to experience this? How will this impact the relationship? What objective will this help you achieve? If you do take an action that may have a negative result for the other person, how can you lessen the impact or help them deal with it?
  • Sharpen your communication skills – Are you an effective communicator? MindTools has a quick communication quiz to help you find out (which also gives useful feedback on what to improve). Effective communication is not only important to help you convey ideas clearly and effectively, it also helps increase the chances of getting the results you want. As the “sender” in any exchange (whether that be in person, over email or telephone), you are responsible for making sure the message is communicated effectively. Pay attention to words, actions and tone (including using bold or ALL CAPS in emails, which implies yelling), as well as body language. Again, always consider the receiver’s response and keep your objective (what you want from the exchange) in mind.
  • Use positive reinforcement – We might be going back to Psychology 101 here, but it’s easy to forget how important and effective positive reinforcement is. Simply put, positive reinforcement is offering something positive in response to a certain behaviour, which increases the likelihood of that behaviour happening again. It can also enhance relationships. Offering praise (when it’s earned) is one simple way to strengthen a relationship. It can also inspire loyalty and motivate others. Offering recognition can give people a sense of importance and a feeling of appreciation, which can do wonders for a relationship.
  • Pick your battles and resolve conflicts – Picking your battles is all about being selective with the problems you decide to take on… at work, in relationships, with friendships, or in life. It’s therefore important to determine whether the realistic gains of initiating the conflict outweigh the potential costs. Is this a situation where you can express yourself effectively and assertively (see below)? Is it better to work on accepting the situation? Of course, conflicts are an inevitable part of life. After all, people have different viewpoints, opinions, values, and “rules” about the way people or things should be, as do you. As these differences can escalate to a conflict, how you handle these situations will determine what happens with the relationship. Understanding and appreciating the other person’s point of view in a conflict are key factors in resolving the conflict successfully. Check out this article from MindTools for more on this.
  • Express your needs – Assertiveness is an incredibly important social skill, but also an often-misunderstood one. Many people mistake assertiveness for aggression, when it in fact involves a balanced response; one that is neither passive nor aggressive.  Passivity (regularly putting others needs before our own) can not only weaken relationships and create an unbalanced dynamic, but can also leave one feeling resentful, anxious or depressed. Working on assertiveness may be difficult at first, but you’ll be happier, and those around you will understand you better – so it will be a win-win in the end. For more on assertiveness, check out The Mayo Clinic’s site.

We hope you enjoyed this series of posts on EQ and personal branding. The take away message here is this: to be a star performer, one must have a good understanding of not only their emotions and the emotions of others, but also their actions and how they affect the people around them.

Go back through the series as needed and take time to assess your EQ and work on self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Working on these areas will help you enhance your EQ and help you become a star performer in your own right!


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