From The Straits Times    |

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One of the most important tools for achieving our goals and building strong interpersonal relationships is people skills. Not only does building our emotional intelligence make us more self-aware and empathetic, it also improves the way we communicate with others and boost our confidence.

However, even though practically all of us use our people skills every day, emotional intelligence and social skills are not typically a part of our formal education. We need to know how to listen, convey our intentions, and resolve differences without conflict. But most of us don’t do those very well.

Here are some methods we can adopt to improve on the way we interact with others, especially when we have to deal with challenging people or be in tough situations.


1. Develop your EQ


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Emotional intelligence makes us more aware and in control of our thoughts and emotions. Honing your emotional intelligence can help you keep your emotions in check and make you a more confident communicator.

The first step is awareness. Pay close attention to your emotions and responses in different situations. Keep your emotions balanced and try to understand why you feel that way. Recognise, too, the emotions in others and try to understand their effect. Use that to guide your behaviour. When you’re more empathetic and compassionate, you’re likely to be more successful. Conversely when you or the other person are both stressed and feel like you can’t make the other see your point, you lose common ground.


2. Find positive ways to resolve conflict 


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Conflict is unavoidable in any kind of relationship, whether it’s at work or at home. To resolve conflict in a positive way, learn to let go of grudges and to focus on the issue at hand. Don’t get personal. Figure out what lies at the core of the disagreement and work with the other person on resolving it.

Think of it as both of you against the problem, not each other. The aim is to compromise with others, not win the argument — that’s constructive conflict, and it helps both of you grow. Besides, you can always agree to disagree without losing respect for each other.


3. Be genuine in getting to know someone


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Ever met someone who appeared friendly but somehow seemed disengaged? When people don’t appear entirely genuine, they can risk alienating others. Instead of making pointless small talk, ask questions that people are excited to answer and listen attentively. Go beyond the surface and get to know them as you would a friend. 

Questions like “What are you doing right now that excites you?” or “What would you be doing if you didn’t have to worry about money?” gets people to open up quickly.


4. Learn to listen


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It’s easy to talk, and much harder to listen. Good communication calls for good listening skills

Many people are usually focusing on what to say next instead of listening to what others are saying. Doing so not only shows that you are not paying attention, you also won’t truly connect with the other person. Take the time to listen before speaking, and don’t be in a hurry to launch into your point. And remember to make eye contact while you listen and speak.


5. Note your body language


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Our body language can convey a lot more than we are aware of in any given situation. Research has shown that most of the communication happens non-verbally. Listen to not just what people are saying, but also how they are saying it.

Pay attention to your non-verbal cues such as eye contact (an appreciate length of time is three seconds before looking away), good posture (bunching indicates low self-esteem and potentially something to hide) and hand gestures (folded hands indicate a reserved nature, while gesticulating shows openness). These can tell more about you than the things you say.





6. Be you — online and in real life


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Social media can be both a boon and a bane to your image. While it may be easy to curate your virtual persona and reflect only the best of you, what really matters is what you are like in person. Like Maya Angelou said, people won’t remember what you said, but how you made them feel. 

Embrace your authentic self and reflect the same personality that makes you unique. Others will appreciate what you bring to the table and you don’t have to compromise who you are. Plus, authenticity leads to greater trust, which in turn helps you build stronger relationships both online and offline.


7. Maintain relationships


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Healthy, positive relationships can raise your confidence and make you more forthcoming and sociable. Sociability is a muscle that becomes stronger the more you exercise it. Even if you’re not a “people person”, the more you engage in social interaction, the more rewarding it will be. 

To build and maintain good relationships, make the effort to check in on and catch up with your contacts. It’s always nice to receive a message or phone call from a friend, after all. Reaching out only when you need something from others is an indication of how you view the relationship.


8. Be confident, not cocky


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There’s confidence, and then there’s arrogance. Sometimes, we get so preoccupied with trying to appear self-assured that we come across as conceited instead. 

Confidence is more than just knowing your own value; it’s also being of value to others. People gravitate to someone who affirms and lifts them up instead of simply flaunting their own merits. 

Make sure you’re talking with someone, and not at them. And try to find a common ground that makes the other person able to relate more to you. For instance, instead of talking about your achievements, share about the challenges along the way and ask if they have encountered something similar when going after their goals.


9. Expand your social circle


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Meeting new people can broaden your perspective and world view. It also raises your emotional intelligence because you get to exercise your people skills and grow in empathy. The more varied your social circle, the less confined you are in your thinking and the more comfortable you become with meeting different people.

When meeting new people, get to truly know them by letting them express themselves without leaping to snap judgments or interrupting them with your own opinions.



10. Be open to feedback


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Asking for feedback shows that you are not only willing to understand other viewpoints and value others’ impression of you, but are constantly looking to improve your communication skills. By working on the feedback you receive, you learn to communicate better and grow more receptive to criticism, which builds resilience and emotional maturity.

Take time to seek feedback such as “What’s one thing I could improve?” or “What do you think you might have done differently?” to find out if you’re effectively communicating your point. 

Be receptive, not defensive, when you’re given feedback, even if it’s a negative one. Find ways to learn and improve instead of jumping to defend yourself, which can put up even more walls between you and others.