People skills made easy

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Just as Dale Carnegie wrote about people skills in How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936), Walter Anderson has piggybacked on this legacy in The Confidence Course (HarperCollins, New York, 1997). The longtime editor of Parade magazine, Anderson adopts the classic self-help style of loading up on anecdotes and reminding readers that if he can do it, they can too.

Anderson emphasizes the need to take responsibility for your actions and tolerate and forgive others’ mistakes. He writes that the best way to overcome shyness is to direct your attention to others and launch stimulating conversations. His tips:

Radiate nonverbal energy. Listen actively. Rather than just sit there and throw in an occasional desultory nod, show that you truly enjoy the conversation. Exhibit animated facial expressions and encourage the speaker to elaborate. React visibly to what you hear.

Ask “why.” Open-ended questions invite speakers to take center stage. When you ask them “why” or “how,” they’ll reveal more of themselves and feel more connected to you as a result. If you pose too many closed-end questions that trigger yes/no answers, you’ll find it harder to keep the conversation moving forward.

Express agreement. Anderson advises you to “agree heartily; disagree softly.” Don’t miss opportunities to let others know that you share their views. And if you disagree, let them know by asking a question. (“That’s not how I see it. How did you arrive at that conclusion?”)

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