10 Tips for Improving Social Intercourse
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past commentaries I have described the problems our younger workers are having
with interpersonal relations/communications. Many find it easier to plug into
an iPod as opposed to working with others. This is resulting in a socially
dysfunctional workplace where people work at odds with each other. To overcome
this problem, I offer the following suggestions for improving a person's
social intercourse. There is nothing magical here, just ten commonsense tips
to help you develop better relationships with your coworkers, your vendors,
and your customers.
1. GREET SOMEONE
Nobody wants to feel unwelcome or unappreciated. If they
do, they will feel like outcasts and less likely to help you with something.
The objective is to make people feel at home. This can be accomplished with a
simple greeting or a firm handshake while looking at the person directly in
It is easy to detect when a greeting is sincere or routine.
Your goal is to appear genuinely concerned about the person. This can be
* Complimenting on some personal attribute of the person
(e.g., clothes, hair, car).
* Inquiring about a person's family (e.g., birthday
observed, anniversary, graduation, pets, health, etc.)
* Asking about an event the person recently experienced
(e.g., attendance at an event, participation in a volunteer
organization/charity, a new job or project assignment, etc.),
* Commenting on something newsworthy - community, sports,
weather ("What did you think about...?")
Such greetings are an expression of your interest in the
person. Too often greetings become routine and, as such, less credible. Try to
break it up.
A good, basic greeting can work wonders in building
cooperation between people.
2. ENGAGE IN A CONVERSATION
People have a natural curiosity as to what you are all
about. The best way to communicate this is to engage in simple conversation.
Some people are naturally shy and tend to withdraw from such discourse. If one
person is not willing to start a conversation, another should take the
initiative simply by asking the other, "How are you?" or "What do
A good icebreaker is to tell a joke. But in this day and
age of "political correctness," exercise good judgment and taste in your humor.
Avoid slang and offensive remarks unless the occasion calls for it.
Goodhearted kidding and teasing is fine, as long as it doesn't turn malicious.
Some people do not have the gift of gab for telling jokes.
As such, tell a story about some recent event that happened to you. But don't
ramble. Stay focused and be sure your story has a point to it.
A conversation is a two-way street, regardless if it is
humorous or serious in tone. Look interested, stay focused, and ask questions.
Also be careful not to dominate a conversation unless that is your intention.
If you have a tendency to monopolize a conversation, people will be less
likely to engage in conversation with you.
For additional information on discourse, see:
No. 60 -
"The Art of Persuasion" - Feb 20, 2006
Many people prefer to sit back and watch as others perform
the work. Volunteering your time or skills may add an additional burden but it
tells others you believe in them and are willing to help out. Such an
expression also makes it easy for you to solicit support when you are in need
4. ASK FOR ADVICE
Too often people are too proud (or too stubborn) to ask for
directions in our journey through life. But asking for advice from a colleague
accomplishes two things: first, you might get the answer you seek, and;
second, it says to the person you trust and respect their opinion. By
confiding in an individual, the advisor becomes concerned with your best
interests. This leads to mutual trust and respect between people.
When you are asked to offer advice to another, be as
articulate and rational as possible. If you do not know the correct answer, do
not fabricate advice or mislead the person. This will only shatter the
person's trust in you. Instead, point him in another direction where he might
find the answer he is seeking.
It seems participation in trade groups and volunteer
organizations today are dwindling. This is surprising since such groups
provide a convenient vehicle to meet and exchange ideas with your peers. Such
forums are useful:
* To exercise our basic social skills.
* To stay abreast of current developments in our field of
* To establish relationships with people who possess different
skills and knowledge that can help us.
Instead of resisting networking with others, the younger
generation should embrace it. I heartily recommend joining trade groups and
volunteer/charity/fraternal organizations. Regardless of the group dynamics
involved, such forums help to improve ourselves personally and professionally.
6. TURN OPPONENTS INTO PROPONENTS
Today we live in a competitive society (some prefer the
expression "a dog-eat-dog world"). I guess this is somewhat natural.
There is nothing wrong with some friendly competition; it is when it turns
vicious, thereby turning competitors into enemies, that you have to be
careful. To overcome this problem, be gracious in defeat and magnanimous in
victory. This was the secret to Abraham Lincoln's success. After losing
earlier political campaigns, Lincoln would stun his opponents by appearing at
their victory celebrations and offering a sincere hand of congratulations and
support. Because of this, his early opponents became his proponents later on.
After winning the presidential campaign of 1860 he again stunned his opponents
by offering them seats in his cabinet. These former opponents became his
closest confidants during the dark days of the American Civil War.
It is one thing to go into a contest confidently; it is
quite another to go in with a chip on your shoulder, thereby inviting trouble.
Take disagreements in stride and pick your fights carefully. Ask yourself if
it is really necessary to create an enemy at this point in your career.
7. BE COURTEOUS
Your manners and how you interact with others says a lot
about a person's character. Basic courtesy means you are socially well
adjusted. No, I am not suggesting everyone turns into a "Miss Manners," but
attention to basic courtesy can improve your image with others. Small details
can have a dramatic effect. For example:
* A simple Thank You note will be remembered for a service
rendered. I have been a program chairman for various organizations over the
years. After a speaker conducted a presentation for me, I would be sure to
send a thank you note to him/her for their presentation (regardless if there
was an honorarium or not). This is a nice personal touch that is remembered.
Consequently, I never have a problem securing a speaker.
* Invite others to participate in events. Again, a personal
note can work wonders and makes people feel wanted. If you stumble over an
omission on your invitation list (which inevitably happens), move swiftly to
correct the omission. Include people, don't exclude them, let them know their
presence has meaning to you.
Above all else, watch your temper. As the old adage
admonishes us, "You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar."
A little courtesy can go a long way towards building fruitful relationships.
8. BE POSITIVE
People naturally gravitate to others with a positive or
upbeat personality. This doesn't mean we always have to wear a smiling face,
but we should concede that people like optimists as opposed to pessimists. As
such, we should always be looking for reasons why something should be done, as
opposed to reasons why it shouldn't.
This leads us into the area of effective criticism. Avoid
the temptation to maliciously criticize someone or something. First, it makes
the person look like a whining and jealous naysayer; second, it tends to be
more destructive as opposed to constructive. It is simply good practice, when
identifying problems, to suggest alternatives as opposed to simply criticism.
As Winston Churchill astutely observed, "Any idiot can see what is wrong
with something. But can you see what is right?"
So, is the glass half empty or half full? Your answer says
a lot about how people perceive you.
9. BE OBSERVANT
As I have frequently written in the past, if there is
anything constant in life, it is change. Change is always around us, but it
takes a perceptive person to be able to spot the smallest of changes, whether
it be a new hair style, someone losing weight, a small job well done, or
whatever. When a change is observed, ask yourself why it has happened. Be
inquisitive and understand the rationale for the change. This will help you
adapt to the change as well as improve your interpersonal relations. For
example, people are easily flattered when someone compliments them on a
change. It means you are perceptive and interested in the person, both of
which puts you in good standing with the other person.
Included in this area is the observance of the names of
people. It is embarrassing to both parties when a name is forgotten. In
particular, it sends a signal to the other person that he/she is irrelevant in
your eyes. This certainly does not help build relationships. Asking for
business cards is one thing, remembering names is something else. This may
require a little effort but it is time well spent.
It is these little observations that go a long way. As an
example, perhaps the best secretary I ever saw was a lady named Myrna who
worked for an MIS Director in Chicago. The first time I visited the office,
Myrna warmly greeted me and asked if I wanted a cup of coffee. Saying Yes, she
then asked me what I wanted in it. I said cream and sugar, which she then made
for me. Months later when I returned to visit the MIS Director, Myrna greeted
me by name and presented me with a cup of coffee with cream and sugar.
Frankly, I was startled that she not only remembered my name but how I also
liked my coffee. Later I found out that Myrna maintained a simple card file;
whenever someone visited the office, Myrna would record their name and the
type of coffee they liked. Sharp. Very sharp.
10. BE HONEST
The linchpin to good interpersonal relations is trust.
Regardless of our form of discourse, nothing builds trust better than honesty,
the basic building block of confidence. Having an honest character conveys an
image that you are dependable, that your word is your bond, and you can be
trusted to do the right thing. But your reputation can be shattered overnight
if you are caught in a lie. Therefore, don't falsify or mislead. If you do not
know an answer, do not fabricate one, but make every attempt to find the
We now live in an age where it is more commonplace to
cover-up a mistake as opposed to admit to it. Inevitably, all hell will break
loose when the cover-up is discovered. Instead, admit a mistake early on,
correct it, and earn the respect of your coworkers.
Give credit where credit is due. Remember this, nobody
wants to work with someone they fear will wrong, cheat or defraud them.
There are other areas I could have gone into with this
article, such as "persistence" and "leadership," but they would fall outside
of the scope of improving social intercourse. I could have also covered such
things as "gossip" and "finger pointing" but, instead, I was looking for those
basic elements for people to improve themselves, not others.
Early in my college career I learned, "We enjoy life
through the help and society of others." True words. Like it or not, we
must interact with other people on a daily basis. The tips I have described,
while admittedly are simple, can greatly facilitate how we interact with each
other, thereby making our companies a better place to work and live.
Look, its really not that complicated; just use your head,
loosen up a bit, treat others as you would have them treat you, and try not to
stick your foot in your mouth.
Keep the Faith!
Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their
About the Author
Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of
M. Bryce & Associates
(MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the
management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2010-04-07 16:35:17 in Personal Articles