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8 Self Improvement Skills to Learn that Have Lifelong Benefits

8 Self Improvement Skills to Learn that Have Lifelong Benefits

Everyone gets to a certain point where they learn the same thing: Life is hard. There’s so much to learn, and, as you get older, so little time to do so. However, though there are endless bits of knowledge and and abilities that a person can learn throughout his life, there are many self improvement skills you can focus on to ensure that the rest come a bit more easily to you.

1. Time Management

In a time in which your phone is constantly beeping, your TV or radio is most likely on while working, and you have a million things to do before 5:00 rolls around, time management is of the utmost importance. There are a variety of ways to make your time work for you, rather than the other way around. When you make the most of your time, you have the benefit of being successful in balancing your work and your life with ease. Managing time now means freeing it up so you can do the things you truly enjoy. It’s more difficult than it sounds.  Make a to-do list the night before, and make sure you follow through with this list. If you set out to complete a task, don’t let any interruptions (other than major emergencies) stop you before you finish, or take a break at a predetermined time. Also, set time aside to do all the other things that would have interrupted you throughout the day; you’d be amazed to see how little time you waste checking your phone if you do it all at once rather than sporadically throughout the day.

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2. Empathy

Being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes is an incredibly important skill to master in your quest for self improvement. Doing so will benefit your life in a variety of ways. People will tend to flock to you if you show that you care, and that you always have a shoulder to lean on. Empathy is tough to learn, just look at the stereotype of today’s CEOs. They are known (fairly or unfairly) for being callous individuals who don’t care about other people’s problems which may spill into them having nothing in their personal lives to show for their professional success. On the other hand, empathetic and caring individuals who may not have the highest-paying jobs in the world make intangible connections with others throughout their life, which is a sense of wealth that transcends monetary gains. Learning how to show empathy comes with relating to the other person’s situation. When someone is talking to you, ask yourself, “How would I feel if this happened to me?”. Start from there and soon enough it will be second nature.

3. Mastering Sleep Patterns

Along with time management goes mastering sleep patterns. Many of us have uttered the phrase “there’s just not enough time in the day” at least once in our lives, and have felt overwhelmed by all the mandates of our busy life. But sleep is a basic need of survival. We can’t afford to discount it. High school students have to wake up at 6:00 to get to school by 7:00. College students spend all night studying (or partying), and have to get to a final by 9:00 the next day. Adults have commuting time to account for, and parents are up all night with their newborn babies. We simply don’t spend enough time at rest, and we suffer for it when the 2:00 slump hits us every single day. Maintaining a routine sleep pattern may be tough, but it’s absolutely imperative that we learn to do so in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and focus on complete  self improvement. Simple ways to employ good sleep habits include going to bed and waking up at the same time (even on weekends), unwinding before bed without the use of screens (cell phones, televisions, or even tablets), and not consuming caffeine within 6 hours of sleep.

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4. Positive Self-Talk

One of the most important skills a person can learn is to be nice to himself. It sounds easy, but for many people, it really is not. It’s much easier to beat yourself down than to hold yourself up. In a world in which many people only care about each other on a superficial level, it’s easy to get the feeling that “no one cares,” and let that feeling build up into other detrimental thoughts within your own mind. Just as we need to be kinder to our physical wellness by getting enough sleep, we also need to be kind to our emotional self as well. Taking the time to meditate on your positive traits and abilities may sound like a waste of time, but it can do wonders for your self-esteem throughout your lifetime. A great rule of thumb is to treat yourself like you would treat your best friend. Self improvement starts with treating yourself well.

5. Consistency

Most everyone experienced this phenomenon growing up: During the first week of school, you felt gung-ho about your studies, and knew “this was the year” you were going to do better. By the end of September, however, that feeling had passed, and as you fell into a routine, you came up short of your self improvement goals. Being consistent is hard. Putting in the same effort on a daily basis, Monday through Friday, for the entirety of your life is definitely an intimidating proposition. However, keeping consistent makes each day easier and easier, whether you realize it or not. Remember the last time you skipped leg day? How hard was it to come back to it the next week? They say it takes 21 days to make a habit so you will have to remain consistent until the habit has formed.

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6. Asking for help

There’s a ridiculous misconception in today’s professional world that everyone is supposed to know everything. It’s simply not possible. What we do need to be able to do is admit we don’t know something, and find the answer through a variety of means. Living in a world in which answers are at our fingertips means we are able to network with some of the most successful people in the world, and many of them will be willing to help out if we just take the time to reach out to them. Showing you have an interest in improving your skills and abilities can take you much further than pretending that you know everything. While it may be difficult to try for the first time, asking for help actually builds trust because it shows that you value the opinion of another person. Not only does asking for help make you a better employee, it also saves you a lot of time in the trial and error phase of business!

7. Knowing when to stay quiet

In a world where everyone can have a voice through social media, this one is a must. We all want our voices to be heard, but sometimes it’s just not the right time to open our mouths. When we’re upset, our instincts are to vent to anyone who will listen. However, those that are listening might be doing so for ulterior reasons which could end up digging a deeper hole for you than the one you were already in. Especially in a world in which everyone is trying to get ahead of their colleagues, you should never give others ammunition that will end up holding you back. A great way to know when to stay quiet is to take a moment to step back and ask yourself if you are being fair. Also, if you have to ask yourself you likely already know what you are saying is not going to contribute.

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8. Listening

This goes along with asking for help. Let go of the notion that you know everything. You never know when someone else will come up with a solution to a problem you’ve been having, and you don’t want to miss out on it because you blew them off for “not knowing what they’re talking about.” Advice and perspective can come from the most unlikely sources, so it’s important to keep an open mind (and ear) to everyone around you. Just remember — you have one mouth and two ears so use them in that proportion. This means listen twice as much as you speak.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm6.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

When I wrote my book Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide, I was surprised at the various layers of review and editing necessary to get the book to publication. Before I ever submitted the manuscript, I enlisted a former colleague to read and copy edit my work. Then, I submitted my work to an editor at the publisher’s house, and once she approved it, she sent it to her colleagues and then her company’s editorial board.

Upon editorial board approval of my book, my editor sent my work to reviewers in my field, then a developmental editor, then a designer and layout team and, finally, another copy editor. There were a host of personalities with whom I needed to interact along the way.

It turns out that getting a publishing contract was just the beginning – a lot happens between developing a concept, writing the book, finding an agent and publisher, and getting the book on bookshelves or on Audible or Kindle. Through every milestone of the publishing process, my ability to interact with others was crucial. This underscored for me that no matter what or how much a person accomplishes, you never do it alone – everyone needs assistance from others.

While I conceived of the book and wrote the manuscript, there is no way my book could have hit booksellers’ shelves without the dozens of people who were involved in the publishing process. Further, interpersonal skills can propel or stonewall success.

Even as someone who has written hundreds of essays, press releases, pitch notes and other correspondence, writing itself is not a solitary endeavor. Sure, I may write in solitude, but the moment I am finished writing, there are always clients, colleagues, partners, peers and others who review my content.

What is more, even as a published author and contributor for this platform, I try to never submit final copy (content) that has not been copy edited. I send everything to my copy editor, whom I pay out of my own pocket, for her review, edits and approval. Once she has reviewed my work, caught unbeknownst-to-me errors, I am much more confident putting my work out in the world.

How Interpersonal Skills Affect Relationships

It is clearer to me now more than ever before that interpersonal skills are needed in every profession and every trade.

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People don’t elect leaders because the leaders are smart. Individuals are motivated to vote when they have a hero and when they feel they have something to lose. If they seriously dislike the other candidate, they are much more likely vote according to a 2000 Ohio State University study:

“A disliked candidate is seen as a threat, and that will be motivation to go to the polls. But a threat alone isn’t enough – people need to have a hero to vote for, too, in order to inspire them to turn out on Election Day.”

In a work setting, interpersonal skills impact every facet of your development and success. Trainers must collaborate with a design team or the company hiring them to facilitate the training. During the training itself, the facilitators must connect with the audience and establish a rapport that supports vulnerability and openness. If the trainers interact poorly with the trainees, they are unlikely to be invited back. If they are invited back, they may be unlikely to inspire cooperation or growth in their trainees.

Solopreneurs interactions with clients and subcontractors, and those interactions will, in part, support or adversely impact their business. If you enjoy a career as an acclaimed surgeon or respected lawyer, your interactions with patients, clients, health insurance agencies and a team of other practitioners – many of whom are shielded from public view – will improve or decimate your practice.

As a hiring manager, one of the things I consider when interviewing candidates is their interpersonal skills. I assess the interpersonal skills they display in their content and face-to-face presentation. I ask probing questions to learn how they interact with others, manage conflict and contribute to a team atmosphere.

When candidates say things like, “I prefer to work alone” or “I can hit the ground running without assistance,” I bristle. When candidates appear to know everything and everyone, I wonder if they will be receptive to learning or open to feedback. Could these statements be indications that these individuals lack interpersonal skills?

It stands to reason, then, that interpersonal skills are among the most valuable and the bedrock of all talents and skills.

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What are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills range from emotional intelligence, empathy, oral and written communication to leadership to collaboration and teamwork.

In sum, interpersonal skills are skills that enable you to interact well with others. They include teachability and receptiveness to feedback, active or mindful listening, self-confidence and conflict resolution.

From a communications standpoint, interpersonal skills are about understanding how colleagues prefer to communicate and then using the appropriate mediums to meet respective needs. It is about understanding how to communicate in a way to get the most out of different people.

For instance, in my career as a public relations practitioner, part of what I am constantly evaluating is which colleagues, clients and members of the media prefer email, text or phone calls. I am assessing how much frill to use with each person depending on what has worked in the past and depending on what I know about the person with whom I am interacting.

Making these decisions and being disciplined enough to follow each person’s known preferences helps me better connect with the various individuals in my orbit. Is this tiring at times? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

There are tons of resources to teach interpersonal skills. I love books such as Leadership Presence by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, and The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

There are also a host of books and articles on emotional intelligence, which is the ability to manage one’s emotions and perceive and adapt to others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is likewise a critical component of positive interpersonal relations. You can learn more about it in this article: What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why It Is Important

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Active and mindful listening also support improved interpersonal skills. I recommend you take a look at this piece: Active Listening – A Skill That Everyone Should Master

I have further found that humility helps a ton with interpersonal skills. It takes humility to admit you have more to learn and that you can learn from the people around you. In fact, everyone with whom you interact has a lesson to teach you. And employers are increasingly looking for team members who are lifelong learners, meaning they believe there is always room for growth and professional and personal development.

Forbes contributor Kevin H. Johnson noted in a July 2018 article,

“That’s why, when anyone asks what the next ‘hot’ skill will be, I say it’s the same skill that will serve people today, tomorrow, and far into the future—the ability to learn.”

Don’t overlook introspection.

While interpersonal skills may seem simple enough, introspection is critical to learning where and in what ways you need to grow.

Through introspection and observation, I have learned that my interpersonal skills suffer when I am sleep deprived, because then I am short-tempered and irritable. I’ve observed this connection over a significant period in my life. Unsurprisingly, it is also true of others. Fellow LifeHack contributor, health coach and personal trainer Jamie Logie noted:

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When you are chronically sleep deprived, it really does a number on you. A lack of sleep can keep your body in a constant state of stress and over time this can get pretty ugly. Elevated stress hormones can be involved in creating a bunch of pretty nasty conditions including anxiety, headaches and dizziness, weight gain, depression, stroke, hypertension, digestive disorders, immune system dysfunction, irritability.

Additionally, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reported,

“Sleep deprivation can noticeably affect people’s performance, including their ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. Sleep deprivation also affects mood, leading to irritability; problems with relationships, especially for children and teenagers; and depression. Sleep deprivation can also increase anxiety.”

The point is, even as you are identifying ways to improve interpersonal skills, think about what is getting in the way. While sleep deprivation is a trigger for me, your stumbling block may be different.

The Bottom Line

You cannot fix what you do not know is broken. Even as you work to understand and apply interpersonal skills, spend some time in mindful meditation to get clear on what is holding you back from developing solid relationships.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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