Being likable, saying yes to everything, always being in a good mood… Our society is governed by rules about what’s acceptable and advisable.
How do you live up to these expectations while being a loving parent, a loyal employee and a socially active friend?
Differentiate the really important people skills from false standards.
All around us we see popular folks who are successful, have great communication skills and are always surrounded by friends. You can quickly become one of them.
Start by knowing these myths about people skills that are very alive in today’s society, but essentially not true.
1. You have to be friends with everyone?
This is a common and ridiculous myth that causes many people unnecessary stress.
So let’s get this straight. No, you don’t have to be friends with everyone.
Not everyone has to like you. And you don’t have to like everybody.
Once you truly accept that this myth is a lie, you’ll feel oh-so-relieved.
Think of it as a personal preference similar to liking or disliking certain food. There isn’t a single food in the world that every single person loves. Even if it’s the greatest steak or a heavenly honey cake, some people just don’t like meat or cakes.
Now, would you analyze what’s wrong with the heavenly cake just because someone said they didn’t like cakes?
So why do we do it to ourselves?
Instead of criticizing yourself, remember:
If you are trying to be liked and approved of by everyone, you risk losing your uniqueness.
You might not even want to be liked by certain types of people. At the end of the day, being loved by yourself is what truly matters.
2. You have to cling to your point of view?
Some people believe that clinging to the same rules and beliefs makes them look genuine and confident. But in most cases, flexibility is a much more important people skill that many popular people share and appreciate.
Talented communicators know how to shift gears when the context demands it, while still staying true to their personality. They can respond accordingly to what the current situation requires, even if they have to bend their principles a little or keep their thoughts to themselves.
In addition, people appreciate an open mind, as opposed to someone who stubbornly sticks to their truth. Even if you have firm beliefs, leave a window for your interlocutor’s point of view and feedback that could reinforce – or shake – your own opinions.
Being known as an open-minded person also makes you more approachable and easier to work with.
3. You have to be hard-working to succeed?
We are not going to deny that hard work is key to achieving greatness. Indeed, it’s very unlikely that success and popularity will just fall in your lap one day.
However, today there’s a generally accepted notion that success is not about working harder.
It’s about working smarter.
In fact, one study showed that some of the most productive people have a very balanced work/rest ratio. Namely, they work intensively for 52 minutes and then fully rest for 17 minutes. The same study concluded that the top 10% most productive people were not even working 8 hour days.
If you do feel that you have to work 8 hours or more on some days, make sure you don’t overdo overtime. Studies show that overtime is generally unproductive, as humans are not able to focus for prolonged periods of time.
Better have a rest, spend time with your family or friends and come back to work recharged and inspired.
4. You can find time for everything?
If you truly want to do something, you can always find time for it.
Well, not really.
Finding time for something is linked to setting priorities. If you want to take up something new, you’ll have to say goodbye to something else you’re doing. Otherwise, you’ll be juggling several things and not going “all in” on any of them.
Jason Fried, CEO of Project management software Basecamp has often stressed the difference between time and attention, naming attention his most valuable asset:
“If I’m too busy to take something on, I shouldn’t say “I don’t have the time.” In fact, I often do have the time. What I don’t have – and what I can’t squeeze in – is more attention.”
And remember, not everyone deserves your attention. Before setting out for a new project, hobby or friendship, evaluate if it’s worth to invest yourself in it.
5. You always have to be in a good mood and positive?
It’s true that positive thinking is a powerful force that can even have a positive impact on your health.
However, nobody can be genuinely cheerful 365 days a year. There will be days when you’ve really had enough of everything, and you might want to curl up and be alone, or even cry yourself to sleep.
Then that’s exactly what you should do.
If you’re having a bad day, don’t go out to show it off – unless you are sure that being with other people will lift your spirits. Try to show your happy face to people but don’t hide and pretend if you’re simply not in a good mood.
However, it’s a different story if your bad mood continues for weeks. In that case, you should look for a friend – or a specialist – to share your thoughts and feelings with.
6. You have to be an extrovert to be successful?
We live in a vibrant and competitive time, where communication seems to be the key to success. Because of this trend, there’s a common misconception that only the outgoing and daring people can achieve real success.
This is indeed a myth because introverted people have many other strengths that can help them become successful and popular.
Introverts are thoughtful, interested in self-knowledge and have excellent observation ability.
Their skills like patience, ability to maintain in-depth focus and attention to detail help them reach higher productivity.
To prove this, there are numerous successful introverts in various professions and areas, from Albert Einstein to Bill Gates, JK Rowling, Steven Spielberg, Mark Zuckerberg, and even Hillary Clinton.
7. You have to say yes to everything?
From childhood, we are taught to be polite and agree to do stuff just to please other people.
But in today’s hectic age, when time is often worth more than money, learning to say “no” is a mighty skill.
If you try to please too many people too often, you have probably noticed that this tendency is stress inducing and sometimes halts your personal and professional development.
Popular people already know that being able to say “no” doesn’t mean that you’re rude or rejecting suggestions just for the sake of it. On the contrary – it shows you have an opinion, a cause, or a plan.
As Steve Jobs famously said:
“It’s only by saying “no” that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”
The art is in finding the right balance between constantly pleasing others and being a negative person who never agrees to help others.
Try to ask yourself if this task, meeting, event or activity will be beneficial to yourself or contribute to a cause you believe in?
If it won’t, just say the magic two-letter word.
And you will discover how liberating it feels.
8. You should be the leader of your group?
Every group – either a workplace or a pack of friends – has many important roles besides the leader. There’s the Organizer, the Party Animal, the Mom, the Joker and many other social roles. Not everyone has to be a leader of the group.
Instead of focusing on how to be a leader, work on improving your team-building skills or embrace your own unique position in the gang.
However, if you feel like your standing in the group should be raised, follow these tips to become a natural leader:
- Take the initiative of planning and serve as a mediator between friends with different interests. If you are in charge of the plan or activity, your friends or colleagues will naturally look at you for support and guidance.
- Invite your friends over to your house. In your own environment, you’ll naturally be a host, a guide, and a leader.
- Suggest a common activity that you know well – thus you’ll be able to guide your group through it.
- Help resolve issues between friends and colleagues and foster positivity.
In any case, remember that you don’t necessarily have to be a leader to be a valued member of the group.
9. You have to “know how to talk”?
People are used to words because they are the most effective means of communication.
Many studies agree that body language often dominates verbal communication. In fact, we are communicating with people all the time, even when we’re not speaking.
Being mindful of what our voice, gestures, expressions, and appearance are communicating can significantly enhance or harm our people skills.
10. You always have to be available?
If you’re a person of many responsibilities at work and home, you probably feel that you have to be reachable 24/7.
However, too many people counting on you can be tiring and annoying.
If your colleagues don’t take any decisions before consulting you, or if your kids call you every time they cannot find something around the house, you have to draw that line in the sand.
First, tell your colleagues that you are not available after working hours or ask them to send text messages instead of calling.
Keep your phone on in case something important comes up, but refrain from constantly being available on social media and messaging platforms. You will discover that blocking social media sites for a while can be very rewarding and soothing for your nerves.
11. You have to agree with everything that senior or authoritative people say?
Since childhood, we’ve been told to listen to elders, do what the teachers say and not question the opinion of scholars and authorities.
As adults, we have to decide for ourselves.
Surely, you should be appreciative towards advice given by someone who has unique experience or knowledge about a particular topic. However, you shouldn’t take any external opinion as a universal truth.
In fact, Albert Einstein was notorious for disregarding any authority and was frequently punished for it in his youth. But it was this contempt for authority that made him challenge many existing beliefs and come up with groundbreaking discoveries.
He famously said:
“Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”
12. You should go with the flow?
“Going with the flow” can be a good strategy in some situations.
But it probably won’t get you far.
Successful people are not afraid to take up more responsibility and change the course of events.
As Sigmund Freud said:
“Most people do not really want freedom because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”
If you want to succeed, take up the reins of your life. Leave going with the flow for weekend parties and holidays.
13. You should keep your problems to yourself?
Nobody likes a person who always complains and only speaks about their problems. But keeping all your troubles inside can be equally harmful.
Not to your public image, but to your mental and physical health.
Several studies have confirmed that suppressing negative emotions can lead to heart diseases and certain types of cancer.
If anger, depression, and anxiety are building up inside you for a prolonged period of time, make sure to find someone to talk to, as well as switch to a healthier lifestyle.
Even if your sources of worry and stress are more mundane, talking to someone can help you to release tension and look at the problem from a different perspective.
14. You should be spontaneous and fun?
People are created differently. Some of us are great at improvising and entertaining while others are planners, organizers, and thinkers. A healthy group of friends or colleagues will embrace both and many more character types.
It’s true that a great sense of humor is a valuable people skill.
However, sometimes understanding jokes is even more important than making them. And it’s definitely better not to make jokes at all than try to force them.
When you are with your friends or colleagues, just relax, observe the people around you and their reactions. And follow these tips for leading more effectively with humor.
15. You should be patient all the time?
Sure, patience is an admirable quality – it’s even listed among the seven Christian virtues. However, there is a point where patience can get confused with submissiveness, procrastination or even laziness.
If you are waiting for things to happen, instead of working (or even fighting) towards your goal, you are losing an opportunity, not being patient.
If you are in a relationship that doesn’t work and “patiently” waiting for something to change, you are misleading yourself and evading a decision.
If you are stuck at work that isn’t rewarding and promise yourself to “do something about it next year,” you are not being patient. You are procrastinating and depriving yourself of happiness.
16. You should be modest?
Humility is another heavenly virtue often misunderstood. When do you cross the line between being politely modest and overly humble and sheepish?
If you keep telling people that you or the work you do are “nothing special”, they will most probably believe you. But how do you find the midway between bragging and underestimating yourself?
First of all, you have to keep in mind who’s your interlocutor. For example, you probably shouldn’t discuss your promotion with someone who just lost their job.
Second, when someone asks about your achievements don’t make them sound like “nothing special” – not even if you’re joking. Explain why what you do is important, but don’t make all the evening conversations about it.
Take advantage of the people skills you already have
Before you start striving to develop certain people skills, take a deeper look at yourself.
You definitely already have precious character traits that differentiate you from the people around you.
So stop thinking about what you SHOULD be. Instead, make the most of who you ARE.
And forget bogus myths that make you feel like you aren’t living up to some imagined standards.
Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com
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