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Published on August 13, 2018

16 Bogus Myths About People Skills that Popular People Already Know

16 Bogus Myths About People Skills that Popular People Already Know

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?

Probably not.

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.

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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.[1]

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:[2]

“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.[3]

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.

Look:

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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.

No.

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.[4] 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.

Well…not really.

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Many studies agree that body language often dominates verbal communication.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7]

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.

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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.[8]

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

Reference

More by this author

Ieva Baranova

Ieva helps tech startups access big markets and is a passionate advocate of alternative work formats.

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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