Updated: Feb 2
Let's get right down to the nitty gritty. People skills is about one thing: trust.
Where ever you find relationships that have high mutual trust there you will also find:
extra mile activity
faster decision making
On the flip side, relationships with low to no mutual trust will have:
low to no direction
scattered selfish action
minimal, lucky, or no success
bare minimum work
critics and cynics
my way or the highway mentalities or indecision
The question becomes what people skills most effectively build trust between people?
Compiled here is a short list of the top 5 people skills that can quickly build and maintain trust.
These are universal. So while this list may be for the workplace, they apply across the board for any human to human interaction.
Keep in mind these skills apply across the board if you want to build trust. If you have some other end in mind for the foundation of your relationships then definitely disregard these skills.
1. Follow Through
In our experience, this is the foundational skill for building trust. Everything hinges on this one quality.
Here's the gist: do what you say you're going to do.
Asking someone if they did what they said they would do is basically asking if they can be trusted.
Additionally, the other side of the follow-through coin is communicating in a timely and clear manner where and why you fell short of your commitment.
Doing this still enables you to answer the "can you be trusted" question with a yes, just don't abuse it.
Definitely avoid becoming known for falling short. That'll kill trust and your opportunities pretty quick.
Double standards, or saying one thing and doing another, is unfortunately common place in companies. So it's no surprise that trust is low in most companies.
Follow through is about not living a double standard. It's about making and keeping commitments.
So if you commit to something make sure you do everything in your power to keep that commitment.
2. Seek & Provide Feedback
High quality human beings solicit feedback from their peers.
They are interested in being keenly aware of their impact on others and the different "truth perceptions" floating around in their relationships.
If this were an article about business feedback we would call this brand management.
Great brands have a finger on the pulse of perception in the marketplace and they expend large amounts of proactive resources to understand how they impact customers (i.e. their relationships) and how they can improve.
Great brands are not afraid of feedback that highlights a negative perception; they welcome it because it's an opportunity to grow and improve customer satisfaction (i.e. make someone happy).
Great human beings are and do the same.
At the same time, great human beings are great at giving feedback. And you know the number one reason they are great at it? The person they are offering feedback to trusts them.
Receiving feedback from someone you trust is 1000% easier, if not all-together welcomed.
Sometimes all it takes to help someone "go to the next level" is to trust them with something that stretches them.
If the trust is accompanied with clear direction and expectations along with belief and support, then that trust will be reciprocated.
Talk about building trust...the action of trusting someone else first literally builds the bridge of trust and communicates the idea "come, let us trust each other."
While it can be scary, the principle of "trust until trust is broken" can be one of the fastest ways to develop strong relationships. So long as what you trust people with starts small and grows in increments; this way you minimize the risk and impact of getting burned.
So if you want to be trusted, trust others.
4. Flexibility / Open Mindedness
This boils down to 2 things: are you more worried about being right and getting all the credit or are you on a search for the best solution no matter where it comes from AND are you able to see things from a perspective that's not your own?
It's been said that you can't sail when your anchor is down;
That a tree that bends in the wind is less likely to get blown over than one that doesn't;
That countries and companies that don't adapt and change with the times will become irrelevant and die out;
That perspective is the key to understanding;
That loose muscles are stronger and less injury prone than tight ones; etc.
However, let's be clear, being flexible does not mean being indecisive or a push over.
Having an open mind doesn't mean you abandon your vision and lose focus on your goal(s).
It simply means your desire for improvement and better solutions is a greater force in your mind than getting your way.
It stems from a basic belief that people are smart; and genius emerges when smart people are allowed to throw around ideas until a synthesis forms that's greater than any one person's idea.
Want people to trust you? Want stronger relationships? Then believe in people. Be flexible with your own opinions and be open to alternate approaches.
5. A Solid Understanding of Human Nature
Wait, this is a skill? Yep, it is.
Understanding why people do what they do helps you see beyond the action(s) and address the causes.
For example, here's a couple rules or laws of human nature:
No one does anything unless they believe it will improve their happiness.
People are always logical; and sometimes rational.
All human action is an attempt to change one state of being for a more satisfactory state.
Everything human changes over time.
To thrive, human beings need autonomy (or space to make their own choices) - purpose (a goal or vision of improvement or success) - mastery (the accomplishment of becoming proficient at something) - and belonging (the feeling of being a valued member of the team/tribe/group).
Human beings have differing scales of values with which they prioritize their choices.
Human beings scale of values changes over time.
While human beings have similar needs they are not identical; nor are they ordered the same.
Understanding just this small list automatically educates how we approach and respond to people.
While it's true that no one is the same, the base motivations and "why's" of human action are pretty universal.
So treating people equally doesn't mean you treat them the same. It means you should know your audience and work with them in the best way possible to establish good rapport.
Without doubt you need to treat people equally under the law – which should be your employee handbook. In this case everyone is held to the same standard.
But when it comes to engaging people, understanding what makes them tick, being able to be more empathic and perceptive, and in the end building trust and helping people succeed, a solid understanding of human nature is necessary.
This applies at all relationship levels in a company: peer-to-peer, management, stake holders, board of directors, client facing, customer facing, and boss-worker hierarchies.
Want to have better connections and morale with people? Seek first to understand...
Relationships are the core of every human institution.
Rotten relationships leads to rotten institutions and rotten tastes in people's mouths.
People with strong people skills are also people who are trusted.
Develop skills and habits that build trust - every aspect of your life will improve as a result.
PS - here are some honorable mention people skills that would have turned this article into a book if we included them all (the truth is if the 5 skills outlined above are honed, then these below will naturally follow):
Creativity / Problem Solving
Empathic - Listening / Hearing
What do you think? What are some key people skills you've found to have positive results in your work/life?