Ramblings and thoughts by a Mensch or two.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

People Skills

Every disaster, every challenge you face, every time things fall apart--it's an opportunity for growth. Or so they say. At a past full-time job I had the bad experience of friction developing between myself and a few others on the staff regarding technical policy decisions. Ultimately I left the job, and moved on to a more attractive position; however, the entire interaction left a bad taste in my mouth.

So if I'm not good enough at something, I like to look for advice, some of which I found in a classic book: The 70+ year old bestseller, "How to Win Friends & Influence People". Yes, the title of this book seems cliched and is much ridiculed; however, the information it contains feels timeless.

In fact there hasn't been much in this book I haven't heard before; face it, there has been adequate time for people to write other books that contain the same ideas. After this much time, much of the content of this book has even made it into folk wisdom. However, reading through this book, every point has felt like a slap in the face, a wake-up call to start caring what others think; even though what it said wasn't new to me, it reminded me in a very pointed way that I can and should pay more attention. And so far it's been very useful in that regard. So much so that I believe I may be able to avoid ending up in the same awkward situation that developed before.

When you grow up with a positive opinion of yourself--a really positive opinion of yourself--it's easy to think that you're better than other people. And while self-confidence is good, respecting the skills and abilities of others is almost more important to your own success than just being good at what you do. This last fact is still slow to penetrate my consciousness, but I'm working on it. It's especially important when you're working among many intelligent individuals who each have that same self-confidence--but for whatever reason don't always agree with you.

The better you listen, the better you understand, and the better you present your goals so that the listener can see that what you want is also what they want, the more likely it is they will agree with you. Listen, understand, then present. That's my mantra for the week, anyway.