As humans, we are by nature, sociable beings (for the most part). Society’s success hinges on our ability to communicate with each other. And we do this using social skills that include verbal and non-verbal language, such as body language, tone of voice, gestures, and our appearance.
What does this have to do with you and your career in technology?
Well, social aptitudes are, in fact, important in terms of our professional success. Whatever field you work in, whatever the role or sector, it is probable that you need to interact with other human beings to fulfill your job role. It will range from your boss, to colleagues, to clients, to vendors. Most of us do not or cannot isolate ourselves and avoid interaction with others and still excel in our careers. And as such, most employers and organizations value and look for social aptitudes when they want to hire talented people to work at their company. Oftentimes, a person’s social aptitude will rank above technical capabilities and experience in importance level to recruiters and hiring managers.
Social skills can be learned and developed. We have 10 ways you can enhance and practice your social aptitude.
Be social. Sounds trite, but even if you do not feel like being sociable, talking, or interchanging ideas with other people, make the effort. It will become easier with time. Practice makes perfect.
Ask questions. It is something the most sociable –and personable – people do. Be inquisitive about other people. Try to ensure your questions are open-ended to give others a chance to talk a little more. Whether you ask about work or an acceptable personal issue (be careful not to pry into highly personal areas). You will find that most of us like to be canvassed for opinion, knowledge or information. And this also takes the pressure off you – you can listen and not have to talk as much.
Learn to listen. In order to successfully be social, you need to listen as well as talk. Listen proactively to what others tell you. Remember what they say for later reference and to ensure you have an engaging conversation.
Be positive. Nothing can be more detrimental to working environments than negativity. Negative people suck energy from others, from projects, from collective spaces. And they are unpleasant to be around. Take the time to be introspective and make sure you are reacting positively to situations and to other people.
Be complimentary. Try to make the effort to share praise when you think it has been earned. Everyone likes to feel encouraged and valued in what they do. Take the initiative and give a compliment from time to time to demonstrate that you are friendly and appreciative of others.
Watch those nonverbals. Majority of how we communicate with others is done nonverbally. This is through the use of gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact, posture, and our general appearance. Make sure you weave body language into your social repertoire with care. Be sure to make eye contact when appropriate as you are talking with other people. Remember to genuinely smile from time to time to show you are engaged, approachable, and positive. Pay attention to how something is communicated as much as what is being communicated.
Do not be defensive. Part of most working environments is the exchange of opinion and perspective. This is what drives innovation and invention. Learning to listen to other people’s ideas or even accepting criticism signals that you are ready to learn, grow, and broaden your mind-set, which is positive and attractive to others.
Be assertive. But not aggressive. Have your own ideas and be prepared to communicate them. Be able to defend your ideas but without making other people feel threatened or under-valued.
Be respectful. Showing respect to others communicates professionalism, likeability, and strong values, which are prized in the workplace. That also means being humble about yourself and your skills or knowledge.
Be yourself. At the end of the day, how you interact with others reflects who you are – the authentic you. Developing social aptitudes is a means of connecting the real you to other people. Many employers express that they want to see the “human” side of the candidates who are applying to join their company – a key way to show them is by being genuine.
Your process of learning and growing, will develop you personally as well as professionally. It is important to understand that you will not be able to please everyone, all the time. Though having a set of goals or a checklist for interacting more positively and effectively with those around you, will help drive your career forward in ways you might not have imagined. Sometimes the most simplest actions can have the grandest impacts.