You and your geek brethren are responsible for every innovation since one of your fraternity invented fire many eons ago. Yet, for all your efforts, your only reward from society is scorn!

Is it because non-geeks suck? Well, partly. But mostly it’s because most geeks haven’t yet developed the skills to effectively communicate who you are.

Geeks Guide to People Skills aims to give you those skills.

Geeks are usually technically trained people but anyone who is single-mindedly obsessed with something is a geek.  You could be a band geek or a movie geek or a computer geek.  And often, there is an inverse relationship between your technical expertise and your people skills.  There are easy, logical and rewarding techniques to get along better with people whether they are family, friends, co-workers or bosses.

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Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead?

video grant key peele articleLarge v3 Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead?
By Art Streiber
Art Streiber

The Generosity of Key and Peele: To illustrate the work of Adam Grant and his theories on the benefits of helping others, we asked the comedy duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele to demonstrate the art of workplace altruism.


Just after noon on a Wednesday in November, Adam Grant wrapped up a lecture at the Wharton School and headed toward his office, a six-minute speed walk away. Several students trailed him, as often happens; at conferences, Grant attracts something more like a swarm. Grant chatted calmly with them but kept up the pace. He knew there would be more students waiting outside his office, and he said, more than once, “I really don’t like to keep students waiting.” Continue reading

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CalTech Tries to Teach Tech Wizards People Skills

Although I think manners are important, I don’t think this is the critical issue.  Geeks can learn to better communicate who they are by learning to listen actively, to engage others, to work together, to understand others.  These are the truly important people skills.

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Uncle of Sacha Barron-Cohen’s discovers that eyes really are ‘the window to the soul’

Screen shot 2013 04 13 at 9.17.32 AM 300x185 Uncle of Sacha Barron Cohens discovers that eyes really are the window to the soul

It’s true.  Did you know that up to 80% of a human being’s ability to “read” other people — that is the ability to understand what another person is feeling whether it be love, anger, sadness, etc. — comes from observing another person’s eyes?

Folks with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) often are unable to read the eyes. Take this simple test by autism expert Simon Barron-Cohen (yes, he IS Sacha’s uncle!) to see how you do on the people reading scale.



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Good News Beats Bad on Social Networks – from the New York Times

March 18, 2013

BAD NEWS SELLS. If it bleeds, it leads. No news is good news, and good news is no news. Those are the classic rules for the evening broadcasts and the morning papers, based partly on data (ratings and circulation) and partly on the gut instincts of producers and editors. Wars, earthquakes, plagues, floods, fires, sick children, murdered spouses — the more suffering and mayhem, the more coverage.

But now that information is being spread and monitored in different ways, researchers are discovering new rules. By scanning people’s brains and tracking their e-mails and online posts, neuroscientists and psychologists have found that good news can spread faster and farther than disasters and sob stories. Continue reading

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Ny times Your Phone vs. Your Heart


March 23, 2013

CAN you remember the last time you were in a public space in America and didn’t notice that half the people around you were bent over a digital screen, thumbing a connection to somewhere else?

Most of us are well aware of the convenience that instant electronic access provides. Less has been said about the costs. Research that my colleagues and I have just completed, to be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science, suggests that one measurable toll may be on our biological capacity to connect with other people.

Our ingrained habits change us. Neurons that fire together, wire together, neuroscientists like to say, reflecting the increasing evidence that experiences leave imprints on our neural pathways, a phenomenon called neuroplasticity. Any habit molds the very structure of your brain in ways that strengthen your proclivity for that habit. Continue reading

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Wired.com – The Geek Syndrome

Autism – and its milder cousin Asperger’s syndrome – is surging among the children of Silicon Valley. Are math-and-tech genes to blame?

By Steve Silberman

Nick is building a universe on his computer. He’s already mapped out his first planet: an anvil-shaped world called Denthaim that is home to gnomes and gods, along with a three-gendered race known as kiman. As he tells me about his universe, Nick looks up at the ceiling, humming fragments of a melody over and over. “I’m thinking of making magic a form of quantum physics, but I haven’t decided yet, actually,” he explains. The music of his speech is pitched high, alternately poetic and pedantic – as if the soul of an Oxford don has been awkwardly reincarnated in the body of a chubby, rosy-cheeked boy from Silicon Valley. Nick is 11 years old. Continue reading

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32-Year Study Shows How Geeky Kids Become Happy Adults

Band.Geeks  660x463 32 Year Study Shows How Geeky Kids Become Happy Adultsfrom Geek Dad, Wired.com 8/12

Feeling good was good enough for Janis Joplin and her Bobby McGee, but most parents want a little more for their kids, perhaps including a sense of coherence, positive coping, social engagement, and pro-social values. In short: well-being. A study published this week in the Journal of Happiness Studies shows how children and adolescents get this well-being as adults. Continue reading

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It’s all about who you know – New York Times

In Hiring, a Friend in Need Is a Prospect, Indeed

Published: January 27, 2013

JP HIRE articleLarge 300x200 Its all about who you know   New York Times

Riju Parakh wasn’t even looking for a new job. But when a friend at Ernst & Young recommended her, Ms. Parakh’s résumé was quickly separated from the thousands the firm receives every week because she was referred by a current employee, and within three weeks she was hired. “You know how long this usually takes,” she said. “It was miraculous.”

While whom you know has always counted in hiring, Ms. Parakh’s experience underscores a fundamental shift in the job market. Big companies like Ernst & Young are increasingly using their own workers to find new hires, saving time and money but lengthening the odds for job seekers without connections, especially among the long-term unemployed. Continue reading

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MIT is a charm school?!

Colleges step in to fill students’ social-skills gaps

By Jon Marcus , Hechinger Report

After final exams are over, MIT students will return from their holiday break to experience something different from their usual studies—but almost as important.

It’s the university’s annual Charm School, offering instruction in everything from how to make a first impression to how to dress for work to which bread plate to use.

Other colleges have started teaching students how to make small talk, deal with conflict, show up on time, follow business etiquette, and communicate with co-workers.

These programs may be fun, or even funny, but there’s a deadly serious purpose to them: to give students the kinds of social skills they need to get and keep a job.

charmschool1 400x265 MIT is a charm school?!

Michelle Chen (left) helps dress Jay McKenna (right) during “Dress for Success,” a short class about how to dress on the job or for an interview, at MIT’s 2012 Charm School. (Photo by Holly Hinman)

“Everybody here is smart,” said Alana Hamlett, who co-directs the Charm School, which began about 20 years ago and is optional for students. But in a tough job market, she said, “this is one additional tool that will give you an edge. The key to being a step ahead is having those interpersonal skills and being able to work a room.”

Although projections by the National Association of Colleges and Employers show that hiring is expected to be up for students finishing college in the new year, the job market remains tight and applicants will need every advantage. Only slightly more than a third of businesses say they plan to recruit this spring. Continue reading

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Answering the Phone — Simple? Not so simple

angry on the phone 300x291 Answering the Phone    Simple?  Not so simpleI often hear my sister-in-law answer the telephone.  Her “hello” sounds like someone who has never before seen this device call the telephone.  She hears a ringing coming from this device that she usually texts on.  “What is strange sound coming from small plastic texting object,” she thinks to herself.  She sees a green button, pushes it, and then “Hello?”  Hello as almost a timid question. “Is there someone in this small object?”


I know I’m sounding like a cranky old man talking about telephone etiquette.  That’s because I am a cranky old man talking about telephone etiquette.  When you answer a telephone, your “hello” is not an electronic tone that says, “You’re connected now. What is your business?”  or “Why are you calling me?!” Continue reading

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AMAZING STORY — People WANT to Help You

People tend to grossly underestimate how likely others are to agree to requests for help. And many don’t know how to ask for help. They also overestimate how many people will come to them for help. Francis Flynn presented at the “Small Steps, Big Leaps: The Science of Getting People to Do the Right Thing” research briefing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, co-sponsored by the Center for Social Innovation.

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Lex Luthor: And Kryptonite will destroy him. Any questions, class?

This communication tip is written by Patricia Weber for the readers of Communication Weekly.  Visit Weber’s website www.prostrategies.com.

 2680033 lex luthor comic book 300x267 Lex Luthor: And Kryptonite will destroy him. Any questions, class?Mark Dykeman, an online blogger who no longer maintains his Mighty Introvert Blog, has an appropriate metaphor for what happens to the introvert in groups or parties after a while. He says that too much of other people is like kryptonite for introverts: the Kryptonite fictional element is from the Superman tale. In the tale, kryptonite is created from the remains of Superman’s native planet of Krypton, and has detrimental effects on Superman and other Kryptonians.

Today kryptonite can be a synonym for Achilles’ heel, the one weakness for someone. For introverts one kind of Kryptonite is not being much for groups or parties that go on and on. Continue reading

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Authenticity is the new currency

book large Authenticity is the new currencyThe new book Likeonomics is about how likeability is the secret to building real trust. But it is NOT about just being nice. By weaving together cutting edge psychological research with real life stories of everything from the shocking moment when Oprah gained the trust of a nation to the unusual tourism policies of the Bhutanese government, Likeonomics offers a convincing argument for why likeability matters more than ever in a social media enabled world.

Like-ability is also about authenticity.  People are tired of prepackaged corporate product and people that pretend to be real.  They’re looking for things and people who are real.

How does this apply to our geek brethren?  Often those who have problems with social skills believe that they just don’t fit in, that people inherently won’t like them.  But in fact, it’s uniqueness and authenticity that people are attracted to.

The reason to learn people skills is so that you’re able to be more you than you are now.  To be your authentic self in the world, minus a few behaviors that may stand in the way of communicating your real self to others.

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TED talks: 6 tips on how scientists and engineers can excite, rather than bore, an audience

Melissa Marshall has a message for scientists and engineers: Contrary to popular belief, the general public is interested in your work and does want to hear the details of your research. The trick is that you must communicate your ideas clearly, because they will start snoring in their seats if you assault them with a slew of jargon and details they’re not prepared to understand.

See, Marshall is a communications teacher. And as she explains in this talk from TEDGlobal 2012 University, she was asked several years ago to teach a communications class for engineering students. The experience highlighted for her that the ability to speak clearly does not come part and parcel with the ability to do great technical work.

Continue reading

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Harvard Busines Review: Why I Decided to Rethink Hiring Smart People

by Roger Martin

Chris Argyris’ “Teaching Smart People How To Learn” utterly changed the way I thought about management. It didn’t just give me a somewhat different view; it convinced me of the exact opposite of what I had believed before I’d read it. That’s a heck of a lot of influence for 10 and a half pages!

At the time, I was a director at the strategy consulting firm Monitor, and a few months before the article was published in the May-June 1991 issue, we had formed a four-person Global Executive Committee to run the firm, so I was more intimately involved in its management than I had ever been before. Continue reading

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Wall Street Oasis » Blogs » DonVon’s blog next > Dude…Engineers

So I have been in the dark about how much money engineers _actually_ make until recently. Apparently, these smart guys and gals rake it in — even in comparison to those of us in investment banking, especially when adjusting on a per-hour basis.

I know there are a lot of engineers out there, some on this site, and I have some questions for you all.

Today I was looking up average starting salaries for Oil & Petroleum Engineers, and they range in the $90,000 to $150,000 range. That’s a pretty serious salary to be making when you finish up engineering school, so out of curiosity, I decided to look up the “top” petroleum engineering programs. Continue reading

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On the Internet and Basic Interpersonal Skills

From Subjunctivemorality.com

Disclaimer: If this comes across as ranty, that’s probably because it is.

There’s this trend online where some people seem to think that being in front of a computer entitles them to flout the rules of basic interpersonal decency. For example, in meatspace, you wouldn’t just walk up to a group of strangers engaged in conversation and start throwing your opinions around as fact, condescendingly contradicting everything they were talking about. In most cases, interjecting without at least beginning with an introduction (“Hello, I couldn’t help but overhear you discussing X. Mind if I say something?“) would rightly be regarded as inappropriate behavior, even if you’re officially an expert on the subject. You’d very likely be told to piss off and be disregarded entirely. Why, then, do some people react with such horror to facing the same consequence online? (“I showed up and told you were all wrong, and when I tried to correct your terrible inaccuracies, you were rude to me!“)

215499488 8pSZr L 2 On the Internet and Basic Interpersonal Skills

“Normal person + anonymity + audience = total fuckwad” Source: Penny Arcade

Continue reading

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Harvard Study on Defensiveness as an Impedement to Learning


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Creativity, innovation and the American geek

Fascinating article in the October issue of “FastCompany” discusses how education  shouldn’t all be about the STEM disciplines–science, technology, engineering, mathematics– but should be fostering innovation, creativity, problem solving.

Indian tech outsourcing companies say that the American system is the best in the world. “The U.S. education system is much more geared to innovation and practical application,” says Murthy. “It’s really good from high school onward.”

To compete long term, we need more brainstorming, not memorization; more individuality, not standardization.

Creative, innovative tech types don’t work in isolation.  They need interpersonal skills to be able to collaborate, share ideas, and communicate innovation to the larger world.

You, Mr. and Ms. American geek, need interpersonal skills now more than ever to compete.  It’s the one thing that will set you apart in the tech race.

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The Pros and Cons of Fear

fear 300x230 The Pros and Cons of FearFear has always been my biggest motivator and my biggest inhibitor.  At first I am stunned by the feeling, unable to move, to meet the challenge. Then, as a I look for a way to quell my fear, I turn to action.  How can I solve this problem, how can I meet the challenge and get rid of the fear?

But fear can often be debilitating or it can cause people to build a shell around themselves and to avoid situations that make them fearful. If we’re afraid or avoid fearful situations, we’re not living up to our full potential.

I’ve taught English to immigrants in an inner city adult school for the past several years and I’ve seen the effects of fear or humiliation or embarrassment on the learning process.  Afraid to experiment, to try out their new found language, students often sit quietly, afraid to participate.

I have made alleviation of this fear my priority as a teacher.  I “host” my class like I would a party at my home.  I don’t serve cocktails but I try to make sure everyone is happy and respected and heard.  I tell self-deprecating, funny stories about myself in an effort to not only humanize the teacher but to break down that huge barrier to learning — fear. Continue reading

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Managing Up: 7 Ways to Keep the Boss Happy

How to take the lead when communicating with your higher-ups
By Joel Schwartzberg – September 28, 2012

You may have only one career, but you have two key jobs. The first is doing whatever you were hired to do. The second — and just as important if you plan on staying — is keeping your boss happy with you, otherwise known as “managing up.”

Being seen by your manager in a positive and productive light will not only make things easier day to day; it may also be a deciding factor when executives are considering promotions or downsizing staff. Below, some workplace experts share the lowdown on successfully managing up. Continue reading

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Geeks have feelings, too! 5 lessons in giving and getting constructive criticism

I had just come out of a meeting with a group of engineers and I was shaken. A younger IT guy was pitching his idea for a product feature of the chief technical officer and the CTO didn’t like the idea and didn’t hide it.  After a few sentences he exclaimed, “This is ridiculous.  Next.” I could tell the younger engineer was humiliated.

critic Geeks have feelings, too! 5 lessons in giving and getting constructive criticism

Right after, I had lunch with an old friend of mine, one of the best managers in his business and I told him about the meeting. “There’s no reason for that,” my friend said coldly. “Sounds like the CTO doesn’t realize that other people, even engineers, have feelings. Continue reading

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13 Powerful people skills to up your life game

Here are 12 things that you can learn to do by practicing the three pillars of people skills — observe, listen, acknowledge. When you listen and observe, you learn about people, how they act, what they feel, who they are.  When you acknowledge, you encourage them to be themselves and, in turn, they feel good about you.

  1. Learn to meet and engage people
  2. Learn to read people so that you understand them
  3. Learn what makes people tick, what they want, what makes them happy
  4. Learn to really listen
  5. Learn to show interest
  6. Learn to offer positive feedback
  7. Learn to put people at ease
  8. Learn to redirect the social spotlight from you to them
  9. Learn to turn contacts into opportunity
  10. Learn to be a great conversationalist
  11. Learn to dress to enhance your personality
  12. Learn to enjoy being with new people
  13. Learn to tell your story

These may look complicated and beyond your tech-oriented brain right now but in fact they’re based on three simple practices: observation, listening, and acknowledgement.

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Dancing in a mirror

polarbear Dancing in a mirror

polar bear and mirror

We all think we are able to listen but are we really able to hear and demonstrate to the person speaking that we really are hearing what they’re saying?

Students studying psychology on the road to becoming psychotherapists spend a good amount of time learning listening skills. The approach is called “Reflective Listening” or “Active Listening.” Even though this comes from the fields of counseling and psychotherapy, good conversationalists have practiced a form of this since time immemorial. These techniques can be very useful in learning the art of interpersonal skills and incredibly useful in many everyday situations. Reflective listening is to really listen to what others say and then to reflect back what they are saying. Reflective listening shows people that you 1. are listening and 2. are empathetic. Continue reading

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