Interpersonal Skills vs. Interpersonal Awareness

People skills  really about a good handshake and not eating with your mouth open (although your mother was right, the aforementioned are important skills).

The underlying intent of skills like etiquette, small talk, eye contact, handshakes, smiling, etc. is far more important than these physical or practical manifestations. Interpersonal skills are the manifestation of an intent and the intent is to treat others with the same understanding, compassion, respect and positive regard as you would like to be treated.

Interpersonal awareness is based on the understanding of other people, their needs, desires, motivations, emotions and we use that awareness to make others feel respected, or acknowledged or liked or even loved.

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The Human Mirror

human mirror The Human Mirror

Human Mirror -- 13 Sets of twins "reflect" each other on the NYC subway

When most of us walk into a room, we feel that everyone is looking at us, waiting for us to trip and fall. Of course the reality is that no one really cares but if you’re self-conscious by nature, it certainly doesn’t feel that way.

I’ve found a fairly easy way to shed that feeling and it involves the practice of reflective listening. In effect, you take the spotlight or the scrutiny off of yourself and put it on those you are interacting with. Continue reading

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There’s only one “normal” person in the world and you’re lookin at him

When I was a boy, whenever I would describe another kid as “weird”, my father would say, “The only normal people in the world are you and me and I’m not so sure about you.” No one is normal. Learning people skills isn’t about being “normal.” In fact, the goal is the opposite of conformity, it’s learning to be comfortable with yourself and with others. Geeks Guide to People Skills is for anyone who thinks that  a few people skills pointers would make their lives better, easier, more meaningful and more productive.

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Classes help socially awkward engineering students

geek1 32 Classes help socially awkward engineering studentsHelp is on the way for socially awkward engineering students. The Gemini Project, a new program in the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering, is teaching social and professional networking skills to students who may struggle in those areas, specifically targeting engineering students.

Program chairwoman Tess Surprenant said training engineering students in social skills is an emerging national trend at technical colleges and something that was widely overlooked before. She said the university has prepared students with the technical skills, but not necessarily the people skills, required to survive in the job market. Continue reading

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Geek Crush

shee28099s out of my league Geek CrushEvery guy geek has been there and I’m assuming girl geeks have, too. Even OGs (old geeks) have been known to succumb. You’re so unaccustomed to having members of the opposite sex interested in you, you think that any girl who is the least bit nice to you and in your age range is a romantic possibility and you start to obsess about her, hang out in front of her house, just “happen” to be at the mall in front of the store where she works just as she’s leaving — in essence, stalk her!  If you haven’t gone that far lately, there probably was a time when you did. This common phenomenon is known as the geek crush.

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A geek is judged by his cover

BUBBLESlonger1 A geek is judged by his cover

Bubbles from "Trailer Park Boys" and the actor who plays him

Geeks are purists who detest hypocrisy, shallowness, and self-promotion. You’ve sacrificed social acceptability for your obsession whether it’s Linux or community theater. But as a true geek, you accept the laws of physics, I assume. A cup is knocked off a table, it crashes to the ground. Every single time. There is one more law of physics that Newton and Galileo overlooked: A book is judged by its cover. It’s not right, it’s not fair, it’s hypocritical but no matter how much we rail against it, IT IS!

Sociologist and author Malcom Gladwell, in his ground-breaking book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking writes about the adaptive unconscious. These are mental processes that are going on within all of us all the time.  With the blink of an eye, we are able to size up people and situations and come to very valid conclusions.  Often, the “blink” response is more accurate than a decision that is more well-reasoned and made over a longer period of time. It’s the same as a first impression. Continue reading

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Man Bites Dog

burrito 300x225 Man Bites Dog

Burrito -- seemingly mild mannered but threaten him and he'll tear your head off

My wife and I have a Chihuahua named “Burrito” whom we adore. I walk Burrito nearly every night in our neighborhood and I’ve learned a lot about him. Burrito is not a friendly Chihuahua – if there is there such a thing as a friendly Chihuahua. After seven years with us, he’s got a cadre of only about fifteen “friends”, seven of which are my wife’s family who have stayed with us. When he meets a new person or when the mail carrier puts the mail through the slot, Burrito snarls and barks and goes ape. If he’s in the same room with a person with whom he is not friendly, he’ll continue to bark and snarl until the person turns to leave and then he will try to bite their Achilles’ tendon and disable them permanently. But when Burrito loves you, he adores you. You’re his best friend, he’ll look for you to ask him to do something and he’ll comply at once. He’d like nothing more than to get up on the chair next to you and bask in your glow.

Why can’t he make friends with everyone he meets? Why does it take so long to become comfortable with someone? Wouldn’t life be a lot easier for Burrito if he cut out the “go crazy” step and go right to love? Continue reading

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When Dogs Can Speak

In an earlier post, I talked about techniques in becoming a good listener: Listening OrientationEmpathy, Acceptance, Congruence, Concreteness, and Reflecting.

I want to talk a little more about acceptance,  the unconditional respect for a person for simply being a person without expressing agreement or disagreement.

up doug talking dog 300x168 When Dogs Can Speak

c Walt Disney Prod.

In movie making there is a concept called suspension of disbelief. In normal life, we view everything with a skeptical eye, it either makes sense or it doesn’t. Of course some things are real. The color of the sky, the texture of a table, a stomachache. In a movie, by its very nature, the filmmakers are asking the audience to suspend its natural disbelief. For two hours, you don’t doubt that Harry Potter and his buddies can actually fly through an alternate universe on a mythical beast. Would you accept that scene anywhere else but in a movie theater or your dreams? No. Why do you believe it in the movie theater or better, why don’t you “disbelieve it” as you typically would.  Because when you enter a movie theater, you’re prepared to suspend your disbelief. It’s automatic. You know it’s a movie but it seems real. You believe it for that two hours, your heart races, you have feelings about the characters yet, when you walk out of the movie and someone says, “What’s going on?” you don’t say “I was just flying on a winged beast with Harry Potter and some other friends.”

As a good listener, we have to do the same thing. No matter how much we agree or disagree with someone, we must suspend our natural inclination to question their logic and to try to understand their logic and their thinking. A good listener puts away his or her natural skepticism and enters the head of the other person. We don’t do it so that we can finally be won over to their way of thinking. That’s not necessary. We do it only to find a way to engage them on their home turf.

One way to put yourself in a good listening perspective is to think of conversation like watching an outrageous science fiction movie. I was at a party awhile back and we were talking about dogs and how human they seem. A woman at the party, an artist, described how her dog almost talks to her, whining and howling, as if he is trying to say something. She hypothesized that one day, dogs would actually learn to speak. First off, between you and me, that’s one of the crazier things I’ve ever heard. Dogs are not ever going to learn to speak in our or our children’s or our grandchildren’s lifetime. A little farfetched? Do ya think?! And even in the evolutionary time line, probably not very likely. But, this was her quaint little theory.

Remembering my listening skills, I began to ask questions about her dog, about her theory, about when she thought this might happen. I actually wasn’t even thinking about how crazy this whole thing was, but I was listening to this woman talk. And I found out something very interesting. She was really only expressing the love she had for her dog and the connection she felt with him. As I listened more, I realized she didn’t actually think dogs would ever learn to speak but she did think that humans would become more and more able to understand animals and how they felt. I don’t see that idea as crazy at all. In fact, I agree with her! But she probably had never said these words out loud before and in her emotional mind, it came out as “one day dogs will learn to speak.” She was really a very nice woman and I liked her a lot from hearing about the love she felt for her dog.

My instinct in the beginning was to say, “You’re crazy. Could you go and talk to someone else?” But as I listened and tried to understand her from her point of view, I came to understand this person and to connect with her and we both enjoyed the experience.

What would I or she have gained if I had disputed her reasoning?  A small ego victory, perhaps, that I told her how illogical she was?  But it wouldn’t have been a victory because her logic made perfect sense to her.  I would have gained nothing.  And what did I gain by playing it the way that I did? I made a friend and I saw the world from a slightly different perspective. It was a win-win.

By the way, dogs will never speak, trust me.

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How not to bring a negotiation to a boil

stove06301 224x300 How not to bring a negotiation to a boilI didn’t want to buy a new stove.  I admit it. We were spending a ton of money on our kitchen remodel and our old stove is fine.  Yes it may not always automatically light-up when you turn it on but that’s what matches are for.  The last thing I want to do is spend 3 or 4 or maybe $5,000 on a stove.

I’m a know-it-all.  I admit that too. All of my male family members are know-it-alls. Of course, I think I’m a know it all because I know so much about so many things.  And sometimes, I’m such an expert in something that I don’t have time or patience to listen and take in what others are saying or offering.

I’m spending a lot of my time lately thinking about people skills, analyzing peoples skills, watching others and myself as they maneuver through the intricacies of life. I’m constantly saying to my wife, “If such and such had handled that situation slightly differently, he wouldn’t have had so much conflict. Continue reading

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Learning to speak human

LEARNHUMANBEING1 Learning to speak humanRemember that time a few years ago when you were in a Nepalese restaurant and everyone was speaking Newari and you didn’t speak a word Newari at the time and it sounded like gibberish and you totally zone out? (Thanks to Wikipedia for helping me to find a language that nobody ever heard of.)

For those not versed in people skills, interacting with new people may feel like listening to Newari.  But, after you learned a few words of Newari, the official language of Nepal (btw), You enjoyed going into the restaurant so you could try out what you had learned. Continue reading

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Geeks become “interesting, admired, and inspiring adults…”

Geeks are often ostracized and scorned in high school because they’re outsiders, either refusing, ignoring or not understanding how to climb the pecking order of popularity. As described in the new book from Alexandra Robbins, The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders  Thrive After High School, the entire culture conspires to suppress those that are different, those that won’t act like everyone else:

“There is too much pressure on children to conform to a narrowing in-crowd image, when we should be nurturing the outsiders who reject that image. In large part, those are the individuals who will turn out to be the kinds of interesting, admired, and inspiring adults who earn respect and attention for their impact on their community or the world.”

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Bad People Skills Can Kill!

docs popup 300x184 Bad People Skills Can Kill!
Jeremy M. Lange for The New York Times. Applicants prepared for “multiple mini interview” at Virginia Tech Carilion.

Unbelievable but true.  According to a recent “New York Times” story (“New for Aspiring Doctors, the People Skills Test” ), “…a growing catalog of studies (pins) the blame for an appalling share of preventable deaths on poor communication among doctors, patients and nurses that often results because some doctors, while technically competent, are socially inept.”

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Tickle yourself to success — 7 Career building reasons to smile

Smiling Couple 300x193 Tickle yourself to success    7 Career building reasons to smileWhen meeting people for the first time, the smile is paramount. A nice, relaxed open mouth, sincere smile. Not a closed lip, “I’ve got you figured out and you’re below me” smile. Not a big goofy “I’m so drunk I’m about to fall over” smile. But a “I am so happy to meet you because I’m hoping to have children with you” smile. A sincere, from the heart, “we’re going to be best friends” smile. Continue reading

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What Geeks Wished They Had Known in High School

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth What Geeks Wished They Had Known in High SchoolReporter Alexandra Robbins’ new book Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth contends that if you’re brainy or nerdy in high school, you may be more successful later in life. Her book follows 7 kids in private and public high schools who are not in the ‘popular crowd’. She investigates the difference between people saying you are popular and being popular because people genuinely like you as a person. She concluded that kids that refuse to conform and are a little bit different in high school, are more likely to be successful as an adult. In her book she includes names of well-know celebrities who were taunted for being different in school, and are now big success stories. Director Steven Spielberg was teased for being Jewish and is now one of the best directors in Hollywood and Lady Gaga was called a ‘theatre-nerd’ and is now a pop icon!

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What in the heck is a “geek”?

Zeek the Geek 300x199 What in the heck is a geek?In their annual  “Science and Engineering Indicators” report the National Science Foundation defines “geeks” as any workers with a bachelor’s level of knowledge and education in science or engineering-related fields or workers in occupations that require some degree of technical knowledge or training. Continue reading

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From the “you can teach an old dog new tricks” department

listen observe acknowldge rotated 300x289 From the you can teach an old dog new tricks departmentInfluential business writer and management consultant Peter Drucker said this about learning the soft skills required in business, “It’s not magic, it’s not mysterious, and it has nothing to do with genes. It’s a discipline, and like any discipline, it can be learned.”I believe this holds for most “soft skills” or people skills.  With a few techniques and a little practice, most geeks can become fairly proficient in engaging others. Continue reading

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America’s Geekiest Cities

GEEKCITY3 Americas Geekiest CitiesThe U.S. National Science Foundation has created a compelling way to define who is a geek and who’s not  so that they can gather data for their annual “Science and Engineering Indicators” report. The most recent version of that report defines “geeks” as any workers with a bachelor’s level of knowledge and education in science or engineering-related fields or Continue reading

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Overcoming Social Anxiety: How to Enter A Room with Confidence

entering a room 300x201 Overcoming Social Anxiety: How to Enter A Room with ConfidenceOne of the more intimidating social interactions is entering a room full of strangers. Like the high school dance, it seems fraught with potential peril, a shunning may be right around the corner.  But walking into strange places is something that you have to do all the time in order to expand your Continue reading

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Don’t scare with your stare; the secrets to eye-contact

eye contact 2 Dont scare with your stare; the secrets to eye contactWhen you make eye contact, it’s to demonstrate that you are listening, that you are connected with the other person. If you are connected, if you are listening, you shouldn’t have to make a serious effort to keep eye contact. Human beings don’t stare into each other’s eyes continuously for long periods of time unless they’re in love. I met a guy years ago who read some book about eye contact and every time you’d see him, he’s stare at you. It was creepy. He didn’t have much to offer but he listened and just stared into your eyes. It was phony and strange. Continue reading

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Iphone Cufflinks. What’s next? Geek googles?

iphonecufflinks1 300x225 Iphone Cufflinks. Whats next? Geek googles?For the well appointed geek who always wears shirts with cuffs… what are cuffs?! Iphone style cufflinks are made from Rhodium plated brass and hand assembled into the geekiest cufflinks around. From at about $68.

But who wears cufflinks?I’d say you’re way better off with a pair of of GeeksGuideGlasses. Photoshop simulated diamond temple studs, super thick coke bottle lenses.  Priceless.magnified eye glasses6 Iphone Cufflinks. Whats next? Geek googles?

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CPR for mano a mano combat

dead fish handshake1 300x249 CPR for mano a mano combatSecond only to the smile, the handshake is your greatest opening asset. In business, it might even be equal to the smile. Many of the techniques I talk about are to help you to disarm others by showing that you are not a threat. The is a prime tool in this pursuit.

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Read this story or you will mortally wound this 3 year-old

girl crying on plane Read this story or you will mortally wound this 3 year oldGeeks usually don’t like to get involved in conversations that aren’t about something they feel expert in.  You can talk about the new Playstation game but God forbid someone should talk about feelings or problems.  Male conversations are usually contained to some well-worn arena that is easily decipherable like sports or gadgets or technology. If you know something about the topic, you can contribute or offer an opinion. Continue reading

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Geeks rule the planet, but can’t you pay just a little more attention to your appearance?

craignewmark Geeks rule the planet, but cant you pay just a little more attention to your appearance?

Craig Newmark of

I know what you’re thinking… Craig Newmark of (pictured left) looks pretty cool, right?  If you answered “yes”, you just passed the geek test with flying colors and your “World’s Biggest Dork” certificate is on it’s way to your door along with the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes check. I thought the same thing but I passed the test a long time ago.

Nerds run the world. But with their notoriously horrid fashion choices, some entrepreneurs could use a style IQ boost. While their tech innovations deserve kudos, their outfits are one giant leap back for mankind. Here, we present the 15 worst offenders

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4 ways to rev up your social skills

volunteering 300x152 4 ways to rev up your social skillsJumping into the business networking game might be a bit too strenuous for a geek’s first attempt at trying out and developing his or her people skills.  One low-risk way to develop people skills is to volunteer.

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Geek Groom Mix & Match Cake Topper- Groom Only $14

geekgroom Geek Groom Mix & Match Cake Topper  Groom Only  $14Is your groom a member of the “Geek Squad?” Show his personality on your cake with this interchangeable figurine. Co-ordinates with other interchangeable figurines for a truly personal topper. Buy it at google product search

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