Be nice to everybody because one day, they might make you rich

350x Be nice to everybody because one day, they might make you rich

There is an old expression the entertainment business: be especially nice to the executive assistants because one day, he or she will be president of the studio. If you are nice, they won’t remember you.  If you are a dick, they will. And you’ll never work at that studio again.

According to the Los Angeles Times, 29 year old Facebook director of engineering Andrew Bosworth met his future employer, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg when “Boz” was a teaching assistant at Harvard and Zukerberg his student. Continue reading

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Circuit board sandals

data sandals Circuit board sandals

Circuit board sandals by pcbcreations.

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Even Kuala Lumpur-ian cops need better people skills

cop on segway Even Kuala Lumpur ian cops need better people skillsKUALA LUMPUR: More police personnel may be sent to undergo soft skills training to improve their performance and interaction with the people, Director for Crime NKRA (National Key Results Area) Eugene Teh Yee said today. He said this was part of the plan by the government to inject a new culture of performance in the force. Continue reading

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People skills as important as geek skills

Copyright 2011 All rights reserved.

A survey conducted by and the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) of hiring managers and HR specialists showed that 67 percent of those polled would hire an applicant with strong soft skills whose technical skills were a little short. Only nine percent said they would hire someone who had strong technical expertise but weak interpersonal skills. Continue reading

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Evolution of Geek

The Evolution of the Geek Evolution of GeekVisual depiction of the evolution of geeks from tech geniuses to modern, more generalized forms that include everone who is passionate or obsessed about anything.

from  (click to see full-sized image)


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Experts say social skills key to success

Hays Recruitment, the international finance and tech recruiting company with offices around the globe, reports that soft skills (people skills) are a determining factor in employment today.

Soft skills in demand: Jobseekers with interpersonal, leadership and organization skills wanted

Interpersonal, leadership and organisational skills are highly valued soft skills, yet jobseekers often overlook their importance when applying for their next role, says recruiting experts Hays. Continue reading

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Befriending social anxiety

Stage fright 300x297 Befriending social anxietyAny actor will tell you that they have a fair degree of stage fright before any performance. Even very famous stage actors like Lawrence Olivier have said that if they didn’t have a bit of stage fright, they’d be really worried. It’s the nervousness that comes across as energy on stage or on screen.

I’ve always had stage fright. Not crippling stage fright but definitely stage fright. When I was a screenwriter, I remember having to go to pitch Continue reading

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Geeks make the best husbands

geek 300x200 Geeks make the best husbandsby Lindsay Weiss

My husband is (and always has been) a geek. I’m not sure he would own up to it, but the signs are there:

  1. He was in the jazz band in high school. (Note: this does not necessarily make someone a geek, but the fact that said person still brags about his status as First Chair Saxophone does.) Continue reading
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Where Are All the Girl Geeks?

5154747 300x193 Where Are All the Girl Geeks?Figures from the Information and Communications Technology Council of Canada show that last year, only about 25 per cent of people working in the field of information technology were women, reports the Winnipeg (Canada) Free Press. And women are even more rare in the most technical fields, making up just 12 per cent of electrical, computer and software engineers, and 19 per cent of programmers. Continue reading

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Meeting people for the first time is easy once you learn the “art of the open”

HighSchoolDance1 300x225 Meeting people for the first time is easy once you learn the art of the openYou walk into a room full of people at a business conference, convention or job fair. What’s the first thing you do? Look for the bathroom so you can either throw up or hyperventilate in peace? But to hark once again back to high school it’s like that school dance where you finally work up the courage to go and when you get there you don’t know anybody and you’re all alone and you desperately want to meet someone and maybe even dance but it’s loud and just a huge blur. You’re about to turn and call your mom to come pick you up but that would be even more embarrassing and then who should walk up to you but Wanda Fitzgerald, President of the Physical Science Club, who is always trying to hang out with you and your friends and you think to yourself that it would have been far less embarrassing to call your mother after all than to be seen with Wanda at a dance. Continue reading

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3 people skills to catapult your geek career

By Jeff Orloff
from Blog

It would make sense that companies these days are willing to spend big bucks to hire talented information architects to help build complex information systems that drive their businesses. In their search, employers can usually find information architects with the knowledge, technical skills and certifications to get the job done on a surface level. However, finding architects with the soft skills required to be successful is another matter entirely. Hiring managers usually first look at the resume, but if they keep an eye out for the following traits they will often find a valued employee. Continue reading

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The ABC’s of ABO (Always Be Opening)

abc blocks1 150x150 The ABCs of ABO (Always Be Opening)There is a saying among sales people, “ABC.  Always Be Closing.”  The goal is sales is to make a deal.  Everything from cultivating leads to negotiating is always about “closing” the deal. In the study of people skills, the motto is:  ABO.  Always Be Opening.

Our goal is to cultivate a large network of friends, acquaintances, co-workers, colleagues, employers, potential co-workers and employers — in short, everyone you can meet.  The more people in your “people” file, the more nodes you will have when you want to find a job, acquire funding for new business, meet other interested people, do research, get advice.  Nearly every endeavor involves the network. And you never know when you might want to use a particular arrow from your quiver.

Most geeks need to either create or expand their network and that involves meeting new people.  Most social anxiety involves meeting new people but it’s also where the gold is, where much of the promise of mastering interpersonal skills lies.

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New York Times reports People skills are the “Bedrock” of survival

fred and barney New York Times reports People skills are the Bedrock of survivalOur very existence maybe predicated on working in groups.  A recent New York Times story hypothesizes that the ability to work together is an evolutionary survival mechanism, “…our long nomadic prehistory as tightly knit bands living by… team-building rules: the belief in fairness and reciprocity,  a capacity for empathy and impulse control, and a willingness to work cooperatively in ways that even our smartest primate kin cannot match.”

Technical people, with their ultra-focus, are often socially-impaired. Continue reading

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Geeks’ Guide to People Skills

The technically brilliant among us — also known as “Geeks” — are often limited by their lack of people skills, their careers and personal prospects hindered by feelings of social inadequacy. But what if geeks were to master people skills? The mission of Geeks’ Guides is to teach geeks the skills that will transform their lives.

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Listen up!

Here are some exercises to help you develop your reflecting skills (much of the following comes from Seven Challenges Workbook by Dennis Rivers, M.A.):

Identifying feelings to reflect back
As you listen to people, try to create a brief summarize the feelings behind what they’re saying so that you can reflect those feelings back to them. For example, a co-worker is complaining about not getting a promotion and how the boss is a jerk. You might reflect back those feelings as, “Sounds like you’re not happy with the way things turned out.” You could have said “the boss is a jerk” or “the boss is ok” or “you’re a jerk for complaining,” but the key is to only try to identify their feelings and simply repeat them. Continue reading

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Listen to be heard

As a general rule, do not just repeat another person’s exact words. Summarize their experience in your own words. But in cases where people actually scream or shout something, sometimes you may want to repeat a few of their exact words in a quiet tone of voice to let them know that you have heard it just as they said it. Continue reading

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Don’t whine. Win!

The take-away on listening is not to try to advise or solve or assuage or dispute but only to offer empathy. Any time you try to advise or solve or dispute, you’re positioning yourself on the opposing side in the relationship paradigm.  When you practice empathy, you position yourself on the same side as the person you’re talking to.

Here’s a situation: A co-worker in the cubicle next to you starts complaining about Continue reading

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Just Listen!

just listen mark goulston 198x300 Just Listen!For advanced listening techniques and what I’ve found to be the quintessential book about applying listening to any situation, read Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone by Mark Goulston, M.D. Dr. Goulston is a psychiatrist, author, and business consultant and coach and this book is simply a brilliant amalgamation of many of the techniques I write about. I think I know a lot about connecting with people and about listening but I’ve learned a great deal from Dr. Goulston’s book. Once you’ve mastered the basics, buy this one for round 2.

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No Geek is an Island

No man is an island 300x201 No Geek is an IslandWe cannot change others, no matter how much we want to and how hard we try. Unlike a machine, we cannot control how others behave. Yes, people can be very disappointing at times and there is plenty of hurt to go around. We can, however, change how we feel about others and how we feel about ourselves.

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Human Emotion

Most humans are fairly emotional, whether they know it or not.  emotion fb 300x224 Human EmotionThey act on their emotions most of the time. You may think that they are reacting to you or to a situation but often, they’re acting out of a deeper set of feelings that even they can’t understand.

This may seem like a rudimentary concept but often technically trained people like engineers and scientists often find interacting with others so confounding.  If you’re having trouble “getting” people, it may be that you don’t truly understand the subtext of their emotions.  Here are a few observation exercises that may help you to begin to better understand folks.:

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that there are four basic emotions. They are:

  • sadness
  • joy
  • anger
  • fear

When we look at our own emotions, we can probably break them down into one of these. Some would say “hurt” is an emotion but hurt is really sadness that we feel is caused by rejection. (By the way, frustration is not an emotion.) Anger is. But often anger is a way to protect ourselves from sadness.

Here are some exercises that you can do on your own that will help you better identify the emotional behavior of others and of yourself.

Self Observation –  Go through a day. Make note of your own emotions during the day. (Boredom is also not an emotion.) When you’re feeling something, anything, make note of it and try to fit it into one of the four emotion categories.

Observing Others’ Emotions – Go through a day, when you see others displaying emotions, from a child crying (sadness) to a road rage (anger), make a mental note or call it in to your voicemail. See how many emotions you can observe in a day. Also, consider the context of the emotion. What caused it?

Environmental Observation – Go to Starbucks or any place you’re comfortable where you can observe others without being described as a stalker or a weirdo. Take a pad and pen or a laptop with you. Watch people. And describe their physical characteristics and behaviors. How do they sit? Do they slouch or sit upright. Are their arms crossed or legs crossed? If they’re on the phone, are they animated or quiet and controlled? How do people walk—trudging or tiptoeing, swaggering or skipping

Character Observation – Same Starbucks, different day. Choose an interesting looking person and watch them. Describe their physical appearance, mannerisms, how they speak, purse lips, ticks, facial expressions, hand gestures. What kinds of emotions are they displaying. This time, you can go beyond the basic four. If they’re on the phone and you can discreetly hear some or all of what they’re saying, try to imagine who it is they’re talking to, what is the relationship to that person? Are they sisters, family, friends, old friends, new friends? How do you think they really feel about the person with whom they’re speaking. If you find two people in a conversation, do the same thing. You hear their conversation but what do they really think about each other? Are they married or single? What is their profession, how would you describe them? Smart, stupid, happy, goofy, depressed, giggly?

Character Description — Write a detailed character description of this person as you would for a movie script or a novel (example here). Fill in all the details you don’t know with whatever pops into your head.

The Story Game – When you’re out, running errands, waiting in line at the bank, put away your Ipod, your Iphone, your Blackberry and watch people. Try to imagine what their “story” might be. The details you don’t know, make them up. Invent a story about the people you see from the little that you can observe about them.

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I See Your Lips Moving — More About Acknowledgement

japanese business meetings 195x300 I See Your Lips Moving    More About AcknowledgementFor several years, I worked for a Japanese television distribution company and in the beginning when I was in meetings with Japanese managers, they would continually say “Ah so” and nod their heads to whatever I or anyone else said in that meeting. I assumed it meant that they were agreeing with me or could really see my point and were accepting my opinion.

At the end of one particular meeting where they were “ah so-ing” me a lot and I believed they were going to go my way on the issue we were discussing, I was surprised when the boss made a decision to take the project in a direction that was exactly the opposite of what I was advocating.

Afterward, I asked one of the other Americans who worked at the company what was going on, “They were all with ahso-ing me and then this?! I’m not getting something here!” He told me that most of the people who were at the table didn’t speak English very well and they probably didn’t understand what I was saying. The meaning of “Ah so” in this context is not “I agree” or even “you have a valid point but I disagree” but simply “I see your lips moving.

It’s amazing, though, how a simple nod and a “yes” can make people feel like you’re engaged and possibly even agreeing when all you’re really doing is listening.

Kanji Wa I See Your Lips Moving    More About Acknowledgement

"Wa" means "harmony"

I’m not an expert by any means on Japan or Japanese culture but I see many things to be learned from Japanese business, especially the concept of “wa” which means, as I understand it “harmony”. It’s the basis of working on teams in Japan. No one wants to express strong individualism or strong opinions. A strongly worded opinion may very well alienate others on the team. Opinions, especially if it involves disagreement, must be stated in a very indirect way, otherwise it will offend. I know I found this extremely frustrating. “What the hell do these people want?!” I would often say to myself and my American colleagues.

This is in a sense true of simple acknowledgment. People want to be heard. You’re not necessarily agreeing, you’re simply exploring the issue with them. For that moment, you have no opinion or other vested interest. Geeks are experts, they have opinions about most things. To not have an opinion in any given situation is hard. But, therein lies the power.

It’s a complete contrast to the way I was brought up which was to not only state your opinion, but to argue for it. Debate and winning the debate was key, at least in my family. So really listening, without offering an opinion, either disagreeing or agreeing, is completely counter to everything I know.

I’ve witnessed many meetings with engineers who are fighting house-to-house for their point of view on a given topic. Because geeks are so thoughtful and so focused, often their arguments are one-way. They’re not really listening and putting ideas together. But a great deal of time is wasted in strenuous debate, especially when tempers flare and folks get frustrated. Yes, there is a place for debate and often strenuous yet respectful debate leads to solutions but debate is often adversarial. Simply listening and acknowledging allows ideas to flow more freely.

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Blinders, Horses and Geeks

Blinders 1 240x300 Blinders, Horses and GeeksBlinders are a device (see left) that race horses are fitted with so that they don’t get distracted by other horses as they bear down on the finish line.  Blinders physically cut down on a horses’ peripheral vision so they don’t become distracted or even bolt.

Geeks often have a built-in set of blinders. Whether by nature or nuture or a combination of both, these blinders contribute to a geeks ability to focus for long periods of time, allowing geeks to tpeform amazing fetes because they’re not very distractable.

But with the better comes the bitter.  On the other side of the focus coin comes a geek’s inability to take-in anything but the project they’re working on. They often miss or aren’t interested in what other people think or feel.  It’s not that they don’t care, they usually aren’t even aware of it.

Our entire world is based on working in groups and the geeks’ ultra-focus may limit their very ability to survive.  A recent New York Times story postulates that the ability to work together is an evolutionary survival mechanism, “…our long nomadic prehistory as tightly knit bands living by… team-building rules: the belief in fairness and reciprocity,  a capacity for empathy and impulse control, and a willingness to work cooperatively in ways that even our smartest primate kin cannot match.”

So, what do you do if you’re not inherently social?  Learning and practicing people skills is a pretty good start and people skills can  be learned.  Started by noticing those around you.  What are people doing? Is the guy on the cell phone at Starbucks angry or amorous?  Observation is a good starting point for learning about social skills.  Here are a few basic people skills:

  • Understanding people
  • Listening
  • Giving constructive feedback
  • Expressing thoughts clearly
  • Accepting feedback
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Collaborating


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Acknowledgement is not Agreement

Often people think that to gain acceptance through listening, that they have to agree with what they’re hearing. Not so. This is such a foreign concept for most of us including myself. As listeners, we don’t have any “responsibility” to dispute.  People say all kinds of crazy stuff but as good communicators and listeners, it’s not our duty to “set them straight” or “fact check” their statements. And often with geeks, this need to dispute cuts off good and easy communication.

Usually, even in emotionally charged situations, after a person has been heard without judgment or argument, at least half of their charge about the issue simply goes away and they’re in a much better place to discuss it.

And often, after just listening to another person, they believe you agree with them even though you’ve only nodded your head and said things like “That’s a tough situation to be in.” It should be noted here that most folks don’t actually like sympathy (i.e. someone feeling sorry for them) but they appreciate empathy (i.e. that someone understands their feelings). Empathy is extremely powerful yet simple tool in your arsenal. Listen, don’t analyze, understand what the other person is feeling or thinking, acknowledge. (see post “When Dogs Can Speak” for more on this.)

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The Study of Human Beings: The Four Human Wants

honey1 259x300 The Study of Human Beings: The Four  Human WantsSome famous sage (or was it Rose Lombardo?) once said, “You attract more bees with honey than you do with vinegar.” This pretty much says it in all of our dealings with people. Like animals, human beings need for air, water, food, and shelter (and possibly sex to procreate but not for fun.) After that, there is a whole raft of needs that we have as human beings that make us happy and productive.

We’re going to keep these in mind as we develop our interpersonal skills repertoires on our way to becoming charming Supergeeks. All of the interpersonal skills I’m going to talk about are based on satisfying these wants in others.

I’ve broken these wants down into four basic categories. If you can find more, by all means, add them to your list. Mine are:

Recognition (and the avoidance of disgrace)
When you were a child, did you ever watch ants making a trail across a countertop, carrying back grains of sugar and small morsels of bread, endlessly moving back and forth? What they were thinking? Do they have little ant families back home with little wives and little ant children who go to ant school? Do they cry when a brother ant is squished on the heel of a shoe?

Based on the assumption that ants don’t have conscious thought, the answer is to all of those questions is “no”. Ants don’t crave individuality, to be thought well of, to be valued, to be special, to have pride. But human beings do have these desires. We want to feel like “somebody,” that our contribution to the universe is worthy, that we were put on this earth for a purpose, that we’re important, that we have a place and role in the universe. We want to be recognized as the special being that we are. We want to feel useful, that we matter, that our life amounts to at least a hill of beans.

When you make someone feel important, you’re satisfying a basic human desire and they will like you for it. When you cause someone to feel shame, they don’t like you and they want to get away from you (unless they’re really masochistic or went to Catholic school and they seek out the feeling of shame.)

Praise (and the avoidance of blame)
Do you remember those moments when the boss or a teacher singled you out for having done an outstanding job? Man, that felt good. For a moment you felt pretty good about yourself and your abilities. We all like praise. But you also know the feeling of being blamed for something or feeling like you are to blame. Not good.

Praise is a very powerful thing and it’s not expressed enough. Real, meaningful praise is so easy to do and so much appreciated but folks just don’t practice it enough. Not flattery, but recognizing others for doing good things from “your lawn looks great, how do you do it?” to “you’re really saved me on the Evans account. Thanks.” We function best when we’re regarded positively. You do, I do.

Pleasure (and the avoidance of pain)
Why do they put a pretty girl’s picture on the webpage as the customer service rep when it’s really a middle-aged guy in the Phillipines? We’re all looking for Shangri-la, where all of our needs are met, where life is beautiful. Why do you think heaven is such a big draw when it comes to religion?

Gain (and the avoidance of loss)
We’re all looking to get ahead. Rose also said, “Fly with the eagles or cackle with the crows.” Most of us want a better job, more status, more things, financial security.

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Don’t Just Listen, Really Hear What is Being Said

ear Dont Just Listen, Really Hear What is Being SaidListening may seem like making sympathetic eye contact and nodding your head occasionally to give your listening partner the impression that you’re paying attention (and also to stop yourself from literally nodding — off) but real listening involves much more.

Here is an approach that hardcore listeners — psychologists — use to not just give the impression of listening to to  hear people and make the listenee to feel heard.

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 are useful in learning the art of interpersonal skills and also useful in many everyday situations. Reflective listening shows people that you 1. are listening 2. are empathetic, and 3. are validating (“validating” does not me agreeing, per se.)

Listening Orientation
The listener is only listening and trying to understand what the other person is saying from their point of view. The listener isn’t trying to solve anybody’s problem, give advice or give an opinion. The listener isn’t asking “How can I solve this person’s problems” or even “How do I feel about this person?” The listener is putting all of their energy into trying to understand exactly how this person sees themselves and their situation. The listener’s goal is simply to understand what the other person is saying or how they feel.

The listener’s desire and effort to understand the recipient and the recipient’s internal frame of reference rather than to interpret the recipient through an external point of view, such as a theory; a set of standards, or the listener’s preferences. The listener expresses this empathy verbally and non-verbally through language such as “I follow you,” “I’m with you” or “I understand.” The key is to listen and to understand through the recipients own perspective. A person who sees that a listener is really trying to understand his or her meanings will be willing to explore his or her problems and self more deeply. Empathy is surprisingly difficult to achieve. We all have a strong tendency to advise, tell, agree, or disagree from our own point of view.

Closely related to empathy. Acceptance means having respect for a person for simply being a person. Acceptance should be as unconditional as possible. This means that the listener should avoid expressing agreement or disagreement with what the other person says. This attitude encourages the other person to be less defensive and to explore aspects of self and the situation that they might otherwise keep hidden

Refers to openness, frankness, and genuineness on the part of the listener. Candor on the part of the listener tends to evoke candor in the speaker. When one person comes out from behind a facade, the other is more likely to as well.

Refers to focusing on specifics rather than vague generalities. For example, instead of a agreeing with a statement like “You just can’t trust a manager. They care about themselves first and you second”, you can ask what specific incident the speaker is referring to.

Check understanding – paraphrasing. Repeat back to the speaker what they said. Don’t repeat but paraphrase what you heard.

Go a step further by asking a question for clarification or elaboration. We often miss the meaning of what someone said. If done well, this is actually an opportunity for the speaker to further elaborate. It’s hard to change your perspective but this is not a test of your listening skills. If you misunderstood, don’t be hurt. You’ve provided an opportunity for the speaker to further elaborate and correct. That proves that this technique does truly clarify communication. For most of us, it takes a lot of practice before we become natural and effective at reflecting. Our first few efforts may sound forced, phony, patronizing, and even moronic. Once you practice for awhile, you may find out that you’re very good at it. It takes a lot of the burden off of your shoulders as well.

Try these techniques out for yourself.  You’ll notice that once you try to understand what the other person is saying without formulating a counter argument in your head, you’ll be a far more effective communicator, friend and colleague.

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