People skills is a topic that is most frequently talked about in leadership and management training circles. It’s not often that we hear “people skills” referred to or applied to our closest relationships. Yet, after years of working with people on their relationships, it is evident that people skills are absolutely KEY to any happy relationship.  They are also absolutely essential for a happy home-life.

If you’ve done any level of leadership or management training, you know that when we operate just from our own perspective, we tend to not get along as well with others.  We have less authentic communication and less respect for individuality.  

Happy relationships require that we often:

  • consider the other person’s perspective

  • soften or temper our approach

  • listen as much or more than we talk

  • avoid criticizing and complaining

  • avoid using harsh words and venting in anger

Social graces and people skills are like the velvet on the sandpaper of relationships. They smooth out the rough edges so that life moves along with less upsets. They remind us to consider the other person’s lens or perspective and they are tools to expand our relationships.  If people skills are not present, relationships can get rocky with misunderstandings, without us even intending so.

It’s interesting how people skills are so often ignored in our closest, most intimate relationships. The old saying that “familiarity breeds contempt” applies here and is what happens when we stop “putting our best foot forward” in those closest, most important relationships.

When we are first getting to know people (think dating or starting a new position in your career), we are usually reflecting the very best version of ourselves. We are definitely aware of being at our best and are more thoughtful of what we say and the tone of voice we use. We are often more considerate, listening more readily and offering a smile more frequently. Over time, the newness wears off and we can become less conscious of putting that best foot forward.

Good people skills are developed over time and are easily understood by reading some of the classic leadership and personal development books. They are never meant to be or feel phony. They actually reflect a working understanding of others and a personal desire to have happy interactions.

We each and all have idiosyncrasies that can “grind” on our spouses, family, co-workers and even our closest friends. Being more conscious of how we are acting is truly the first step in creating happy relationships. The best of relationships do not have an “all about me” mentality driving them. Instead, there is a culture of give-and-take and respect.

Being at our best all the time can seem like a lot of work, as sometimes we feel the need to be “off” and “just let our hair down”. Interestingly, a culture of good people skills allows for the feeling of easy, authentic living.  Hurt feelings occur less frequently,  as understanding and respect prevails. The best intimate, family, and work relationships reflect a culture where good people skills are the norm and feel natural.

You can start by just being more aware of your tone of voice and behavior toward those around you. If it wouldn’t feel good coming at you, do not project it onto others. Then, practice appreciating the big and little things that you can notice. Yes, being a “good-finder” pays big dividends in couple, family, friend and work relationships. 

Don’t reserve good people skills just for that important interview or big social event.  Consistently practicing them in your every day and home relationships will create a life that is much more friction-free and filled with rewarding relationships.