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Every day for about twenty minutes or so, I try to think of something so inventive and cutting edge that I never have to work again. I haven’t come up with anything other than getting hit by a car (again) or winning the lottery which I never play. It’s safe to say I won’t be rich anytime soon.
For some reason, hitting it big made me think of Office Space, specifically Tom Smykowski and his “jump to conclusions” mat which is obviously a stupid-ass idea. Tom’s true genius lied in hitting it big accidentally by getting hit by a car. Ol’ Tom was like any other employee who fell by the wayside with his patented set of skills, losing his employment in a soul-sucking office during a round of layoffs. His tirade to the Bobs, however, still lives in infamy.
“I DEAL WITH THE GODDAMN CUSTOMERS SO THE ENGINEERS DON’T HAVE TO. I HAVE PEOPLE SKILLS, I AM GOOD AT DEALING WITH PEOPLE!”
This got me thinking: with all the talk of deal closing, networking and the pursuit of the good life, the ability to talk to people seems to be a dying art. While I don’t think we should get rid of smart phones, there is a certain lacking in today’s world in terms of people skills.
I grew up working in my dad’s hardware store where I met many people from all walks of life. Working in a mom and pop shop taught me at a young age to interact with every customer like they are buying a Vogner Charking Imperial even if they are buying a few washers. As I got older and started caddying, I realized that my pay depended on knowing how to read people and interact. Some golfers wanted to relive their glory days, regaling me of tales where they chased tail left and right while others wanted you to shut the fuck up and tell them where to putt. Being able to read people is something that has paid dividends a hundred fold.
While a lot of people skill issues happen at the workplace, we don’t exactly do a bang up job in interpersonal relationships. “Ghosting” people rather than letting them know “Hey, this isn’t working out,” at first glance, is one of these things. However, I’m sure many ladies and quite a few men can attest that when they try to let someone down easy, the other party gets hostile and defensive, rather than moving on.
The most important part about dealing with others is how you perceive yourself in relation to others (the looking-glass self for all you people that also took Sociology 101). Having the presence of mind to make sure you aren’t coming off as a fuckhead is an invaluable trait as is being able to read the room and act accordingly. This may sound pretty standard to most, but in grad school I had a classmate ask, “How do you know how much to drink in a professional situation?” She was always good for a laugh as the entire class collectively thought, “What an idiot.”
Communication is key. Back in the day, it was by snail mail, in person or telephone. Now, there are many people that do their jobs from the comfort of their own homes. While I’m quite jealous of anyone that gets to do business every day in their underwear, there’s something to said about familiarity. I personally enjoy the ability to walk down two floors to speak to someone on my team in person rather than send five emails and be stuck in CC: hell for a few days over something small.
Starting a relationship in any form takes work but maintaining and building upon is where it gets difficult. I have great rapport with all my former employers because getting a good recommendation when you were a shitbird is pretty tough stuff. My now boss told me one of the reasons I was hired for this job was not just my skills but that I was a “cultural fit” for the team, something that means a lot to me as I put a lot of stock in people skills.
Develop strategies for yourself not only helps you in interpersonal relationships but it bleeds over into many aspects of life, like making new friends. For example, when you’re talking to someone, keep your hands out of your pockets. It makes you look insecure and uninterested and always keep an open posture, don’t slouch. Just remember, you can’t network and move up the bullshit ladder if you can’t talk to people, it’s a simple as that. .