Interviews: The Key Fundamental


We’re living in a world that’s become increasingly sophisticated; (feel free to substitute the word complicated for sophisticated if you wish).

While progress is often a good thing, it can completely intimidate some, leaving them far behind when it comes to interviewing. All these new interview formats and techniques have interviewees feeling overly stressed, resulting in many not interviewing at their best. Few people love interviews and so it’s easy to understand few take the time to improve their interviewing skills. After all, if you don’t like interviews, it’s not likely you’ll invest time voluntarily participating in the experience.

For you then, here’s the key to a successful experience; for no matter how complicated things seem to be, this one fundamental will help you reduce your stress levels and compete better. What is it?

See the interview for what it is. An interview is a conversation between two or more people. That’s it. You have conversations – and therefore interviews – many times during the day. Those are not high stress interactions. You’ll notice that although I’ve intentionally omitted the word, ‘job’ to this point, you’ve probably inserted it as you’ve read along. Thus you read, “See the job interview for what it is.”

A job interview is at its heart just conversation between two or more people where the agreed upon subject is an opportunity. Indulge me by re-reading that again. A job interview is a conversation between two or more people where the agreed upon subject is an opportunity. I’d remind you that this opportunity is not solely for the person applying for the job, but also for the organization conducting the job interviews.

If you are fearful and intimidated by the job application process; if you wish you could bypass the job interview and just get hired, it’s likely you perceive the interview very differently than those who embrace them. Yes, it’s likely you see the job interview as this unpleasant experience you must endure where the job interviewer judges you and decides your fate, most often rejecting you personally. If so, is it any wonder that even the subject of job interviews gets your stomach churning and you view them as a necessary evil to be avoided at all costs? No wonder there are people right now who hate their jobs but refuse to quit because it will mean choosing to put themselves through more job interviews!

Seriously, it’s just a conversation about an opportunity. In a conversation, participants contribute to the discussion; not always equally if you think about it, but both sides do contribute. A job interview is no different. The employer represented by the interviewer or interviewers, wants to learn about you, what motivates you, what you might bring and contribute to their organization. They ask about your experience, education and skills in order to flesh out as best they can who you are and most importantly how you align with what they know to be their needs.

You however? You’ve got a stake in this too. Your after information on perhaps the working conditions, the culture of the organization, the management style of the person you’d be reporting to, the autonomy the position demands, the benefits of working with the company, how they view the consumers of their goods and services. You’re likely to want to know the expectations they have, and in short whether this move would be a good fit for you for the foreseeable future. Hence, they’ve got questions and so should you.

Now think please of the first time you meet people. Back to the beginning when you two introduce yourselves. If the person you are meeting looks stressed and clearly uncomfortable, it’s probable that you’re first impression isn’t favourable and you’ll remove yourself early, ceasing to invest more time with them. You’ve sized that person up pretty quickly based on the limited information you gathered and you excused yourself.

Those who interview job applicants do exactly the same thing. Hence, it’s extremely important to make that all important good first impression. Get past the first 30 seconds with a smile, a friendly, “Hello, it’s very nice to meet you”, and an expression of gratitude for meeting with them and you’re on your way.

As you settle in, you’ll be asked questions and this is your opportunity to market yourself to their advertised needs. Doesn’t it stand to reason that those who best show that they’ll bring what the company said they want will be the best fit and get the job offers? They may ask the majority of the questions I grant, but you get to do the bulk of the talking as you phrase your replies. Remember to focus your answers on the questions asked, and the only way they will know you can do what you claim is to demonstrate via specific examples that prove to them you’ve got what it takes.

Essential to remember is that your body, at least as much as your words, communicates. Look engaged, interested, focused and dressed appropriately.

Instead of an interrogation where you voluntarily go to be executed, the job interview is your opportunity – and theirs – to determine if the match between the employer and you is a good fit for both. This fundamental shift in your thinking; how you perceive the job interview, may be the one thing you do that changes how you perform.

It starts in the mind!

 

 

Be Nice


You may have big plans on where you see yourself in 2, 5 or 20 years from now. Conversely, you might not have a clue where life will take you; you have no idea what you’ll be doing in 3 weeks let alone years into your future. No matter what might be ahead in your future, one of the best things you can do now and along the way to wherever you land, you can do no better favour for yourself than to be nice along the way.

Now, already the ‘A’ type personality folks are assembling and some among them are saying that being nice gets you nowhere; that it’s a dog eat dog kind of world. Nice people are fodder to be chewed up and spit out, walked over and left on the lower rungs of the corporate ladders. They might say that nice guys finish last, that you’ve got to claw and fight your way up to every hand-hold you can clasp on the way up because nobody but nobody who amounts to anything will reach back and give you a hand up.

I suppose there are people like that; well let’s be entirely honest – there’s no supposing about it. Yes, there are people and professions that attract those kind of people with those kind of mentalities.

For the majority of us however, what is the price of being nice? Weigh any answer you come up with against the question, what is the price of not being nice? There’s the little gestures and the big ones of course. The big ones are the ones that most often make the headlines; the customer who drops a $3,000 tip for the waitress, the celebrity television host who treats the entire audience with gifts and goodies, makes wishes come true for ordinary people on the shows etc. They’ve got the untold wealth and corporate backing to be the face of niceness.

You and me though? Well, we’re likely just your everyday people; folks who work regular jobs, won’t ever gain widespread recognition. The emergence of social media has given us a platform to share our smiling faces with the world, and that’s likely the most public exposure we’re likely to garner.

Being nice can be self-serving of course and let’s be honest, it sure makes us feel good to do good for others. Drop some coins in a panhandlers cap, open a door for someone, give praise to someone who guts out a personal challenge and part of us feels good inside for doing so. Nothing wrong with making yourself feel good. Do more of it I say.

When you’re nice it can have some ripple effects too. You smile at me and I smile back. A few steps later, I give that smile to someone else and like the wave at a sporting event, it catches on and gets shared. Being nice is like that. I’ve seen first-hand people in cafe’s buy a drink for a stranger in line behind them and then that stranger do likewise for someone else. These aren’t just stories of the goody two-shoes types; these are real people. Sometimes the beneficiary of an act of kindness isn’t thankful true enough, but then again sometimes the beneficiary receives an unexpected act of kindness right at the moment when they needed it most; that reminder of the good around them. It can pull people sharply into the moment if they’ve been wandering around in their own little world, feeling ignored or invisible.

Being nice doesn’t have to cost any money whatsoever though. It can mean asking a co-worker how they’re doing and actually stopping long enough to show you really want to know. It can mean recalling something they told you two days ago and then following up with an inquiry about how that evening went or how that trip with the kids to the theme park turned out. Being nice could mean investing a tad of yourself in what that other person shares as important to them or meaningful to them.

Being nice might mean things that never get seen, never get recognized but nonetheless make things better for others. Maybe you do up a few dishes that aren’t yours at work, you make sure the toilet seat is clean every time you leave the washroom, you sharpen a few pencils at the Reception desk or keep the stapler stocked each morning so someone never gets frustrated looking for a pen.

I was saying to a colleague just yesterday that it was ironic that I was interviewed for a job years later by a woman whose children I supervised while working in a Boys and Girls Club decades ago. Good thing I was nice to both her and her kids! Who could have predicted that life would bring us back into contact that way in a completely different city and context?

Want to shock the person you’re in a relationship with? Send them an email or instant message that reads nothing more than, “Thinking of you just now.” Nice!

Yes, what if you did the odd thing or two simply with a goal and nothing more beyond being nice? You’d better watch out; you might develop a reputation for being a nice person!

Should you find that your acts of kindness go unnoticed or you get taken advantage of, be nice anyhow. We need more people like you.

 

Make Kindness Count


Show kindness to the people you come into contact with each day and you’re doing something thoughtful for both them and yourself. That sounds like a pretty good thing to me. Showing some kindness to customers, co-workers, animals, the environment, strangers, friends and family; it all translates into making the day a better one for all involved.

Need some ideas to get you going? Fair enough. Please comment and add some of your own and pass this piece on to others – maybe an act of kindness on your part!

  1. As you approach a door, take a glimpse behind you to see if there isn’t someone you can hold the door open for. Whether you let them pass ahead of you or you enter first and hold it ajar for them, it delays you for 4 seconds tops.
  2. Acknowledge people with a smile as you walk along a street. Some of the most fragile people in our society feel completely invisible. Yes, something as simple as eye contact and a smile conveys, “I see you” and sends a positive vibe.
  3. Send an email to one person today expressing something you admire in them.
  4. Leave a note of appreciation for the night cleaners who empty your garbage can, dust your furniture, clean your cubicle or office. You may never meet them, but you can imagine the surprise when out of the blue someone unexpectedly says thanks.
  5. Get up and offer your seat to others when on transit. Be they elderly, pregnant, in poor health, or perhaps entirely able-bodied and young, it’s still a nice thing to do. Kindness doesn’t discriminate.
  6. Drop your change into the charity collection box which is probably on the counter by the cashier or just under the drive-thru window.
  7. Turn the tables on the drive-thru employee and as they hand your food to you, look them in the eye and say, “Thank you for this! I hope YOU have a great day!”
  8. If you hear the recycling and garbage trucks coming up the street, walk out to meet the people picking up what you’re disposing of and thank them for doing their job.
  9. On a blistering hot summers day, offer the people picking up your trash a bottle of cold water.
  10. About that clerical support you benefit from each day; tell them how much you appreciate what they do just loud enough so a few of the people around them hear the praise. Keep it genuine and short.
  11. Go through your clothes closet when there’s a change of seasons and bag up any items you no longer wear and drop them off in a charity box or second hand store. Be kind; wash and dry them first.
  12. When others are rude, give them the kindness they may not deserve anyhow. What they are doing might be entirely out of their norm, they might be under extreme stress and pressure.
  13. Schedule family time and make family a priority.
  14. Cut your lawn and keep your weeds down. Neighbours will thank you.
  15. Put a lid on your recycling bin if it doesn’t have one. No one appreciates picking up your plastics and paper which has blown all over the neighbourhood.
  16. Let the faster vehicles pass unimpeded. Does it really matter if you’re not the fastest car? This keeps their road rage down, gets speeders out of your rear view mirror and if someone’s going to get a ticket, let it be them! Be kind to yourself.
  17. Cook dinner; something they love even if you don’t.
  18. Clean up your room without being asked. This goes whether you’re 14 years old at home or 47 years old at the office.
  19. Acknowledge the customer in line if you can’t get to them immediately.
  20. Answer the phone with a smile; it translate better on the other end even though they can’t see your face.
  21. When a co-worker has a particularly challenging time with a problem, offer to lend a hand.
  22. When you walk in to the boss with a problem, have a possible solution to suggest.
  23. Share the road with others whether they are on a bike, walking, jogging, driving a car or truck.
  24. Keep from getting behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking or using drugs. Whether on the lake or the roadways, you’re endangering lives and risking hurting the ones who care about you back home.
  25. If the food or service isn’t up to par, let owners know without being rude, loud or obnoxious. Take the high road and tell them in a helpful way so they can be better.
  26. Thank the newspaper carrier, the postal worker, the hair stylist, the car wash and gas station attendant.
  27. Extend an apology when you know you had a part to play in what went wrong.
  28. Give credit where credit is due.
  29. Praise publicly.
  30. Discipline privately.
  31. When you ask someone, “How are you?” stick around long enough to hear the reply.
  32. Make time for the people you don’t have time for.
  33. Do something fun for no other reason.
  34. Get healthy so you’re around for those who love you and would miss you.
  35. Visit dad and mom; call if you can’t.
  36. Laugh often; your heart will thank you.
  37. Bag your own groceries and speed up the checkout line.
  38. That check out line for people with 1-12 items is for people with 1-12 items.
  39. Recognize the good in others and the good in yourself.
  40. Pat the dog and get out for a walk.

 

 

Be Beautiful


Physically beautiful is nice; inner beauty is always better. It takes some people years to accept and believe this, while others get it right from the start. Let’s not start with the assumption that the all the physically beautiful people of the world have a flawed inner self; that’s an erroneous assumption and gets us off on the wrong point. Inner beauty is something we have full control over and this is where it differs dramatically from natural outer beauty.

I write as you may know with a purpose of helping people find and keep employment. So you may or may not immediately get what writing about being beautiful has to do with finding a job or getting ahead.

Inner beauty is all about being nice; attracting to you the good in others by shining brightly with your own good attitude and good works. You know these people of whom I speak. No doubt you have some in your workplace; you may well be one yourself and if you are, I applaud you.

The folks with inner beauty are the ones who always lend you help when you need it if it is in their power to do so. They say hello when they see you and ask how you are and most importantly you feel they really mean it. They smile and laugh easily and while this doesn’t mean they don’t have their ‘days’, they don’t have many of them and they certainly don’t seek misery and sympathy. They just get on with what they have to do the best they can.

Those who shine their inner beauty are good folks to have around. They lift you up, make you feel better just by having them around. They can be at any level in an organization too. Yes, right from the CEO at the top, they can be in the mailroom, the service desk, hold the keys to the office supplies, sit at reception or if you’re lucky, share an office with you or if you’re extremely lucky they could be your boss.

Inner beauty is something you can cultivate and nurture or you can shut it down and refuse adamantly to bring out. Be careful I warn you because you’ll recall how I’ve said many times in the past that once people have their view of you it’s tough to change how you are perceived. It’s not impossible of course, but well, you know about first impressions right?

Radiating goodness is what inner beauty is all about. A sincere willingness to help others and looking for opportunities to do just that is how inner beauty manifests itself. “Let me help you with that”, “Really it’s no problem; it’s my pleasure” and “You’re good at what you do” are the kind of comments you’ll hear them say and others like them. They are helpful, they do delight in being of assistance and they pass out compliments to others often but always with sincerity.

They look for the good in others too. In fact the one thing that might annoy them most is when they interact with other people who are not just indifferent but who are actually negative, mean or mean-spirited. Those with inner beauty will many times even in these situations kindly point out to the person concerned that they could be more pleasant – and they’ll do it in a way that isn’t a condemnation or value judgement. They just do it naturally.

Now think about where you work and see if you aren’t thinking of someone or some people who fit this description.  If you’re out of work, think of places you’ve worked in the past or somewhere you volunteer your time. Think of people you know in your personal life, maybe a good friend or family member. These kind of good people aren’t rare (thankfully) and they may be all around you.

Two things I offer by way of suggestion; for one, thank them. Thank them while you have a chance because showing your appreciation encourages them to continue to be the beautiful people they are. It costs you nothing to do so too. They probably would love a card or flowers but a word of genuine thanks is what they’d most like. Secondly, I’d suggest you do more to bring out your own inner beauty.

Guys can be beautiful too you know. Why not? The beautiful is not reserved for the women of this world. “He was just a beautiful guy” is a statement I’ve read again and again when a man passes away who others admired. Why not share your admiration with the living while they are in your presence? Even better however is why not choose to be a beautiful person now – now – while you have the power to decide and be whomever you want?

Go about your day with some positivity; encourage others, do good work, work with integrity and be on the lookout for others doing things you can applaud. Imagine if you did so and soon their were two or three others doing the same. Then it caught on and the  atmosphere in your workplace changed for the better; the ‘like attracts like’ syndrome starting happening. Your workplace culture would shift, the work environment would improve and a happier place would emerge to work. The cost? Nothing but a little effort. What’s the cost of suppressing inner beauty?

 

Experiencing Mental Health Issues?


Be positive. Look on the bright side. Turn that frown upside down. You’re never fully dressed without a smile. See the glass as half full. Don’t be a sour puss.  Things can only get better. You’ve got nowhere to go but up. Nobody wants to be around a grumpy Gus.

Sayings from the past and present that all send the same message; look at things with a positive point of view and present yourself to others with a cheerful disposition. Easier said than done for some folks; at least for some folks some of the time.

It’s likely true that most people do enjoy being around other people who are upbeat and positive. When you surround yourself with optimistic people who are positive, you feel some of that positivity rub off on you. When you walk away you feel better, encouraged, hopeful and in a better mood. Whether that feeling lasts but a moment or you carry it forward for a while depends entirely on you.

On the other hand it’s also the case that if you spend some time with someone who is moody, brooding, negative and talks about doom and gloom, you’re likely to walk away feeling down yourself. Given the choice of the two, most would certainly choose to surround themselves with positive people.

The challenge for some people however is that they are not accustomed to smiling or looking positive. When they are at ease, their faces take on what the rest of us might consider a serious countenance. They look intense, maybe even uninviting; radiating a, “I’d rather be left alone thank you” impression. Unfortunately this may not be how they are really feeling at all, but they come across this way and they know it. They know it because people have told them over and over for ages to smile and look happy.

This issue becomes compounded of course when they experience stress and pressure, especially if it lingers as in the case of a prolonged period of unemployment or financial hardship. As job searching can be fraught with highs and lows, built-up expectations and dashed hopes, it becomes even harder to stay upbeat and hopeful. That advice to put on a smile and fake it until you make it just sounds near impossible.

Empathizing with people who are anxious, depressed, edgy, stressed and immobilized means in part to accept them where they are; appreciating the circumstances in which they find themselves and having a measure of respect. Unless you’ve experienced what they have experienced – (and if you recognize that each person experiences things in their own unique way) it’s difficult to understand sometimes why they can’t change.

Telling someone to just snap out of it and expecting they’ll immediately slap a lasting smile on their face is unreasonable. If it were that easy, they’d have figured that out on their own. They’re likely to think or say, “Don’t you think I would if I could?” What if perhaps this condition you later discovered wasn’t so much a conscious choice the person is making to come across as sad and morose but rather an ongoing mental health issue?

What continues to be difficult for many to truly appreciate is that sometimes this mental health condition isn’t one of choice. No more than say, telling someone with a broken wrist to, “just write or type with it anyhow”, or “suck it up buttercup and deal with it.” That would be insensitive, and at the first sight of the cast on their wrist and forearm we’d be much more likely to acknowledge their injury and perhaps offer our help, extending some empathy or at the very least some sympathy.

But a mental health issue is so much less obvious isn’t it? We don’t know if a person is behaving the way they are by choice or not. Unlike seeing someone with a cast on their wrist and making small talk about how it happened, it’s highly unlikely we’d go up to someone who looks depressed and say, “Are you just sad or are you coping with a mental health disorder?” The other person might be so shocked at this that they wouldn’t know how to respond. They might respond with a, “Mind your own business”, “Is it that obvious?”, or possibly a, “Thanks for asking, actually I am…”

Imagine how much energy it would take to mask and attempt to cover up a condition like social anxiety or full-blown depression. Picture yourself having to force an insincere smile and generate some artificial laughter with those you meet, feeling that to fit in you have to be someone you’re not at your authentic core. That would be exhausting. How long could you keep that up? Could you pull it off? Don’t we all want others to accept us for who we are; aren’t we being told again and again to just be ourselves?

Many people who experience mental health issues are getting some form of help. They are doing the best they can to fit in but their not always successful. They experience the world around them from their unique perspective which may be different from others. Treatments vary as does the outcomes of these interventions.

If you don’t understand it or get it, can’t really empathize with them but wish you could, don’t compound things. Tolerance; acknowledging and accepting them as they are is a start.

Spontaneous Fun In The Office


Yesterday afternoon was a period of planning and preparation for me. Starting on Monday of next week I will be working out of a different office than I would normally, facilitating a two-week employment workshop. So it was an afternoon of assembling all the required resources I’ll need and putting these all together in kits for each participant.

So does this sound like a good time to you? It requires some serious calculations; determining all the items needed and not forgetting anything that might later on suddenly become essential if missed. These kits I assemble include pens, notepads, highlighters, pencils, a tent card, thank you cards and envelopes, USB flash sticks, toothbrushes and toothpaste, a large leather folder, a smaller folder including a calculator and my business card. Then there’s the general supplies like flip chart paper and markers, tape, stapler, and the list goes on.

Sorting all these items into a pile for each participant and ensuring no one pile is short any particular item takes time. If this administrative, behind-the-scenes kind of afternoon sounds mundane, isolating and boring to you, you’d be surprised then to find that I turned it into something both fun, productive and inclusive. I’m sharing this with you as a real-life example of what you might do – or something akin to what I’ve done – in your own workplace when faced with something similar.

The first thing I did was use a high-traffic location which is accessed by staff moving about the office from one area to another. To pass the time, I fired up the laptop there and was soon piping some music through the overhead speakers. Nothing too loud and annoying for those working at desks nearby, but just loud enough to hear while in the room.

The music I chose to play was catchy, lively and old enough to be well-known and hopefully spark some good memories. The playlist for example included, ‘Born to Be Alive’ by Patrick Hernandez, ‘The Twist’ by Chubby Checker, ‘Love Shack’ by The B-52’s, ‘Pretty Woman’ by Roy Orbison and ‘My Sharona’ by The Knack. Bouncy tunes with solid beats and music to move by.

Never afraid to be in the spotlight, I was shuffling my feet, dancing around the room and the fitbit on my wrist was counting every step and contributing to my overall daily goals. As it turns out, it was also qualifying as exercise minutes too, something I hadn’t thought of until I later checked; an added bonus. Who knew?

As the staff moved through the space, they laughed, rolled their eyes; hey I even got in a dance move or two with a few of my co-workers who couldn’t help but stop for 40 seconds or so and shake it on down with me. While this went on, another worker was taking photo’s and recording a video of these spontaneous moments which she later circulated to those caught on camera.

Now you might say to yourself that what I’m sharing just goes to show a good example of unproductive, wasted time when these few staff were entirely goofing around and getting paid to do it too. Ah my readers, if you feel this way you couldn’t be further from the truth. The packages I was assembling got done with no extra time involved. The staff passing through couldn’t help but smile and laugh. They experienced some levity and had you been there to see it, you would really have seen people bonding together; nurturing good working relationships with one another. These are the kinds of moments many employers hope to have in their workplaces but can’t script, plan and implement. It’s the spontaneity and staff themselves that make them work.

There’s huge benefits too. You know that post-lunch sag in energy that many people experience? There was none of that I assure you. People walked through and either moved to the beat, rolled their eyes in mock disbelief but chuckled, laughed out loud and shook their heads, or went about their business just after saying how much they loved whatever song was on at that moment. When was the last time you heard, ‘In The Summertime’ by Mungo Jerry? Ah, now you’re humming it or looking it up on YouTube perhaps.

Now does this sound like the kind of thing you could pull off in your office? What in your workplace are some of the spontaneous things you do or have experienced that others initiated which build on staff bonding and interaction? As I left for home yesterday one of the Administrative Clerks said goodnight and asked me if tomorrow it would be Broadway tunes!

Many organizations have social committees, as does the organization I work for. These groups of people are tasked with making the office a positive place to work, coming up throughout the year with fun activities, typically highlighting events of note like anniversaries, holidays, special themes etc. They may raise money for charities, need budgets to buy whatever supplies they need to run the events etc. The beauty of yesterdays spontaneous fun was it cost nothing to run, there was no planning to do, no permission to seek, no emails to compose, send and have read.

So in the end, some workers laughed, some danced, I got some exercise, the time flew by, the work got done, and a few of us got a little closer. Not a bad day at all.

Not A ‘People’ Person?


The gift of gab,  a born charmer, a real people person; some people are described this way. Whether they are surrounded by friends, co-workers or being introduced to others for the first time, they just have a natural ease with engaging themselves in conversations. They make it look so easy and for them, well…it is.

However for many, it’s a struggle to mix and mingle with others. When preparing to go anywhere where a gathering of people is expected their anxiety rises. For some reason, very competent individuals who have particular talents and expertise may have poorly developed interpersonal skills. The lack of these skills, or their under-development could adversely affect an individual’s ability to meet the right people or impress them enough when they do meet them to be considered for promotions or special projects as they arise.

If you are the kind of person as described above, you may desperately wish you had better people skills but have a greater fear of what it will take to improve in this area. Like it is with anything you wish to improve or learn, it does take some effort; and you may have some setbacks along the way where things don’t go smoothly. Don’t give up trying though; the payoff is increased self-confidence and a comfort level you don’t currently have in both social and professional situations.

Let’s look at a few things you could do. For starters, when you’re about to meet people for the first time, remind yourself that they don’t know you until you are introduced. Therefore, they don’t know the lack of comfort you are experiencing either. For all they know, you may be quite comfortable and at ease with holding your own in a conversation. Use this to your advantage.

Planning on keeping conversations short with any one person is another way to go about gaining some assertiveness by building on small successes. If you envision meeting someone and having a 10 minute one-to-one chat, the anxiety you could work up fretting about how to fill a 10 minute conversation may stop you before you even say hello. So reframe that conversation into a polite but short introduction.

One thing it is very important not to overlook is that a conversation is a two-way exchange. You are only 50% responsible for the dialogue and don’t have to talk the entire time. Some people make this mistake; do all the talking and exhaust both themselves and the person listening as they move from topic to topic until they are out of things to talk about. While it may appear to you as an onlooker that this kind of person has great people skills, in fact they don’t. They are talking for the sake of hearing themselves and not really engaging in true conversation.

This brings us to listening skills. Whomever it is you are going to chat with provides you with both words to listen to and thoughts to respond to. Listening attentively to whatever someone else is saying gives you things to consider and then respond to. You can’t anticipate and plan what to say until the other person gives you the information to respond to. Overly anxious and nervous people are often so busy thinking of what to say next they fail to pay attention to what the other person is talking about.

Take a deep breath or two and slow down the pace of the words coming out of your mouth. When we get anxious or nervous, or even excitable, there can be a tendency to speak quicker, making our voice tremble and the words harder to understand. Slow things down, speak clearly and you may find you engage more with the conversation as it ebbs and flows back and forth.

Asking open-ended questions of those you meet rather than yes/no questions is also helpful in shifting what to say to the other people you are chatting with. Just one or two of these questions is enough to get things started and then as mentioned above, you can demonstrate your listening skills by responding to what you hear.

Can you really ever become comfortable; really comfortable engaging in conversation with others if you’re not a people person? Like any skill, interpersonal skills can be improved upon. If you are expecting however to change your entire personality; going from say an introvert to an extrovert, not only is this probably not going to happen, you shouldn’t feel compelled to have to. Many people who are naturally shy or introverted can and do have sufficient people skills to engage with those around them.

It is not necessary that you transform into a naturally gifted public speaker or the life of the party. Turn down the pressure you perceive to be that kind of person. You are best to be true to yourself; be authentic and just work to develop in this area as someone else might work on areas they too wish to improve in.

Consider starting with people you meet in brief moments throughout your day. Be it the Bus Driver, a Server, a Cashier at the grocery store; a short conversation and a smile in these situations can give you the confidence you need to engage with others. Remind yourself too of what’s the worse that could happen with that store Cashier? You leave.

Interpersonal skills; people skills; worth paying attention to and developing.