By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. I'm the one at work no one likes. I'm the one that's hard to get along with, yet I am always respectful and nice to everyone. I am not a gossiper. This has been going on my whole work life. Within one to two weeks of starting a new job, it feels as though whatever "test" I have been given, I failed. And anything after that is just people putting up with me because I'm very good at what I do. Any advice?
A. Yes, you are clearly not just very good at what you do but also smart enough to know you can learn what you don't know. Now you need to find some resources to learn people skills.
People skills are not a mystical or genetic gift bestowed on us by a capricious universe. People skills are just the same as learning a software program.
Yes, there are people who seem "naturally" talented at dealing with others. If you had parents who had great interpersonal skills, they modeled and taught you people skills.
Most of us, unfortunately, learned to deal with people from family members who use conflict techniques like pouting, yelling or getting even. We rarely learned how to be assertive or ask for what we want in a way that makes others want to help us.
If you wanted to speak a language, you'd find someone to teach you. You could also read books, but you would know you need to practice with a live human. Like a foreign language, the skills you need can be learned from psychotherapists and executive coaches. You can also take classes.
When you look for a mentor, realize that not all teachers are created equal. Interview a person you are considering by asking exactly how they would fix some of the problems you have with people. If they cannot give you dialogues to use, don't work with them.
The old adage, "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach," is absolutely wrong when it comes to picking an interpersonal coach. If your potential coach's career or personal life looks like a train wreck, they have nothing to offer you. Look for people who have handled some serious adversity, conflict and challenges with effectiveness and grace.
The fact you are humble, aware of your weaknesses, and asking for help bodes very well for you to change from the person no one likes to the person everyone wants to work with. Emotional intelligence (EQ), unlike actual IQ, is not set at birth but learned in life.
You are currently very good at your job; now you just need to set your sights on learning to become very good at people.
The last word(s)
Q. I notice most people in my workplace only see their point of view. Do most people really think they are right all the time?
A. Yes, most people confuse being wrong with being bad, which makes it tough to get people to learn things at work.
Q. I have a coworker who constantly quotes research to make his point in meetings. Is there a way to point out to him that this is very annoying?
A. Yes, point out that 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot, chuckle, and ask him to stick to problem solving in meetings.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). Contact her at www.interpersonaledge.com
or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027.
This was printed in the May 5, 2013 - May 18, 2013 Edition