Why People Skills Matter


No matter how antisocial our disposition, we desperately require other people to find meaning and purpose.

Being around other people requires understanding social power dynamics to help us get what we want.

True success in life requires other people as well, since communication is the most powerful force on earth.

Socializing is a host of various skills rolled together into an intuitive whole, not a single skill in itself.

Who cares about other people?

We need other people, and other people need us.

Our biological essence is built around relationships with others:
  • In fact, until we change them later our formative father and mother figures from childhood form our entire view of the world.

More than anything else, each person wants to be important:
  • While it varies for each person, your importance is the value other people give you.

Every part of life has politics

Politics is the art of maintaining and building power involving others, expressed as influence:
  • Everyone wishes to be important to others.
  • Even in small controlled environments like games or social media, power dynamics from outside relationships still bleed in.
  • We need that attention and compete for it, since it validates who we are.

Navigating politics comes from knowing what other people know and identify with:
  1. What others know, expect, and feel.
  2. What others know, expect, and feel about what you and others know, expect, and feel.
  3. As many layers as each person can perceive of others’ knowledge, expectations, and feelings.

We need loving, tactful behavior to foster influence with others.

Social standards help people coexist

Antisocial behavior is a sign of mental illness, since mentally unwell people tend to shun others’ input.

Society’s culturally accepted rules are a neutral zone for everyone to feel safe together:
  • Honoring broad social standards implies that you will likely respect personal boundaries.

Learning cultures is more important than learning languages:
  • Understanding how other societies think is more important than the words they say.
  • In fact, technology gives all the correct words to say but can’t provide appropriate context.

Not all social rules have the same punishment for breaking

Folkways are everyday behavior designed for convenience and tradition:
  • e.g., holding the door for others or saying “excuse me” when bumping others.
  • Violating folkways will have others give you odd stares, quietly shun you, and you’ll be labeled an outsider.
  • You can violate some folkways, but breaking enough of them can ruin your chances for getting along with others.

Mores are behaviors labeled offensive and dishonorable:
  • e.g., crossing into someone’s personal space without their permission.
  • Dishonoring mores will have others openly reject you and sabotage your reputation across groups.
  • With enough broken mores, people will drive you out of their group.
  • Often, the more conservative members of a group will view folkways as mores!

Laws are behaviors everyone in the group considers universally bad:
  • e.g., public nudity
  • The majority of the group will disagree with them enough that there’ll usually be an organization that enforces punishment for it.
  • Breaking laws can lead to public shaming, prison, deportation or death.
  • Embassies are designed to help navigate legal differences between regions.

If you’re careful, you can often break some social rules without any lasting harm:
  • People will overlook a few more if you’re behaving tactfully otherwise.
  • Quickly apologize for any habit that may be breaking a rule you’re not aware of.
  • If you can synchronize your sense of humor with others, people often overlook perceived rudeness.
  • If you have authority over anyone, however, breaking the rules will set a poor example.

Success requires people

Without other people, success is lonely and unfulfilling.

Communication skills are more critical for success than intelligence, talent or attractiveness:
  • People often care more about relationships than raw facts, and usually don’t separate the messenger from the message.
  • Your co-workers, family, acquaintances, and strangers perceive the value of your ideas by the impressions you give them.
  • To hold a healthy view of the world, we must hear others’ opinions from a wide range of backgrounds.

Our best selves come through how we add value to others.

We only find meaning through others’ encouragement and inspiration.

Communication is the most powerful force on earth:
  • Every human accomplishment forms through people acting on other people’s ideas.
  • Communication is rational, but hits emotional triggers.
    • Every impactful speech, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Adolf Hitler, uses emotions to tremendous effect.
  • Most good ideas come through excellent conversations, but poor conversation skills will repel people from amazing ideas.
  • No matter who you are, introvert or extrovert, you will always benefit from being around people more often.

Socializing isn’t one skill

Social skills encompass a wide variety of small skills that fit various circumstances:
  1. Initiating conversations
  2. Making small talk
  3. Making jokes and witticisms
  4. Knowing the proper context for behavior
  5. Sympathizing and empathizing with others
  6. Building and maintaining connections
  7. Knowing when to stay silent
  8. Ability to detect lies
  9. Politely confronting others about genuine feelings
  10. Capturing and keeping others’ attention
  11. Navigating around or defusing conflicts
  12. Capacity for language and the ability to write
  13. Public speaking
  14. Special situations like a business environment, leadership roles, and formal events
  15. Managing awkward circumstances
  16. Not taking what others say personally or reacting on appearances
  17. Empathizing with others’ feelings

The full breadth of social skills goes beyond this guide, but everyone needs at least a little of each social skill.

Before showing yourself in public, though, you must make yourself presentable.