people skills


How do you get what you want from others? Our guests say that developing good “people skills” such as listening carefully and being authentic in your communications can go a long way toward persuading the other person that you’re sincere. We discuss how to engage the person you want something from, how to “mirror” their behavior and how to prevent “vertigo” – that is being sucked into destructive, emotionally charged situations – to resolve conflicts and come to a mutual understanding.
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Dave Kerpen is the founder and CEO of Likeable Local, a social media software company and chairman and cofounder of Likeable Media, a content marketing firm for brands. He’s also the author of the book, The Art of People: 11 simple people skills that will get you everything you want

Daniel Shapiro, founder and director of the Harvard International Negotiation Program and an associate professor of psychology at the Harvard Medical School and author of the book, Negotiating the Nonnegotiable: How to resolve your most emotionally charged conflicts

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16-29 People Skills and Negotiation

Marty Peterson: Getting what you want from people – whether it’s a sale, a favor or a vote in an election – isn’t always easy. You have to make them understand and trust you; then you have to make them believe that you’re sincere and that there’s some benefit for them in what you want as well. Our guests say that there are some skills that just about anyone can learn to make the job of getting what you want easier by changing the way you communicate and interact with others.  Dave Kerpen is the founder and CEO of Likeable Local, a social media software company, and chairman and cofounder of Likeable Media, a content marketing firm for brands. He’s also the author of the book, The Art of People: 11 simple people skills that will get you everything you want. He says that technical skills and business acumen are important to success, but the most important tools in a successful person’s kit are “people skills”…

Dave Kerpen: People skills have always been the most important because at the end of the day, no matter what technical skills you have, chances are, in your career and in your life, you’re going to come across other people. And no matter how good you are at whatever it is you do, you’re going to need other people in order to get where you want to go and get what you want out of life.

Peterson: One of the first things that people look for is authenticity. If you come across as a fake or insincere, you’ll turn people off. Kerpen says that a good example of this is showing up in this year’s election campaign, because no matter what you think of his political views, authenticity is GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s biggest asset…

Kerpen: Despite being a, you know, admittedly kind of a “take no prisoners,” kind of hard-nosed guy, is that very thing that Clinton has struggled with so much, which is authenticity. Whether you think Trump has any substance or not, everyone that loves Trump believes he tells it like it is, believes that he doesn’t hold back, believes that he is being his complete, authentic self, and that has really resonated; that alone has carried him. I would make the argument that whether it’s right or wrong, having people think that you are the most honest, authentic, tell-it-like-it-is kind of person… that’s an enormous people skill. That’s carrying him.

Peterson: Trump has made that emotional connection with his supporters who are tired of the same old prepared political responses to our country’s problems. This, Kerpen says, is a skill that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has yet to master…

Kerpen: This is a woman that is arguably the most qualified presidential candidate that we’ve ever had – Secretary of state, First Lady, Senator – I mean, she’s really, extremely qualified, and yet, many people despise her and think that she’s this horrible liar. Hang out with any Republican for minutes and you’ll hear strong statements about Clinton, and I think it’s because she really struggles with connecting at that level to the masses, and that’s a real challenge for her. If she’s going to win she absolutely has to get better, even in large situations, you know, in front of lots of people, making those emotional connections, demonstrating authenticity – even vulnerability. She’s had a few moments, but very, very few, where she really connected and people saw her as a human being, but mostly she’s really struggled in this area.

Peterson: One place where Clinton has outdone her opponent is in the ability to listen. Kerpen says that this is perhaps the most important skill of all…

Kerpen: It seems so easy, yet we all suffer from this all the time because we have so many ideas, we have so many things that we want to put out into the world that we don’t take the time to shut up and truly, truly listen. Listening sounds so simple and yet most of us aren’t really listening; we are waiting to talk. If you can nail the difference between listening and waiting to talk, that alone will get you way ahead of the rest of the pack that isn’t really good at listening.

Peterson: Kerpen says that listening makes the other person feel valued and respected; it tells them that what they have to say is important and that you care. Daniel Shapiro agrees. He’s the founder and director of the Harvard International Negotiation Program and an associate professor of psychology at the Harvard Medical School. He’s also author of the book, Negotiating the Nonnegotiable: How to resolve your most emotionally charged conflicts. He says that when we get into an argument with a loved one, a boss or a friend, our ability to listen to their side can help resolve the problem…

Daniel Shapiro: When we get into conflict, one of the first things that tends to happen is we get into this mindset. It suddenly becomes me vs. you, us vs. them, and once you get into this mindset, two things start to go: the ability to listen and the ability to be curious about the other side. So, when you get into your next conflict, my advice is to actively try and do those two things. Try to really listen. What is going on from this other sides’ perspective? It’s not easy to listen like that in a tough conflict. Secondly, ask good, open-ended questions. Why do you want that? What are your interests in this? Why are you talking to me? Help me understand where you’re coming from. Part of the work I do is consulting for hostage negotiators, and even there, the tendency in these difficult, high-stakes situations is to close off to the other side, to assert our demands and expect the other side to comply. That’s not typically reality because the other side has the same expectations. Ask questions. Listen carefully. It’s simple, but it’s extremely difficult to do in a conflict.

Peterson: Cultivating people skills on the job is probably the best way to get ahead, yet many employees think only of their own time and feelings when they enlist the help of others without considering how anyone else will be affected, and this can be problematic. Shapiro has an acronym to remind employees of how they should proceed when they make decisions at work: A-C-B-D, “always consult before deciding”…

Shapiro: We all have the desire to make decisions that we want to make; none of us like to be told what to do. Sure, the boss has some power over us, but if a colleague comes in and tells you, “Hey, you’re going to stay this weekend, and you’re going to do the project. I’m going home with my family.” You suddenly feel like, “Wait a minute, who gave you the right to tell me what to do?” It’s about autonomy; we all want the freedom to make decisions that we believe are ours within the scope of our own domain. This is autonomy. Before you make your next decision that matters to someone else in your company, consult them. It costs you nothing to consult other people, you can learn and you still have the authority to make whatever decision you want.

Peterson: If there is a conflict that arises between two colleagues or spouses, friends or kids, how can one of them diffuse the situation? Kerpen says that “mirroring” is a technique that can help calm things down…

Kerpen: Mirroring is reflecting back what you hear somebody say and the way that you hear them saying it, and it sounds a little silly but it’s an amazing, amazing practice that really, really works. If you said to me, “Dave, I’m really upset with you over the fact that you didn’t take the trash out last night” – which, by the way, is something that my wife might say to me – in order to mirror, I would say, “Karen, I hear you saying you’re really upset with me over the fact that I didn’t take the garbage out last night,” and just hearing that back makes the other person feel heard and respected. It’s the simplest, easiest thing for people to do and yet, we also don’t do it; instead we react – get defensive – that’s the worst thing we should do.

Petersen: Often we’re drawn to conflict because of our situations at home or on the job. Shapiro says that emotionally charged situations can cause us to keep going back over and over again to the conflict, getting sucked into it like a black hole. He calls this “vertigo” and says it can be destructive to even the closest relationships…

Shapiro: This is the idea that if you and I are in the midst of a conflict, we can become so emotionally consumed in the conflict that we can’t think of anything else other than the conflict and other than that other person who we believe committed this egregious act toward us. That’s vertigo. And sort of like a spinning tornado, emotional tornado, in the moment it traps us we can’t see the outside of its spinning wall. The simplest way to get out of vertigo is to be aware of it and ask that simple and beautiful question, “Do I really want to go there?” That’s an example of one of these emotional forces that tend to drive us toward a divisive mindset.

Peterson: One of the most beneficial things you can do to help a relationship get back on its feet – and a valuable people skill in any part of life – is learning to say you’re sorry. Kerpen says that there is just one real way to do it well, and it’s not the way you’ve heard countless politicians and celebrities apologize…

Kerpen: The most important thing is to really authentically say, “I’m sorry.” Get in front of the person via face-to-face or video and say, “I’m sorry” right away, and no excuses, just flat-out, “I’m sorry,” and then figure out how you can make it up to the person. “I’m sorry” goes a long way, but even better is figuring out a plan to do right by the person, or people, that you’ve offended. The most dangerous word in the English language is “but.” Every time you use the word “but” you’re basically invalidating what it is that you just said.

Peterson: Anyone can learn these people skills and how to deal with and avoid conflict, our guests say it just takes mindfulness of what’s going on, how the other person feels and – like most things – practice. You can learn all about how to interact with others and get what you want from them in Dave Kerpen’s book, The Art of People, available in stores and online. You can also find him at Dave and Likeable For insight into resolving conflict in any part of your life and work, pick up Daniel Shapiro’s book, Negotiating the Nonnegotiable, and visit his site at Dan Shapiro For more information about all of our guests, log onto our site at Viewpoints You can find archives of past programs there and on iTunes and Stitcher. Our show is written and produced by Pat Reuter. Our production directors are Sean Waldron, Ronnie Sudarski and Reed Pence. I’m Marty Peterson.


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Producer of Radio Health Journal and Viewpoints - MediaTracks Communications