Feedback on my interpersonal skills
November 15, 2009 12:44 PM   Subscribe

How can I get constructive criticism on my interpersonal skills?

I want to get constructive criticism from others on my interpersonal skills, both in terms of:

(1) How I can make a better first impression (e.g. what conversational mannerisms and tics I have that convey me in a negative light)

(2) How I can improve as a friend/acquaintance (e.g. what things I do that rub people the wrong way or make me lose their respect)

I've asked my small circle of close friends for their feedback. They've given me a few tidbits, but I'm interested in candid feedback from sources less close to me.

For point (1), I think I'm already doing fairly well, but am looking for specific targeted feedback to take me to the next level. I think just seeing video of myself interacting with others could go a long way; however, I'm not sure logistically how I would arrange this.

As for goal (2), the ideal would be to hear what someone who mildly dislikes me thinks about me. However, there is nobody in my life who fits this profile and whom I think would be appropriate to ask for direct feedback.

Any ideas on either of these subjects?
posted by wireless to Human Relations (9 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Group therapy.
posted by grouse at 1:06 PM on November 15, 2009

You won't find out what people like or dislike or think of you by asking them. But if you pay attention, really pay attention, to how people react to you, to how they treat you, then you'll have enough data to figure out when you're rubbing people the wrong way or when your own behavior is leading people to treat you in ways you don't like. Then you adjust accordingly.

A therapist can help guide you through the process. And a very good friend may call you out on bad behavior, but both are only tools to self-examination.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:15 PM on November 15, 2009

conversational mannerisms and tics

Consider taping your phone conversations, even if you only record your side of the conversation.
posted by jgirl at 1:16 PM on November 15, 2009

#1 - Could you ask one of your close friends to take a video of you interacting with someone new? Not too difficult -- if you're looking for the logistics, I'm thinking of a camera with an external microphone jack (like a Kodak Zi8) and using a hidden wireless mic while your friend tapes you from afar. I mean, that sounds pretty crazy and difficult, but the equipment wouldn't cost too much and if you're in a somewhat crowded place (I'm imagining Union Square in NYC), your friend could be inconspicuous.

I guess that is a little nuts though.

Another option is Toastmasters, like rokusan mentioned. I've heard great things.

Also, have you considered reading How To Make Friends and Influence People? You may have an aversion to books like this, and I completely understand because I do too. I think this book in particular has a stigma attached to it. But when I was in seventh grade I picked up this book in a bookstore in Japan because I was all out of English books to read, and I think that many of the social successes I've had since then are because of this book. I even bought the book for my dad because he was having a difficult time at work (politics, personalities rubbing each other the wrong way), and he said it was one of the most helpful reads he'd had in a while. If you're truly concerned with interpersonal skills, I'd give it a shot.

#2 - Being a good friend/acquaintance is not about rubbing the least number of people the wrong way or about being liked by everyone. Being a good friend is about having each other's backs, giving each other a good time, making each other feel good, being supportive, motivating, and sincere. Being a good acquaintance is sort of a lesser version of that -- if you give off positive energy, most people will like you immediately and most of the rest can be won over eventually. There is no way to make everyone love you immediately. If you stay true, people will respond to that.
posted by melancholyplay at 1:18 PM on November 15, 2009

There are lots of ways to make a good impression.

1) Dress well for the setting you're in. This doesn't necessarily mean to dress fancy, but a neat and clean appearance counts for a lot.

2) Speak well. Using slang, off-color language, or making racial or sexist jokes are not advised.

3) Comport yourself well. By which I mean, if you're at a party meeting people for the first time, don't get drunk. Especially if you are the type to get manic when drunk.

4) Find something of interest in what the person is saying. Even if they're prattling on endlessly about how cute their kid is because they don't have anything else to say. You never know who the person you're speaking with is, and he or she may be the ticket to your next job, your great love, or something else.

5) Ask questions about the person. Don't ask them how they can help you with something.

Finally, don't invade their space. Unless you're flirting with him/her and he/she is obviously receptive. Nothing is a bigger turnoff than someone who invades your personal space.*

*If your reaction is "but I can't hear people when I'm at a party" then you need to get a hearing aid. Seriously. Big faux pas here.
posted by dfriedman at 1:41 PM on November 15, 2009

BE WARNED: everyone you deal with is relating to you through the lens of their inter-personal skills.

BE WARNED: most people relate to you in ways designed to get you to behave like them or do what they want you to do.

aka - this is an extreme way of saying that if the only way you are evaluating your "emotional intelligence" is via external reactions or feedback - CONSIDER THE SOURCE.

(book on emotional intelligence here.)

Quick Data Point...

On certain days of the week, I work in a very conservative community. On other days I work where I live, a very liberal and LGBT-friendly neighborhood. Folks like me well enough all around, but I use different skills depending on what neighborhood I'm in. I was shocked to discover such a broad range within 15 miles - but there you have it.

Bottom line...

Maybe work on your internal reactions and perceptions. Strengthen your character. Ultimately, you know if you are doing right or wrong by folks.

** For practical tips - learn to meditate.

I know that seems trite, but if you learn to be quiet and listen to yourself, you'll gain confidence in your behavior towards others. It won't mess you up if someone is having a bad day. You'll know when to help, or when to gracefully let things go.

Meditating will also help you modulate any tics or involuntary reactions you might have with others. You'll be calmer, and in a Matrix-y kind of way, it will slow down the action around you and give you a chance to respond more effectively. Really.
posted by jbenben at 3:21 PM on November 15, 2009

Call a good camera acting coach in your area and arrange it by email: a 30 minute coffee & unstructured chat, followed by 30 minutes of feedback on how you present yourself. Try to arrange it so the coach is there first and you arrive and approach a table where they're already seated. Should run you $50-100 depending on the teacher. DO NOT use a theatre coach- theatre people tend to interact in somewhat heightened ways, whereas camera coaches are better at spotting naturalistic behavior. If you happen to be in Toronto, MeMail me and I'll recommend a couple coaches who'd be fantastic for this. If you're in another city, look for coaches who specialize in Meisner training, they're probably pretty solidly set up for this kind of work.
posted by twistofrhyme at 4:22 PM on November 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Depending on what you're trying to accomplish by getting this feedback, a very good source might be your mentor or even your boss (as long as you trust him/her) at work. He/she would be able to evaluate you against a template of appropriateness in the business environment and point out areas in which you do or do not measure up.

However, if you're interested in getting feedback just to reinforce a self-perception about how great (or how awful) you are, asking people at work is not a good way to go. If you're simply looking to confirm your self-view, you might want to explore why this is so important to you.
posted by DrGail at 6:40 PM on November 15, 2009

There is a book called First Impressions that gives a lot of good advice about making good first impressions, based on research. The authors of the book offer feedback about simulated social interactions, but it looks like it is probably pretty expensive.
posted by catquas at 9:10 PM on November 15, 2009

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