How do I become someone who gets at the CEO skill level when it comes to dealing with people?
March 26, 2010 12:32 PM   Subscribe

"When we are dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bustling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity."- Dale Carnegie. What can I read to deal with people and understanding their nature, motivations etc better? Oh, and can you also suggest getting better at being less impulsive in conversations?

During my undergraduate years, I learned to read actively, throw questions around, interact with people aiming to get ultimate clarity, bring the elephant in the room out so that things are not left unsaid and people can finally relax and feel clear.
During those times, it immensely helped my introverted nature to be reading, reading, reading, reading and helped become somewhat of an information pump. Like many of you I love reading askmefi and learning new things.

However, I seem to have lost out on the people touch to some extent. There used to be a time when I was fairly generalized in my speech and would make some fun folks as friends. Now, I'm quite a bit more nuanced and that can be an issue in making friends. In recent times, I was fairly blunt but moving into business domain is teaching me a whole new ball game on how being blunt can be bad for you.

There was a time when encouraging people who you met about what they were doing was a great way to meet them but their constant expectation that you're going to be happy smiling in their face 24/7 giving them praise all the time became a little too much.

There are times when people will talk to me (those who are of higher authority) and when I respond to them about their initiated topic, they give an odd look of not really wanting to engage in the discussion? Re: the look I received, I believe is different to the look one receives when they who just want to be heard out.

I've also made errors of giving unsolicited advice and being too impulsive in talking to others.

So hive mind help me become a people pump from information pump. Help me learn to be diplomatic and keep people at lots of ease when conversing with them like a really good CEO when it comes to dealing with people
Please link freely to books, articles, blog posts, etc.
posted by iNfo.Pump to Human Relations (9 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
The first thing that came to my mind was this book. It not only teaches you how to relate to people on their terms, but the act of practicing this will automatically make you a better listener.

Re: higher ups giving you looks when you respond: a lot of them just want to hear themselves talk, and any reaction from an underling may be seen as insubordinate behavior, or at a minimum just being "cheeky". For those types, just agree and move on (while trying to avoid becoming a 'yes man').
posted by wwartorff at 1:01 PM on March 26, 2010

You might look into Deborah Tannen's stuff, specifically this one (which I haven't actually read).

I was just talking about this with my partner, who is an adult child of alcoholics (ACOA). In thinking about his job skills, etc., he said that one of the reasons he gets along with people so well is that even though he started out by being pretty passive (because if you grow up around substance abuse you often don't want to rock the boat and risk losing control), the therapy he's gone through has made him very effective at using "I think" and "I feel" statements. Like these. When you get down to the core of what you want to discuss, but still take the time to validate what the other person says, they feel like their ideas are included and appreciated. Note that I said "validate," not "give in."

Same goes for customer service at any level. If someone calls you up and says, "My widget is broken! What are you going to do about it?" you have to let them vent, empathize with them, give them options and then negotiate a solution. Often just venting will be enough, but if you go through the whole process and can't solve the whole thing, there are probably still ways you can fix part of the problem to let them know that you care about what happens.

My own job sometimes involves a lot of "Duly noted; thank you for your comments," which can be very easy and yet very difficult when you just. want. to. SMACK. them! But being unseen on the other end of the phone helps :)

Finally, just put yourself in the other person's shoes and remember that their life is just as complex as yours, if not more so. Your coworker might be cranky because he was up late with a sick kid. Your other coworker might never stop talking at work because nobody listens to her at home. Again, if you think about them as whole people, validate their concerns and stay honest/helpful instead of giving in to negative people around you, you can get along with just about everyone.
posted by Madamina at 1:54 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Try books on salesmanship, such as Ben Gay's THE CLOSERS.

You've already mentioned Dale Carnegie, but have you read his stuff? Very good.
posted by meadowlark lime at 2:17 PM on March 26, 2010

I appreciate the stuff that's coming in guys!

I've read some stuff specifically how to win friends and influence people. Nothing other than that stands out in memory.
posted by iNfo.Pump at 2:41 PM on March 26, 2010

I've also made errors of giving unsolicited advice and being too impulsive in talking to others.

Status HOWTO from a resource for improv performers. Helps you understand the mechanics of lowering & raising your own status & those of others, and helps you recognize situations where you need to do any of those things.
posted by brainwane at 3:12 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

When you play poker you can observe people making irrational decisions for all sorts of emotional reasons.
posted by callmejay at 4:29 PM on March 26, 2010

I think you are way over estimating the people skills of most CEOs. I deal with senior executives every day and I come away from most of the meetings wondering how the hell they ever got a job managing people, let alone running a company. If you read and apply Dale Carnegie you'll be in the top 20% just from that. Very few people actually spend any time at all thinking in terms of the other persons needs and goals.
posted by COD at 5:33 PM on March 26, 2010

I've been following this blog lately called Ribbonfarm (via a Metafilter post). As part of his series on The Gervais Principle, he talks about how the different groups in an organization talk: Posturetalk, Powertalk, Babytalk and Gametalk. You may be seeing some of this now.

Some of the books the blogger mentions that informed his thinking along these lines are: The Organization Man and I'm Ok, You're Ok. He also mentions Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre. Which might suggest that perhaps taking an Improv class would help you develop these skills? (On preview, what brainwane suggests as well.)
posted by Bron at 6:03 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is it possible that the only thing you're "doing wrong" is worrying too much about "doing it right?" When I read your post, what came to mind was when I went to another country and communicated in a really stilted, elementary way during the time that I was still trying to recall my spanish textbook, but could suddenly communicate better once I somehow slipped into another, more intuitive and direct, channel in my brain for speech and listening.

To shift that in your life now, improv is actually a great idea, but (in my experience), it'll be really hard at first. It will take more than one eight-week class for you to shift, and in the intervening time, you'll really feel like you're doing it wrong. Other things that help quiet the self-critic (therapy, practicing self-acceptance, mediation, anti-anxiety strategies like cutting out caffeine) might also help?

My favorite books on communication (including business communication) are Crucial Conversations, Difficult Conversations, and Getting to Yes (in that order). You might also like some of the great answers people gave to a question I asked about office communication here.
posted by salvia at 3:37 PM on March 27, 2010

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