Here’s a 6-point summary of my “People Skills” talk.  The points are in pairs, two about negotiation, two about the “arrows of communication”, and two about mindset. Identify interests Generate options Share your stories Ask for their experiences Don’t try to win the meeting Test your assumptions Note that there’s far more to people skills than… Read More

A key part of good negotiation, or negotiation-like discussions such as those about design of a new product, is identifying the interests of all parties. I suspect that there’s a very common mistake made, when identifying interests. That is to assume what the other person’s interests are, instead of asking them. But it gets worse.… Read More

It’s not easy to summarise the wonderful work of Chris Argyris. His work on mindsets, namely the Unilateral Control mindset and the Mutual Learning mindset, seems particularly difficult to summarise – and yet it’s so vitally important to anyone who works with other people. Here’s my latest attempt, at approachable wording for the two mindsets. Unilateral… Read More

The telling of true stories crops up again and again as a useful interaction technique. It’s easier to raise a dissenting view if you do so my telling a true story; and it easier for others to listen to you. Compare “Your idea won’t work”, with, “At my old job, we tried something similar and… Read More

At the start of my last project, we found ourselves not with the infamous “spaghetti code” but with it’s interpersonal equivalent: spaghetti meetings.  While the group was discussing a topic someone would inevitably say, “Oh, that reminds me of…” and launch into a description of some related, but different, topic that.  This was disruptive and cut… Read More

There’s a very apt saying in IT that, “Assumption is the mother of all ****ups!” (Replace **** with “stuff” or a stronger 4-letter word of your choice!) The same holds true for our conversations.  Often, we leave massive pieces of the conversation out entirely, because we’ve made assumptions about the other persons.  Assumptions about what… Read More

When writing and speaking about People Skills, I’ve often felt that there was something missing.  Something important, which somehow I wasn’t successfully explaining. Recently I discovered a great video from Dr Roger Schwartz, and it fills in the gap.  He points out that learning new skills is not enough. Most attempts to learn new skills fall… Read More

This is is the third and, for now, the last in a series of tips on how to prepare for discussions which you know will be difficult. Tip 3: Review applicable skills I remember being faced with a particularly difficult meeting some time ago.  Feeling unsure about how to approach it, I broke out a… Read More

Last time, we talked about a tip for situations when you have a difficult meeting coming up.  Here’s another tip I’ve found useful. Tip 2: Figure out what you really want Sometimes we find ourselves with counter-productive thoughts in the lead-up to a discussion: “I just want him to admit that he’s wrong”, “These people… Read More

In my last post in this Dialogue Skills series, I talked about learning and that fact that real learning requires practice. So how can you practice dialogue skills? Perhaps the easiest situation is when you are expecting a meeting or conversation to be somewhat difficult. You know the other people there are likely to hold different… Read More