People Skills Truths: Use These Fifteen Less Obvious Ones #PeopleSkills

People Skills Truths: Use These 15 Less Obvious Ones

Non-intuitives and many technical professionals tell me that mastering the not-so-obvious aspects of people skills (aka, soft skills or interpersonal skills) is a big challenge — a real head scratcher. Where is the list of people skills truths to learn and use?

Well, scratch your head no more. If you have the desire to connect well with others, you can master and use this list of fifteen not-so-obvious people skills truths so that everything stacks up.

If you’re not sure why people skills matter, consider that people skills impact trust at work and in life. And trust impacts the results you will have with others.

15 Not-So-Obvious People Skills Truths

People Skills Truths

15 Not So Obvious People Skills Truths

  1. People cannot observe your intentions so they infer them from your words and tone of voice. State your intention to minimize confusion.

  2. Everything you say impacts others emotionally. Even if you stick to the facts, your message leaves a human mark. Consider a doctor telling a patient “You have cancer” and then leaving the room. The lack of empathy inflicts extra pain. Many scientists live by the motto “more science produces less fear.” They mislabel human needs as fear. They also mistakenly believe that everyone believes their motto. You can do great science and address human needs.

  3. Basic etiquette is a starting point for connection with others. Rules of etiquette are more relaxed today than years ago yet they are still a powerful base to rely on when meeting new people.

  4. Ask people how they feel and/or what they think; don’t tell them “I’m sure you feel”. The latter comes across as arrogant and presumptuous.

  5. Addressing someone by name (or at least surname or title), eases tension and helps communication. In some situations, use sir or ma’am.

  6. More People Skills Truths

  7. A handshake is your silent resume. Make it great. If someone extends their hand to you, give them more than your finger tips. A “finger tip” shake tells the other person no, I don’t like you, I don’t trust you. Shake the hand all the way to the thumb joint, up and down once, with eye contact.

  8. Words can woo or wound. To succeed, create bonds with your words and tone of voice — not scars. Speak the truth with tact and caring. Remember that bluntness burns you and others forever.

  9. Sarcasm is often misunderstood especially in tough times. With those you don’t know well, skip the sarcasm. Leave it to the late night comics. With those you know well, don’t direct it at them. It can be seen as an attack.

  10. And Still More …

  11. Good questions unearth possibilities for connection, results, and success. Ask open-ended questions to learn; closed-ended to confirm. People who do well with others, ask more open-ended questions and are thus seen as more open-minded.

  12. Use focused words instead of minimizing words. For example, primarily is a focused word whereas just and only are minimizing words. “Are you just concerned about the deadline?” can seem patronizing, minimizing, and dismissive. “Are you primarily concerned about the deadline?” can fuel a valuable discussion. “What are your primary concerns?” is even better because it is open-ended and allows for open discussion.

  13. Great listening is about balance. Too much silence or too much talking can be annoying. The former is also seen as manipulative, the latter as self-absorbed.

  14. Ask permission to give help before offering advice. Else you may come across as intrusive and patronizing.

  15. If someone thinks you have flattered them with your words or actions, don’t tell them you didn’t mean to! This is not the time to give literal details. It’s the time to simply say, you’re welcome.

  16. One “I told you so” sticks forever. Even if you don’t use those words, the message becomes a mark against you. People will avoid interacting with you to spare themselves the emotional pain of your know-it-all way. Celebrate your foresight silently. Use the people skills truths.

  17. Authenticity and adaptation are not contradictory behaviors. Today’s trend is to be your authentic self. Sure — as long as you adapt to others when interacting. Being yourself without adapting comes across as boorish and earns you the label of selfish and self-absorbed.

Key Question:

What will keep you from using these fifteen people skills truths? Desire, pure and simple. Lack of desire will inhibit your progress.


As I was teaching technical support customer service skills, a technical professional in the room was very resistant. At break, I asked him privately if he wanted me to explain anything again or differently. He said no. He understood what I was teaching. He doesn’t use the people skills truths because “it’s just too much trouble! If people want his help, they will adapt to him.” Quite a decision. Not using the people skills truths will hold him back.

If you want to be in a leadership position, improving your people skills will be essential. Here’s a related post — Leaders, Develop Your Intuition — to take you even further.

What would you add to this list of 15 people skills truths?

From my experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
5 Essential People Skills Actions for Leaders on Day One
5 Ways Non-Intuitive Leaders Lead Intuitive Employees Well
Courtesy Checklist: 10 Superior Ways to Succeed

Featured image licensed from Istock.

©2016-2023 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to republish any content of this post, please email for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

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17 Responses to “People Skills Truths: Use These Fifteen Less Obvious Ones #PeopleSkills”

  1. Love #7 my Mother taught me this years ago sharing “Daughter words can kill as much as a knife”

    So grateful for that lesson and have been conscious of them since.

  2. Pam Ross says:

    What great lessons here Kate! I often use several of them in leadership training and coaching.
    The one that “hit” me the most personally, though, is your point about being Authentic AND Adaptable. I tend to flex my style depending on who I’m talking to. It happens naturally, although I notice it. I’ve been struggling a little with the focus on being “authentic”, questioning my flexible style and wondering if it was at odds with this. One thing I pride myself on is always being genuine, and although my style changes, my values don’t. Your brief point about being both authentic and adaptable helps me to end that internal battle here and now.
    I am genuinely me, and that includes flexibility.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Pam,
      Adapting and authentic is a puzzle for many people. When I teach, I explain it this way — in order to adapt to others you must be yourself. In other words, you first must know who you are to see what you must modify at any moment. That is how you hold on to yourself. The best “flexers” know very clearly who they are inside!

      Thanks for your insight here and I hope you will visit Smart SenseAbilities and share your experience frequently.

      Best wishes,

  3. Lisa Jordan says:

    Thanks for a great post!

  4. Rick Ross says:

    “Ask permission to give help before offering advice” is an idea on which I’m 100% sold. However, it seems challenging to effectively implement.

    The problem: people I’ve observed asking for permission to give advice sometimes come across as patronizing or even aggressive. For example, some salespeople ask for permission to give advice before they’ve established credibility leaving their customer in an awkward situation. How do you gracefully say, “I’m not ready for your advice because I don’t yet know if you’re competent” or “I don’t want your advice because you haven’t convinced me that you have my best interest in mind”?

    I’m completely on-board with the idea. I just wonder how you can ask for permission in a sincere way so that the customer has the opportunity to say no.

    Terrific tips! Thanks Kate!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Rick,
      You raise a very good point. Trust and credibility are a key part to giving and receiving help. The simple way to respond to an offer of help when you don’t trust it is to say something like: “Not now thanks” or simply “no thanks.” It avoids the awkwardness you mention.

      If you want to find out if they are competent before you accept their help, try something like — well I have a few questions first if you don’t mind. Than ask questions that help you assess their competence.

      When it comes to offering help in a sincere way, a statement + question can work well. “I am glad to assist. Is there anything I can do right now? or What can I do right now?” By including the element of time, it gives the customer a chance to respond with a “time based” no.

      Thanks for contributing to this post Rick.
      All the best,

  5. Todd Larson says:

    Terrific counsel, right on the money! These are important skills to practice in daily life, with co-workers and bosses, current and prospective clients, friends, lovers. Thanks!

  6. Awan Ibrahim says:

    I found this information to be very relevant and useful. It’s important that we become leaders with strong people skills. Striking a balance in this area can be tough depending on your role in a company. However, with a deliberate plan to learn and use the people skills here. One can do well and be a high performing leader. I especially liked the point on “the handshake is your resume.” I can directly relate to the positive or negative energy transfer that occurs depending on the strength of the handshake–so powerful.

    I also find listening to be critical in ones people skills. As a leader one must be able to listen to other people in good times and bad. We are given two ears and one mouth for a reason, to listen twice as much as we speak. If anyone is having a hard time with people skills I suggest starting with the people skill listening. When you work with people you can quickly gain the respect and trust of your peers because you provide a forum for them to help you and your organization.


  7. AprilS says:

    Great list! The handshake thing is one of my pet peeves. Nothing worse than a limp handshake to immediately set a bad impression. This is how you set people’s initial thoughts about you and an enthusiastic and strong handshake is much more warm and welcoming.
    I also really agree with asking permission to help before giving advice. So often people throw out their advice without thinking about whether or not it’s wanted. It can come across very “know-it-all” in certain situations and can really put people off. Asking first shows you care and want to help but don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. It’s respectful and people appreciate it.

  8. Bob Burnett says:

    Funny how these same 15 skills translate to personal relationships just as well as professional ones. No reason why people shouldn’t adopt these principles in everyday situations. If I could be so bold as to add another skill to the list…look people in the eye when you meet them and interact with them, not to be confrontational but to let them know that they have your attention and that you care about what they are saying.
    Great list.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      They do apply to everyday life Bob — which seems so logical since each of us is one person. We might modify our behavior to fit certain settings (personal/professional) yet still one person.

      Thanks for your contribution!

  9. John Jinks says:

    Both #7 and #8 hit close to home.

    Before my leadership journey, sarcasm had been my “default mode.”

    Even those who were closest to me, if I slipped back into that mode, it caused unnecessary pain.

    As you’ve said, this mode should be reserved for late-night comics and not for interactions with those whom you wish to have influence over.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi John,
      I am grateful that you have shared your personal journey relating to this post. You give proof here that even using sarcasm with people close to you, created unnecessary pain.

      Grateful for your comments here and bravo that your journey has taught you so much!

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