Wednesday, November 21, 2012

EBWs Need People Skills

This post was inspired by an article on The Feminine Black Woman called "Black Girls Please be Nice". The post mentions that being nice is part of having "people skills", but what are people skills? As I have mentioned in recent posts, I'm going to concern myself more with improving myself, getting along with others, and having great relationships rather than complaining about the behaviours, privileges, or possessions of others. I'm going to try to be the most attractive, friendly, kind, feminine, and pleasant woman I can be and try to get/keep as many privileges or benefits from that as possible. Of course being attractive, friendly, kind, feminine, and pleasant will make me feel great anyway but person with these qualities will also get along well with others and be liked and this is a great benefit.

I see nothing wrong with learning how to be liked, how get along with others, and how to be pleasant. Many of these things are taught to children to help them function in the social world. Many of these things are taught to socially anxious or awkward people who have trouble making friends or people with behaviour problems that get them into trouble. These are also things taught to employees and business professionals who's ability to be liked by coworkers and clients is essential for their success. Some people are just naturally likable, popular, and friendly but for whatever reason, others are not and they struggle to be liked. One thing less well liked people can do is learn from well liked people and research about well liked people with the goal of increasing personal qualities and behaviours that contribute to being liked and reducing qualities and behaviours that contribute to being disliked.

I'll use a sprinter as an example. If a young woman wants to become a champion, Gold medal sprinter then she has to learn how to be one! She has to seek training from a coach, learn how much she has to practice, proper technique, form, nutrition, and motivation and then enact everything she has learned. A champion sprinter is not just self-trained with absolutely no knowledge of what other champion or competing sprinters are doing. They also have coaches with years of sprinting knowledge that they pass onto them. This is the way I feel about learning how to be the best friend, coworker, employee, girlfriend, wife, student, woman, and has to learn what it takes, observe the best, and practice until what is learned becomes habit. Being a great person takes skills...people skills!

"People Skills (or Social skills) are most often thought of as a set of skills that allow us to communicate, relate and socialise with others. People skills include both verbal and nonverbal forms of communication. They often are the way others determine our status, consider us as potential friends or mates, and consider us for employment or promotions in the workplace. The opposite of good People skills is social ineptitude, which is an inability to use the defined set of social skills that would make one integrate and get on well with others (source)." There is a short post about people skills on Wikipedia but it does mention that teachings about people skills have been around for centuries and even the Bible can be considered to be an instructional manual for people skills. It also mentions the best-selling self-help book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" that I read a long time ago (see, people really want to learn this stuff and will pay for it!). Just reading the descriptions of the chapters alone sounds like exactly what an EBW needs to be successful. I probably already know a lot of these things, but like many of us, I may have forgotten some advice or I may not be using it as often as I could. So now I need a people skills tutorial refresher course!

I think there is a simple thing that one can remember when trying to get along with others: if you arouse negative feelings in others they will not like you but if you arouse positive feelings they will like you. Simple! Things that arouse negative feelings include bragging, complaining, criticizing, insulting, ignoring, pressuring, offending, burdening, taking for granted, not having good manners, being obnoxious, being embarrassing, being rude, being strange or odd, being difficult, being disruptive, being bossy, being unkempt or unattractive (sorry but true), looking unpleasant and many other things. All one has to do is think about behaviours that one finds unpleasant and try to not do those things. Things that arouse positive feelings in people include paying sincere compliments, flattery, listening to them, making them feel important, trusting them, being accepting and non-judgemental, being friendly, being kind and nice, helping, paying attention to them, inviting and including them, talking to them, saying hi, smiling, using pleasant words, speaking in a pleasant manner, being happy, being positive and optimistic, being fun, being lighthearted, being sincere, caring, being attractive (sorry but true), being popular, being admirable and other things. All one has to do is think about the qualities of people one like and admires to come up with such a list and try to show these qualities whenever possible. 

I think that what BW have to realize is that these negative and positive feelings are natural and often automatic and unconscious to people. This isn't just something that happens to judgemental, racist, sexist, shallow people, it happens automatically to EVERYONE. The feelings can happen in an instant so as soon as someone sees you or you do something the damage (or good effect) is done and your explaining the reasons for your behaviour (e.g., bad day, history of oppression, victim of society etc.) will not un-ring that bell. Life will be much harder for you if people have negative feelings as soon as they see you or as soon as you open your mouth. So if you look unpleasant (e.g., unattractive, mean, hard, unhappy, angry, unkempt, strange--nonverbal communication) and sound unpleasant (harsh, loud, obnoxious, cursing, rude--verbal communication) then you will quickly arouse negative feelings and be disliked. Some people will not bother to get to know you if you arouse negative feelings. If you expect them to look past your negative exterior and behaviour to see the "real you" then you have an enormous sense of entitlement and expect special treatment that probably won't happen. When I hear women say, "If a man really wants me and is a real man then he won't let my 'mean mugging' and harshness deter him" I just shake my head. Why do these women think that they are so attractive that a stranger (who knows nothing of their personality) will overlook the obvious indicators they are unpleasant and still try to be with them? If associating with you is unavoidable then maybe, after getting to know you, you may be liked. In that case you may be told later, "I didn't like you at all when I first met you but now I think you're okay". You don't want to be that person.

Tika Sumpter is saying "I take pride in
my appearance, I'm friendly, happy,
confident,  and I embrace my femininity"

Michelle Obama looking gorgeous!!!
Her nonverbal message is "I'm classy,
upscale, well mannered, modest,
and out of your league boys!"

I think that an issue that some BW have is that they are frequently arousing negative feelings in people and I am not talking about racists. People have a negative reaction to women who are loud, aggressive, rude, obnoxious, confrontational, argumentative, and complaining but some BW embrace these behaviours and expect others to not react. They complain that men are able to do similar things and not be judged as harshly...well I'm sorry but the automatic reaction to men and women exhibiting the same behaviours is different! Your explanation and reasoning after the fact will not un-ring that bell. Many people also experience negative/neutral feelings when they see women who are unnattractive, obese, unkempt, dressed badly, or looking strange. Sorry but that's true and no amount of shaming, explaining why this is unfair, complaining about beauty standards or anything else will change that negative/neutral reaction. I think that a neutral reaction is often likely, for instance, overweight women may be ignored but no negative feelings are experienced when meeting. So if you want to arouse positive feelings instead you need to make sure you are not exhibiting these characteristics.

IT ISN'T FAIR!!!!!! I know, but it's reality and I don't live in fairy tale land or in a future where this isn't the reality, this is the present reality and we need to adapt to it. There is no morality or right and wrong involved with automatic and unconscious reactions. I think that some public service campaigns may be helpful in changing some of the automatic reactions but this takes great effort, time, and exposure to these messages. For instance, all the articles about how unrealistic models and advertising is has had an effect on me so that I am not really affected by seeing thin models, but that took YEARS and avoidance of fashion magazines for YEARS. People are also having less of a negative reaction to dark skin, natural hair, and higher levels or rudeness and vulgarity but that took years of media, immigration, and fashion trends. I think it would be wiser to adapt to the current reality instead of waiting for society to change so that your negative traits become attractive (if that ever happens at all). Attractiveness for instance can be improved and being pleasant physically is a form of non-verbal communication! But of course this is all my opinion, you don't have to change or do anything you don't want to do or adapt to the current's your choice :) So I'm going to post some links to information about people skills so that we can all learn or get a needed tutorial/refresher. 

Related Articles:
How good are your people skills?: Excellent tutorial!!! MUST READ! Although this refers to the workplace it applies to any time you have to cooperate with others who have different goals and motivations. So this is applicable to romantic relationships and getting along with acquaintances too.
People skills (Great read!!!)
Eight essential people skills, good quote, "Remember that an attitude leads to an emotion, which in turn leads to an action. Shape the attitudes and you have a more reliable way of predicting actions."
10 people skills every government employee should have
What are interpersonal skills? (Good, has links to related lessons)
7 signs you have terrible people skills (I have to work on office politics, networking, and promoting myself)

How do I improve my people skills at work?
Developing people skills video: What I found interesting about this video is that the speaker discusses a time when he wanted to improve his skills to become a better manager but did not think it was possible. But after doing some research he found tips about how to become his best version of a manager and that it required practice. Improving yourself does not mean becoming or pretending to be someone you are not, it is becoming the best version of yourself. Once he improved himself he chose to teach others how to do the same. There is a HUGE field of people who do this...they are called motivational speakers. They teach people how to improve themselves and get what they want instead of blaming others and waiting for them to change or save you.

Emotional intelligence video: You know the more I see videos like this the more confident I am about my self-improvement goals and my values. People who are opposed to self-improvement are so different from me and educators like the man in this video. Critics of self-improvement really don't know what they are talking about and it's best for upwardly mobile people to ignore them.

Emotional intelligence vs. behavioural control Part IPart2 (very interesting!)


  1. I have no words for how timely this is. I immediately downloaded a copy of How to Win Friends... and started listening to it on my evening jog. It is eye-opening in its basic simple truth and really, all EBW need it. I am not an angry person but I have been giving into anger and resentment lately and it is not attractive, healthy, or me. I strongly recommend this book.

  2. Wonderful post as usual, I'll post it on BWWOB on Friday for our Black Friday shopping special.

    @Anon How to Win Friends is my bible I've used it for over 20 years it helped me to relocate from WI to CA successfully and start an arts career. I got the support of powerful people just by being nice!

  3. Elegant I applaud you for this post. It's very rare one will find a post like this on the typical BWE blogs. I'm actually on vacation in Barbados but my sister told me that you wrote a new post and that I must read it so here I am :)
    One point you made that really jump out at me is the way so many people resort to complaining. I guess for some people it is much easier to complain than take actions in order to change their reality.
    It seems like every where I go on the internet someone is complaining about "privilege" and "beauty standards", but no one seems to be doing anything to change their negative experiences.
    What I find most interesting about these people is that they are either unaware that meeting so called beauty standards or obtaining certain privileges are in fact attainable or they are just to lazy to take simple actions that would improve their lives.

    People skills are so important and from experience, I know that working on my people skills have benefited me in so many ways. I now have so many privileges and I take full advantage of them and I'm not ashamed to say that I am privileged. Also it is so easy for someone to become attractive. People don't realise that one does not have to be drop dead gorgeous to be considered attractive. When you look at make over shows you will see my point. Most of the subjects in popular makeover shows are in fact average looking women. These women are made to look attractive just by changing the way they dress. Sometimes a simple hair cut/hair style and makeup makes a huge difference. So yes I believe that beauty and privileges are attainable.

  4. Thanks for the post, Elegance. I grew up as someone who was pathologically shy, and I eventually realized that part of the problem was my attitude. I had a victim mentality and thought quite often, "Well, the genuinely nice people will see the REAL me."

    In recent years, I have cultivated a change in attitude and started work on my people skills. Thanks for the articles, and I should be reading "How to Win Friends and Influence People" soon!

    Maria, I agree with your point that beauty is attainable. What she said reminds me of a quote from the owner of one of the world's first cosmetic companies, Helena Rubenstein. She said that "there are no ugly women, only lazy ones."

  5. I have been lurking on your blog for some time now, and I must say this post strongly resonates with me. I have tried to impart the fact that negativity drives away normal, sane people on a blog I used to frequent. No one likes to be around a person who is constantly complaining, nor do they want to be around people who like to dump on others emotionally. A lot of bw seem to think that it is healthy and appropriate to publicly discuss very sensitive, private topics out in the open. It is not. You will be marked as someone having "baggage," or "issues," and will be studiously avoided. There is one bw with whom I used to work with that did this. She had issues with her husband, who was apparently rude and disrespectful to her, and she told all and sundry at work. Some coworkers would literally duck and hide when they saw her coming. This is why therapists exist - this way you get to resolve your issues in a constructive way, without creating a negative impression of yourself.
    Also, I agree that whining about "beauty standards" will not change a darn thing. The majority of women, if not all, are capable of looking attractive if they put some effort into their grooming, demeanour and overall carriage. It is that simple. I have noticed the difference in how I am treated when I make the effort, versus when I look like a "hot mess." Needless to say, I do make an effort to look decent before stepping out the front door.

  6. Hi Anonymous,

    I'm glad that you are enjoying the book. I read it maybe 10 years ago so this self-improvement thing has been a long-time interest. Many people want to know how to get along better with people and make friends and I still find the information to be helpful :)

    Hi Dee Dee,
    You are such a positive and cheery person. Thanks for your comments and support. I guess nice girls do finish first!

  7. Hi Maria,

    Awww thank you for taking the time to comment during your vacation. I have gotten so behind on replying to comments I'm sorry. I guess I'm still getting used to getting so many! Say hi to your sister for me :)

    I agree, many women can make themselves more beautiful and so many of the prized celebrities and models do a lot of things to enhance themselves. I think that one is doomed to fail if they expect to naturally be a 10/10 when very few people are. I have noticed the same thing about makeover shows (I think I can understand what the stylists were doing way more now that I can better tell what classy ans attractive looks like lol!). It just takes learning how to look your best and making the effort instead of not caring or being lazy. If someone isn't happy with the way they look there are many ways to fix that without even resorting to surgery or dangerous diets.

    People skills are so important and on some job placements I was so focused on the technical aspects of the work that I forgot about just making conversation with coworkers and networking. It was more work and uncomfortable, but it is necessary and maybe after a while it will become a pleasant thing. Sometimes people skills can help you to get ahead when your technical skills are lacking.

  8. Hi onthewaydown,

    "I had a victim mentality and thought quite often, "Well, the genuinely nice people will see the REAL me." "

    I hear you with that one. I had the thought that "People will understand that my negativity is just because I'm just stressed or busy and they won't hold that against me." WRONG. I probably came off as a negative person who didn't care to get to know others so they didn't bother with me. Some of course did, but I could have made way more close friends if I had known how to handle myself differently.

    I hope that you enjoy the book :)

    Hi Robynne :)

    Thanks for commenting! Tell me about it. I was having a bad day recently and i just wanted to vent to my friend. Unfortunately she insisted on bringing a guy I barely knew. She could tell I was sad and it was overwhelming so I vented to her. He probably things I'm too emotional, and full of baggage, and possibly crazy. She knows me and doesn't believe that, but since he was practically a stranger he didn't have anything else to tell him different. It was just a bad situation and I forgive myself, but normally I will not do that sort of thing.

    I think at in previous work places I was probably that person who people called a complainer and maybe people avoided me. I still had friendly caring people but I wonder how things would have been if I was more positive. I don't ever want to be that person again. But like you said, I thought it was normal to vent, accepted that I was a melancholic person, and expected others not to mind.

    My thoughts on beauty standards are just try your best. There are so many ways to be beautiful and no one is perfect so why beat yourself up if you are not. I have no problem with using enhancements, focusing on your good points, and minimizing flaws. It just takes effort that some women are not willing to give, instead they want everyone else to lower their standards.