Thursday, October 30, 2014

MCFARLAND: Ask yourself: How are your people skills?

By REBECCA MCFARLAND, Reaching Out | 4/30/2014

The longer I work in the field of human services, it seems the more I realize how many people lack “people skills.” One would think things as basic as friendship, love, caring, kindness and helpfulness would come naturally, almost like breathing. But, reality is, we are not born with effective interpersonal skills — we have to learn them. Some people learn these skills easily as children, allowing them to be warm and friendly and get along easily with others the rest of their lives. Others aren’t so fortunate. They relate to others as best they can, but they might experience a lot of hurt feelings and conflict, which they do not understand.

We like to think of ourselves as friendly and helpful. But, for most of us, at one time or another, have difficulty in relationships. It might be a broken friendship, a falling-out with a co-worker, frequent arguments with family members or perhaps others in our community. We probably feel puzzled by the attitudes and behaviors of those “other” people. Yet, in reality, we might need to look at our own inner resources for the answers to our problems.

The longer I work in the field of human services, it seems the more I realize how many people lack “people skills.” One would think things as basic as friendship, love, caring, kindness and helpfulness would come naturally, almost like breathing. But, reality is, we are not born with effective interpersonal skills — we have to learn them. Some people learn these skills easily as children, allowing them to be warm and friendly and get along easily with others the rest of their lives. Others aren’t so fortunate. They relate to others as best they can, but they might experience a lot of hurt feelings and conflict, which they do not understand.

We like to think of ourselves as friendly and helpful. But, for most of us, at one time or another, have difficulty in relationships. It might be a broken friendship, a falling-out with a co-worker, frequent arguments with family members or perhaps others in our community. We probably feel puzzled by the attitudes and behaviors of those “other” people. Yet, in reality, we might need to look at our own inner resources for the answers to our problems.

Carl Rogers, a renowned psychologist, suggests that we ask ourselves certain questions, which help determine our ability to relate well with others:

• Are you a person learning or willing to learn the skills of interpersonal relationships? Do you consider yourself a “life-long learners” are you willing to continue to develop yourself personally?

• Do other people see you as trustworthy, dependable, and consistent? This means active listening, keeping information confident and being available when needed.

• Can you let yourself experience positive attitudes toward another person — attitudes such as caring, warmth, understanding and respect?

• Can you respect your own feelings and needs while respecting those of others? Do your differences cause you to become depressed, frightened, or consumed with his/her dependency?

• Are you secure enough within yourself to permit separation from him/her? Can you permit him/her to be what he/she is — honest or deceitful, childish or adult, disapproving or arrogant? Can you give him/her the freedom to be, or do you feel that he/she should follow your advice, and remain dependent on you?

• Can you let yourself enter in to his/her world fully (feelings and personal meanings, seeing these as he/she sees them)?

So many of life’s joys, fun, excitement, and personal fulfillment are dependent upon a fulfilling relationship with other people. Making new friends and maintaining friendships, falling in love, and our general happiness depends upon how well we relate to other people. The ability to relate to others is at the heart of humanity. And to develop and maintain a fulfilling interpersonal relationship, each person should be:

• Distinguishing and trusting of others, which involves acceptance of yourself as well as, others. Self-disclosure, self-awareness and trust are important attributes in obtaining fulfilling relationships.

• Accurately understanding of others. This involves listening, expressing feelings appropriately, and communicating warmth and liking.

• Mutually supportive and helpful. This means making oneself available when needed and spending time with another person.

• Learning how to resolve problems and conflict constructively, and handling anger appropriately.

Rebecca McFarland is the family and consumer sciences extension agent for Frontier Extension District No. 11, which serves Franklin County. For more information, call her at (785) 229-3520 or email rmcfarla@ksu.edu

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