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So many times throughout my life I've heard the phrase 'people skills' used. What exactly are people skills? Hitting a golf ball for distance and accuracy is a skill. Quilting is a skill. After thinking about it long enough, I think that I would define people skills as having an approachable personality, the ability to listen, knowing how to talk to people, being able to resolve conflicts, and being able to admit mistakes and take responsibility. Sure that's a lengthy definition, but I think it's accurate. Human beings are diverse creatures so being able to interact with many types of personalities in various situations is extremely important in the business world. Today I'd like to dissect my definition of people skills and give you examples of how each part can be translated into the business world.

The first part of my definition was having an approachable personality. Developing a rapport with strangers is a must in my line of work because virtually all of my real estate acquisitions will come from someone I have never met. When meeting potential sellers or investors I like to greet them with a smile and be friendly. Throughout an initial conversation with a stranger I do not volunteer my personal opinions. This leads up to the second part of my definition of people skills.

Listening to other people in a conversation is crucial to getting inside their psyche. In an initial conversation try asking some open-ended questions to get the other person or people to talk. People do not want to listen to "you" talk. People want you to listen to them. If you can be there and be quiet, listen to someone else's opinions and feelings. However I think it's important to show an assertive curiosity. If you are not curious about people, you should be. People are extremely interesting and you never know what you will find when you ask questions. I reiterate; ask open-ended questions. Be curious about other people; not nosy, but curious about what they want or do. Keep seeking knowledge about the world and people around you. If you show others that you are a caring person and are genuinely interested in what they have to say, they will want to learn more about you.

The next part of my people skills definition is proper and effective communication. I wear many hats as a property manager. I am a manager of other managers, per se, for my storage facilities. So to communicate better, you have to apply some proven guidelines to the way you converse with others. First, when talking to others, always address them formally. Do not use first names unless you are very familiar with the person. Instead, use a formal name; e.g. Mr. Smith or Miss Green. The more you get to know someone and then you can start addressing him or her on a first name basis. Once you reach this threshold, both parties will feel more personal and both parties will be more comfortable with the other. During a discussion with employees speak clearly, not softly; do not be hesitant. Do not be boastful, do not brag, and do not just keep talking about nothing.

If you make a mistake in any kind of business always confess. Remember that perfect game that happened a little while ago? The umpire came out and admitted his mistake and I look up to him. Honesty is the best policy. Make sure you want to discuss what matters to you and let your employees know it matters to you and the employees as well. This will help your employees realize what is important. The employees will be able to go out there, deliver, and get positive results. Encourage your employees to tell you what is bothering them. Encourage your employees to speak about issues and matters on their minds. Communication of this stature will open you up to greater aspects in life and your business.

The last aspect of becoming a people person is conflict resolution. When people come together conflicts are bound to happen. To defuse the conflict, you have to identify the different variables being disputed. Is there a way you can suggest some kind of adjustment, attitude, or position? Figure out what the parties will say, what they are opposed to and what do they acquire in the situation. Examining your own position will make this a better result. Nothing personal should get in the way otherwise; the conflict will not be resolved. One definitely does not want to be calling anyone else names or have any harmful, rhetoric words; just do not assume the worst about anybody. If you are a part of a recent dispute, try to resolve it yourself. You have to respect the other people in the argument if you are going to advance your career. Watch your body language. Do not focus on past events or get into exchanges about who did what or who said what. Stick to the present or the future. No one can change the past so leave it alone. Argue by explaining what you should do or you should say to resolve things. What is really the key in business and what I strive for in my self-storage facilities is a win-win relationship. I want to present a winning argument on my side and I want to present a winning argument on the other side, especially in self-storage negotiation. Everybody is a winner so everyone cannot be a loser. I like to make it a win-win situation, so I prepare to walk away from a position if I cannot turn it into something that can be resolved. List any current conflicts that affect you and identify the steps you can take to solve them. That is my advice for you.

To become a better people person, I suggest you examine the five parts of my definition and use them in your daily life to become a better people person. I know I do this and it has really helped me in my business Always Open Storage.

Casey Cavell CSSM, QSM
Self Storage Expert
North Webster, IN 46555

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