September 19, 2011

Are You Socially Fit?

We hear the term "physically fit" a lot, but have you ever thought of being socially fit? I'm not talking about social media, but instead, face-to-face conversations. As a coach, interpersonal skills are crucial to building trust and eventually a connection.

For example, success in the workplace has a lot to do with how you manage the relationships around you. A star performer can only go so far with limited relationships in the organization. Some people refer to it as politics, but the truth is the workplace is a political game that you have to participate in. Like it or not, much of upward mobility lies with who you know.

Knowing how important communication skills are, here are three ways to improve your social capital:

Public Speaking - Historically, speaking in front of people is the #1 fear of most. In this case, practice makes perfect (or at least better). Few are naturally great at public speaking. Those who are spend hours practicing to refine their skills. Many employers will offer the opportunity to present in front of the company as a test to evaluate your ability to communicate publicly. Pass this test and your reputation skyrockets.

One on One Conversations - Turn off your laptop, smartphone and internet for a second. How well can you carry a conversation? Initiate conversations with a diverse group of individuals and try to build connections. The goal of networking is to build trusted connections that lead to business opportunities. We like to do business with people we like. You build rapport one conversation at a time. You can only improve your social skills if you practice with real people, in person.

Ask for Feedback - Most people say they want feedback, but they really want praise. Sometimes the truth hurts, but what hurts only makes us stronger, right? The next time you ask for honest feedback, prepare yourself to hear where you can make improvements. Only fools turn a deaf ear to criticism. That doesn't mean take everything to heart, but listen to what's being said and filter it objectively. Observe how you respond, both physically and emotionally. You may feel a bit defensive, but thank the person for sharing their thoughts (especially if you asked them for feedback). How you carry yourself while experiencing some "tough love" reveals your maturity.

Being socially fit means having conversations, face-to-face. Don't hide behind technology, instead take advantage of every opportunity you can to connect with others in person. Your ability to communicate with others is one of your greatest assets. Think about referrals. We tend to refer people that we've had positive interactions with. Don't you think it's time to get socially fit?

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