COL No. 1 skill: Get along with each other

Linus, in a classic Peanuts cartoon strip by the late Charles Schulz, once said to Lucy: "I love mankind. It's people I can't stand."

Ask recruiters from various companies to name the No. 1 skill necessary for new hires. Many of them will say it's the ability to get along with other people.

Sounds pretty simple, but for many, it's not. Few people are born knowing how to relate well to others. As children, we begin to pick up "people skills" -- learning how to associate with others.

But the lessons shouldn't stop at childhood.

Continue to develop these skills so that you can succeed as an adult, and avoid rubbing people the wrong way. Michael Crom, executive vice president of Dale Carnegie &; Associates Inc., wrote an article a few years back that appeared in USA Today, in which he outlined some of the basics of good people skills:


Smile. "This seems very simple," Crom wrote, "but it's amazing how a person's moods and words are misjudged because they look too serious."

A smile, Crom said, shows that you like yourself and your current place in the world. You're happy with the people you interact with. Crom also advised that people tend to respond to the look you are wearing on your face, and remember that "everyone smiles in the same language."

Be a good listener. "Encourage others to talk about themselves," Crom wrote. He explained that often, when we're nervous around others, we hide it by "talking incessantly about ourselves. People interpret this as arrogance." The solution to this problem, Crom said, is for people to not say much at all. Ask open-ended questions and let the other person talk.

Remember names. The sweetest and most important sound in any language is your own name on someone else's lips, Crom said. "You can never say someone's name too much."

By constantly using others' names as you talk, they will know you care enough to remember who they are, he said.

Look people in the eye. Every time someone begins talking to you, look him or her in the eye. Smile first, then "get on with the conversation," Crom wrote. He added that you should smile and look around at everyone when you enter a room for a meeting. If you want to start talking to one person, or even a group, approach him or her and smile.

Offices are like mini-families. Co-workers can spend up to 11 hours a day in close proximity. They share the same office space, facilities, break rooms, refrigerators and coffee pots. Everyone shares responsibility for making the company work, run smoothly and stay profitable. They arrive together, take breaks together, eat lunch together and meet to solve problems together. Finally, at the end of the day, they head off to their real homes. All this closeness and familiarity can wear thin at times, just like in real families.

We could all learn some lessons from the way geese behave. Scientists have discovered why geese fly in a V-formation when they head south for the winter or back north for the summer. When each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a V-formation, the whole flock adds at least 70 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.


People who share a common direction and sense of communication get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the trust of each other. Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone and quickly falls back into formation.

If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed in the same direction we are. When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates to the back and another goose flies the point.

It pays to take turns doing hard jobs, whether it be people or migrating geese. The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. We need to be careful what we say when we honk from behind.

Finally, when a goose gets sick, falls out or is wounded by gunshot, two geese fall out of formation to help protect it. They stay with the goose until it is either able to fly or until it is dead. Then they launch out on their own or with another formation to catch up with their flock.

If we have the sense of a goose, we should do the same and recognize how essential it is that we get along with each other.

Mackay's Moral: No one ever invented a good substitute for a good nature.

Harvey Mackay is author of the New York Times best seller "Pushing the Envelope" (Ballantine Books). He can be reached through his Web site:; or Mackay Envelope Corp., 2100 Elm St., Minneapolis, MN 55414.

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