Face-to-face conversation seems to be a lost art in this age of technology. I’ve heard more grandparents complain that their grandchildren don’t know basic interpersonal skills such as making eye contact when speaking to another person, let alone how to carry on a conversation.
I blame technology. Our grandchildren spend more time in front of screens than in front of people. Technology is robbing our grandchildren of the chance to interact face-to-face with others and depriving them of the opportunity to develop important people skills. When employers are asked about the weaknesses of the younger generations, they report a lack of “interpersonal skills.”
Kirt Manecke, author of Smile & Succeed for Teens: A Crash Course in Face-to-Face Communication, believes that having great people skills is even more important in today’s wired world. Having good people skills is not that complicated and they need to be taught at an early age. The problem is that many parents aren’t taking the time to teach them to their children.
Interpersonal skills are more than just being polite. People with good interpersonal skills are more likely to have success professionally and socially because they are perceived as optimistic, calm, confident and charismatic — qualities that are often endearing or appealing to others. While some people skills may develop subconsciously, most need to be taught and reinforced. Here’s where grandparents can play an important role in improving our grandchildren’s people skills. It’s never too early to coach children in the art of conversation and social skills.
Manecke’s book presents valuable people skills in a short, simple format that’s customized for teens but works for younger children as well. His book can help boost a child’s self-esteem and confidence in dealing with people, creating successful relationships with friends, family and teachers, and becoming comfortable and confident selling, fundraising and doing volunteer work.
The Top Ten People Skills
Of the seven chapters in Manecke’s book, the most valuable is the first chapter: “The Top Ten People Skills:”
- Smile. Make it a warm, genuine, heartfelt smile when you say “hello.”
- Make good eye contact. One of the best ways to make an impression when meeting someone is to look the person in the eye.
- Turn off the electronics. Leave electronic devices off at dinner, family functions, and during conversations.
- Say “please” and “thank you.” When someone says “thank you,” answer with a smile and a polite “you’re welcome,” instead of “no problem.”
- Shake hands firmly. Always stand up and grip the person’s hand firmly — not to tight or too loose.
- Introduce yourself: Make a friend. Greet people with a warm “hello” and say your name and “it’s nice to meet you.”
- Pay attention. Listening builds trust, displays sincerity, and shows you care. Let people finish talking before you respond.
- Be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm indicates interest, excitement and passion.
- Ask questions. Good communication requires asking specific open-ended questions that begin with who, what, when, where, why or how. Asking questions shows interest and intelligence.
- Practice proper body language. Body language sends the message of confidence. Avoid looking down; stand up straight; look alert and approachable.
These skills may seem obvious and natural to us adults, but children and teenagers need to be taught these important interpersonal skills if they want to get along with other people in all different kinds of settings. We can do a great service to our grandchildren by modeling and practicing these ten people skills whenever we’re with them. Start a conversation with your grandchildren. Do some people watching together and ask them to notice other people and see if they’re able to recognize how well others use or don’t use good people skills.