I’ve always been rather proud of not having any ‘people skills’. Of not being able to ‘talk to people’, smooth things over, talk them out of their way of seeing things, talk them over to my way, persuade, influence, manipulate, control. No wonder supervisors, salespeople, and customer relations people need good people skills. And no wonder I resent them: I’ve always been the subordinate, the consumer, the customer – I’m the one the people skills are used on.
Of course, subordinates are expected to have good people skills too, but what’s meant then is the ability to get along, follow, fold, obey. And, well, as I said, I’m not very good at that.
But no, no, I’m told, you’ve got it all wrong. People skills are communication skills. Hm. And what might skilful communication be? Putting your message in words the other person will most likely understand, instead of in words that most easily come to mind? That’s okay. That’s just courtesy. But choosing your language, your vocabulary and sentence structure, to increase the likelihood not of understanding, but of agreement – that’s manipulation. (And if you abandon the meaning in order to get that agreement, that’s just plain lying.)
There’s a difference in intent. And loading your language shows that you don’t respect the other person’s rationality. (Nor do you respect your own – if your reasons were good, you wouldn’t have to resort to manipulation.) Such wilful discouragement of dissent also slows little respect for their autonomy. (What exactly are you afraid of?).
But no, again, it seems I’ve got it wrong: communication skills just refer to the ability to listen to what the other person is saying, and the ability to express yourself clearly. Still thinking about control, and insecurity, it occurs to me that men must’ve introduced the term. Because women grow up with those people skills. It’s such a no big deal, we don’t have to name it. And if we did, we’d call it maturity, and self-knowledge.