Improving Personal Skills

When I was younger, I was very socially awkward. I didn’t know how to be around other people. This continued for a lot of my childhood, culminating when I was about 15. On my current track, I would not had a happy life. I didn’t know how, but the thought of awkward encounters for the rest of my life drove me to try and fix it. Unsure where to start, I read a lot, trying to learn what seemed obvious to everyone else. I’m less awkward now 😀

This post is a list of things I found useful then, along with things I find interesting now.

Things that I found useful

How to win friends and influence people

Despite it’s slightly nefarious sounding name, this book set the foundations for who I am today. The guiding principle, “It’s easier to make friends by taking an interest in others, than making them interested in you”.

This book gives a good direction of how to be around other people. The stories provide relatable examples of how to put the principles in action.

Before reading this book, I read a review warning potential readers that this book will turn you into a sociopath. You’ll learn the levers to move people top your bidding. If that’s you’re intention, then this book would probably help. The rest of us will benefit as well. I see the principles as ways to inspire and dictate the interactions you wanted to have with others.

In fact, I’m going to re-read it…

Soft Skills Engineering

This is a fun podcast that talks about the non-technical side of technical work. I often find it hard to differentiate between what’s reasonable and unreasonable. Should I say something, or is this just part of work? This podcast gives me more evidence when I make my thoughts. Also very funny.

Never Eat Alone

I think I came across this recommendation on Hacker News. It’s a book encouraging you to build your network. Again, it’s a mix of advice and example tales. I don’t put the principles into action as much as I would like, but I’d recommend it to others who might be skeptical of networking.

Improv by Keith Johnston

Before I make this recomendation, I need to caveat that I enjoyed this book until the last chapter on “Masks”. Perhaps I just need to try it..? This is an excellent book for giving a mental model of social status and interactions between people. Whilst aimed at improv comedy, the observations are valid for everyday life. It includes a many exercises that I think would be fun for a budding group of people working to improve their social skills.

Presentation skills

As I go further into my career, I am developing the belief that strong presentation skills can be a super power to augment your day job. A good presentation is memorable, and gets you known to many people. People associate you with a topic, leading to more presentation and work opportunities. Creating a good presentation is a lot of work, but can be repeated many times. Many people believe that you can only present topics you’re an expert on. This isn’t true. More likely is that you have an interest in the topic area, but you’ll need to a lot of research!

So how do you improve at presentations? I’m still figuring this one out. Doing many bad presentations is a good start. Some resources I found useful are: