Why You Need People Skills to Live the Writer’s Life

Would you agree with me if I said you should take time to get to know everyone you come into contact with? That listening when people talk and showing a genuine interest in others – using your people skills, in other words – is one of the secrets to getting what you want in life?

Many people – even freelance writers – would disagree.

They say they don’t have time to get to know others. They reason that the cashier at the grocery store couldn’t possibly help them with their life or career goals. They claim their clients are too busy to talk to them and that their job is to write, not to make friends.

But here’s the truth: most people are starving for human interaction. People love to talk about themselves. They love to be encouraged (and most of them do not get enough encouragement).

And when you take the time to connect with others, you reap the rewards in your own life and career.

You never know what kind of connections someone has or how they can help you. If you take some time to get to know the cashier at a local store during your weekly shopping trip, you might discover her brother-in-law owns a company that needs a copywriter. If you’ve done a good job making her feel valuable and important, she’s likely to pass on your card and give you a recommendation. You just never know.

Since choosing my niche in personal development, I’ve become a reading machine. My desk is piled high with books about increasing your value and becoming an influence to others. Most of them have a common theme: Be someone that others like.

One of these books is How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I’ll be honest – until last week, I had never even opened it.

As I flipped through it, I read some things that I thought were not only worth rereading every few months, but also worth sharing with you.

Dale Carnegie says, “There is one all-important law of human conduct. If we obey that law, we shall almost never get into trouble. In fact, that law, if obeyed, will bring us countless friends and constant happiness. But the very instant we break the law, we shall get into endless trouble. The law is this: Always make the other person feel important."

As freelance writers, it’s important to have friends and, well, be able to influence people. We need people to help us achieve our goals … to buy from us, talk about us, give us work and like us … to make our job as easy as possible.

Often, achieving these things is as simple as being nice and putting the other person first. But we often forget this because our goals are big and we’re so caught up in trying to achieve them. We forget to stop and appreciate other people.

Next time you talk to someone, here are five simple ways you can show them you value and appreciate them:

1. Show a genuine interest in people

I’m sure you’ve heard one of the best words you can use in copy is “you.” There’s a reason for that – people love to be the center of attention.

Dale says, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

He mentions a New York Telephone Company study. They wanted to find out which word is used the most in phone conversations. It turns out “I” was the word most used. In fact, it was used a whopping 3,900 times in just 500 telephone conversations.

So ask questions and let them talk about their lives for a little bit. Don’t interrupt, correct them, or try to impress them with a story that is bigger or better than theirs.

If you don’t know what to ask, you can use FORM (asking about their Family, Occupation, Recreation – and then delivering your Message) to lead you. Be sure to read Thursday’s blog to learn more about FORM.

2. Use their name

For people, their name is one of the most important things to them. Use it often, but not too much. You want to show that they’re important to you and that you value them enough to learn their name. But you don’t want to seem like you’re forcing it into conversation.

Also make an effort to learn the names of people who are important to them, like their spouse or children.

Think how special they’ll feel when you say, “So, did Bob get that promotion at work?” Not only did you remember his name, but also that he was up for a raise.

3. Compliment them

Compliments are often good icebreakers, but they can also be great relationship building tools.

It can be as simple as saying, “I like your shirt,” or “Your hair looks really pretty today.” If you’re on the phone, you could say, “You did a great job on that last project,” or “I really enjoyed seeing your vacation pictures on Facebook … they were beautiful.”

It doesn’t take a lot to make someone’s day. Compliments are often easy to come by. But you must be genuine.

4. Greet people with enthusiasm

Think of how you feel when you walk into a room and someone is excited and rushes over to you. Don’t you feel valued, appreciated, and loved? Why not make an effort to make others feel the same way? When you run into someone – or when they call – put a smile on your face and act happy to talk to them. Ask a few questions about their day. Don’t rush to get away. We’re all busy, and the fact that you took a few moments to listen really shows you care.

5. Remember things that others don’t

Cell phones are wonderful for building relationships. Here’s how I use mine:

Whenever someone mentions something worth remembering (like their favorite color, how they take their coffee, or their anniversary), I make a point to remember what he or she said.

Then when I’m alone, I pull up their name and number in my phone and add a note to it. The note might say: “Favorite color: Pink” or “Likes vanilla latte,” or “Anniversary March 14th, married to Bob.”

These notes are a stress-free way to help me remember what’s important to others and be able to connect with them.

Don’t feel bad if you need to make notes to remember the little details about people. The fact that you remembered at all and made the effort will make people love you.

So what does all this have to do with being a better writer?

Well, other than the fact that, as writers, we need real people to connect with us, buy from the copy we write, and refer us, here’s what Dale Carnegie has to say on the subject:

“I once took a course in short-story writing at New York University, and during that course the editor of a leading magazine talked to our class. He said he could pick up any one of the dozens of stories that drifted across his desk every day and after reading a few paragraphs he could feel whether or not the author liked people. ‘If the author doesn’t like people,’ he said, ‘people won’t like his or her stories.’"

If you’re a copywriter who doesn’t like people, and therefore people don’t like what you have to say, you’re in real trouble. They won’t buy from your copy and clients won’t want to hire you.

On the other hand, when you do like people and you show it, people will be compelled to buy what you’re selling because they trust you.

You’ll be happier, make more money, get more referrals and have more friends. Plus, you’ll be a better writer because you’ll understand people more and be able to speak to them on a deeper level.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


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Published: November 7, 2011

2 Responses to “Why You Need People Skills to Live the Writer’s Life”

  1. One of my top ten all-time favorite books! Great topic this week, looking forward to the rest of the series.

    Steve Roller

  2. You dropped some really good jewels in this article. Glad I decided to read entire article. Good Work!

    Guest (Moe)


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