What's your PQ? Temple professor's book outlines ways to improve your 'People Smart' quotient

November 16, 2000

If super-sized burgers and fries are ruining our waistlines, then fast-food communication--e-mail, pagers, and other technologies--are making us "interpersonally flabby," a Temple University psychologist says.

Now more than ever, says Mel Silberman, good people skills are essential for success at home, in the business world, and in relationships.Which is why Silberman, professor and coordinator of the Adult and Organizational Development Program at Temple, has written PeopleSmart: Developing Your Interpersonal Intelligence (Berrett Kohler Publishers, Inc.), an easy-to-read, how-to book which helps readers develop ways to improve their "people skills."

The book, says Silberman, is an interpersonal fitness plan, complete with creative exercises designed to help people establish solid relationships and connect with others.

"People smartness is something that every person in society has to think about," says Silberman, who wrote PeopleSmart with psychologist Freda Hansburg, a Temple alumna. "We rely on fast-food communication shortcuts instead of learning how to talk with people and work things out with them. "People are becoming less 'people smart' because we do things at a much faster pace. Time is the big currency and, with this pressure, we just don't get involved with each other. But our success, health and security in the new millennium will increasingly depend on being people smart."

According to Silberman, a Princeton, NJ resident, people skills are essential for everyone, in every relationship, and in every job.

"More people complain about the people they work with than the work they have to do," says Silberman. "If people like their job better, they are more likely to remain. And 90 percent of firings are the result of poor people skills. While people can be trained or coached in how to do their job, poor people skills are a greater liability."

Silberman breaks "people smartness" down into eight essential skills: understanding people; expressing thoughts and feelings clearly; speaking up when your needs are not being met; asking for feedback from others and giving quality feedback in return; influencing how others think and act; bringing conflicts to the surface and getting them resolved; collaborating with others instead of doing things by yourself; and shifting gears when relationships are unproductive. PeopleSmart offers an easy-to-follow, four-step plan for improving those skills.

"People tend to say, 'This person is an idiot.' Or, 'This person has no people skills,'" says Silberman. "But the whole idea about being people smart is how you're going to bring out the best in a person in any situation, rather than the worst.

"Our people skills might be fine, but do we truly bring out the best in others? If we don't, we lose." A lung cancer survivor and recipient of Temple's prestigious Great Teacher Award, Silberman realized the power of his own people smartness when he was diagnosed with cancer and was facing surgery. "I came to the conclusion that, besides the higher power, the best source in which to place your faith is in other people. But that assumes that you have invested enough in your relationships with people to reap the dividends. Luckily, I was taught to invest in people. I want more than ever to teach that lesson to anyone who wants to profit from it.

"The night before my cancer surgery I had 40 people at my house. I can't imagine anyone going through that without support. And you don't get support unless you bring out the best in people. People who are people smart are more successful in their careers, are valued by people more and are more influential."

A psychologist for over 30 years, Silberman has spent the last decade focusing exclusively on adult professional and personal development. PeopleSmart is written in the form of a self-training book. It even includes a quiz to help readers assess their PQ- or people smart quotient. "The book helps people with the barriers they experience day in and day out, put together in a very compact way," says Silberman.

Silberman, president of Active Training, based in Princeton, has adapted the book into "Working PeopleSmart," an active training seminar for managers, supervisors, team leaders and employees. He has also developed a PeopleSmart video for managers or team leaders who want to train employees on their own.

A professor in Temple's College of Education for 32 years, Silberman is the author or editor of 26 books, including the best-selling Active Training and 101 Ways to Make Meetings Active. Hansburg is an adjunct professor in Adult and Organizational Development at Temple and a partner in Active Training. She maintains a clinical practice working with both individuals and families. For information on PeopleSmart or "Working PeopleSmart," visit Silberman's web site at www.activetraining.com.

Temple University

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