The 5 Essential People Skills

By Kellie Groover

Communication is key in all aspects of our lives.


We must be assertive, clear, and intentional in our communication. One may think of interpersonal communication in only the verbal sense, but most of what you communicate to another individual, whether you know it or not, is communicated nonverbally... think: body language.

No matter what your line of work, even if it's in one of the technical professions, your degree of success depends on your ability to interact effectively with other people.

Dale Carnegie

In The 5 Essential People Skills, Dale Carnegie's principles are broken down to help you become more assertive person in the aspects of rapport building, curiosity, communication, ambition, and conflict resolution. The book delves into these aspects deeply. The overarching theme is being assertive and various ways to apply assertiveness to become a well-rounded individual that can communicate desires and, in-turn, fully appreciate those of friends and colleagues.

"Assertiveness is really the modern equivalent of the golden rule. Honor the wants and needs of others, and expect that they will do the same for you. Don't settle for anything less."
- Dale Carnegie Training

What I've found while reading this book is that if you're genuinely assertive, conscientious, and respectful of yourself and those around you, you have the basic foundation to be successful in each of these people skills. Like anything, treat people the way you want to be treated. This is especially important in the business world. People want to work with people with whom they have a mutual liking and trust, and in turn will be more productive and work better collaboratively.

"In business, it's very difficult to like people unless you also respect them."
- Dale Carnegie Training


Not only do you have to respect others, you must first respect yourself. Once you do this, you can earn respect in return from your peers. Gaining affection also reaps respect. Smile, speak up, and be specific in your communication. This is key in the first people skill, rapport building. And once you make friends, you become influential to that person.

"A very key people skill is the ability to move toward an identified destination rather than simply escaping an unwanted situation."
- Dale Carnegie Training

Essentially, focus on what you want to achieve rather than what you are trying to avoid. Be positive and passionate. Take time to learn things you may not know well and assert your curiosity (which is people skill #2) by being an interactive listener.


Take that time to learn about others without an agenda. Show sincere interest. Share your own stories with flair, be humorous, consider yourself a student. Recognize you still have things to learn and as a leader, recognize what others need to learn as well. State what you want, not what you don't want. Make detailed goals and enjoy the experience. Create a fun environment.

"Failure to communicate spells doom for any shared enterprise. On the other hand, literally anything is possible when people are able to work together."
- Dale Carnegie Training


We've arrived at people skill #3, assertive communication. Make sure you stick to facts when speaking, share your feelings about those facts, and define what you want. Make sure to respond not to react, but to listen well, ask the right questions, and speak clearly and effectively. The cardinal rules of communication in the workplace include:

  • Call people by name
  • Admit when you're wrong
  • Hold people to high standards
  • Show sincere interest
  • Offer praise
  • Keep your word
  • Show your gratitude
  • Be considerate
  • Give of yourself
  • Be humble
  • Help others save face

On the other side of the communication coin is listening.

"If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we'd have two mouths, one ear."
- Dale Carnegie Training

Listening well takes practice. Not everyone is an assertive, conscientious listener. You may have to train yourself not to constantly compare yourself to the speaker, to be the "one-upper", or interrupt someone's conversation because you think you are a "mind-reader". I'll be the first one to admit that I struggle with that one, but the road to success is recognizing you're guilty of these listening faux-pas and working to get better at them, right? When listening, be aware of your body language. Position yourself in a manner that suggests "empathy, openness, and attention". One trick that you might find helpful, if you find it difficult to be aware of your own body language, is to mirror the body language of those you are speaking to. It tends to make them feel more comfortable.

"You can't force ambition or motivation, but you can create an environment in which those qualities can take root and flourish."
- Dale Carnegie Training


You must recognize your wants and dreams and work towards them. Fear plays the biggest part in derailing assertive ambition. You might be afraid of recognizing your true talents and making the most of them. You might not realize that you have areas you need to work on because of fear. You may be afraid of taking on too much pressure or even recognizing that there is such a thing as too much pressure. Lastly, you may have a fear of setting limits or even setting them in the first place. What you need to realize is that you have to respect yourself and your ambitions. When you do this, others will respect you.

A leader can maximize ambition in his team by leading by example as well as making your presence felt in a proactive and positive manner. A great way to drive assertive ambition in your team is by creating a culture of learning. Empower them to share what they learn with you and the company in return. It's no secret that Erik and Bill are great at maximizing ambition. :)

Conflict Resolution

The last people skill is assertive conflict resolution. You need to make an honest assessment, prepare for negotiations, understand what the other person needs as well as clearly defining your needs, and share what info is needed for the other party to understand things at your level of clarity. Doing so allows you both to come to a decision together. In conflict, focus on the positive instead of the negative and try to find a "win-win" scenario. If at all possible and it's necessary, make sure the other party can save face and embarrassment.

There are so many great takeaways from this book. It gives great insight into people skills that need to be tended to flourish in your personal and professional life. They are things that should be common sense, but we tend to forget and this book serves as a great reminder. I have my own list of personal takeaways to work on in the coming weeks. I suggest the book; it's a relatively quick read. A lot of the points circle back to each other, but they all intertwine so well. I'll leave you with my favorite quote from the book. Till next time!

The best way to end a bad habit is not to suppress it but to replace it with a good habit.

Dale Carnegie Training