A people person may appear to navigate through the professional world with ease. They have all the connections, are the first to be offered opportunities, can seemingly connect you with just the right person for your needs too.
However, with so many folks who would happily refer to themselves as a “people person”, what does this label even mean? Being a people person is more than just being outgoing, or being fun at parties. It’s about creating value, genuine connection, and finding trust. This, in turn, gives them a strong reputation among friends and colleagues.
So, what are the qualities of a people person, and how do you improve them to become more outgoing, more popular, and ultimately, more successful? We’ve got ten tips right here.
What Isn’t a People Person?
If you were to ask around, chances are you’d get a handful of different definitions for what a people person is. And the chances are, many of them wouldn’t necessarily be accurate.
When considering the value of being a people person, it’s as important to note what one isn’t. For example, someone who is outgoing, enjoys being around people, and is relatively popular might consider themselves a people person, but is that person more valuable than an introvert, or someone who needs to recharge after being in public spaces for too long?
Not necessarily. And in that regard, an extrovert is not synonymous with a ‘people person’ and when wondering how to be a people person, it’s important not to get bogged down with trying to change your very nature toward a state of no higher value.
Being a people person is clearly important – at least to you, or you wouldn’t be reading this article – and being more outgoing on its own is not going to make you a better person. There’s clearly more to it than that.
So, to better understand what one is, it’s probably better to look at the desirable qualities of a people person. These would be traits that a person has that fit along a spectrum; that contribute to the feeling that someone is a people person. Here are some things that might be considered characteristics of such a person.
The Ten Qualities of a People Person
Knowing how to be a people person of course begins with defining what one is, and for that, we’ve broken down ten qualities of a people person that we will then be able to work on improving independently. Before we get into how to do that, let’s take a look at what they mean.
1. Humility – This is the ability to be around people without having to perform. It’s about being able to take a compliment without fishing for one, and not holding oneself in a higher regard than those around them.
2. Calming – A people person has a calming influence on those around them. They don’t create tension or excitement where it isn’t necessary, and they form associations among those who know them as stable and safe to be around.
3. Self-assured – The counterbalance to humility is self-confidence. Without this, humility is insecurity, and without humility, confidence comes across as arrogance. A people person is comfortable in their abilities without displaying them to the world.
4. Inquisitive – Showing a genuine interest in people is one of the major ways that a people person can add value to their social experiences. Asking the right questions on the right topics makes all the difference, and giving people time to speak without interjecting their opinion is what makes them so recognizable.
5. Restrained – Knowing what and when to ask is one side of the coin; knowing when to stop is the other. A retrained approach to social interaction isn’t a sign of passivity. Rather, it’s a sign of respect and recognition of boundaries: one of the most important social skills.
6. Attentive – Asking and answering are simple acts of theater without deliberate attention. A people person remembers details of the people they’re dealing with and can pick up a conversation where it left off. They can remember a person’s name and can give relevant feedback where necessary.
7. Unselfish – Being unselfish isn’t the same as being selfless. A selfless person might be considered a people pleaser, which can be an unappealing characteristic. Similarly, to being confident and humble, unselfishness might best be described as a healthy balance of giving and taking. This also relates to attachment styles and providing of services.
8. Open-minded – Receiving people in a non-judgmental manner is a key component to making them feel comfortable and respected. One step further is to understand and welcome their perspective where possible. Note: this is not the same as agreeing with them!
9. Complimentary – One key characteristic of a people person is their liberal use of compliments. Again, there’s an art to this, and we’ll go over that in some detail later on, but in general, receiving compliments makes people feel good, and that’s a lot of what a people person does.
10. Kind – Perhaps the most important characteristic, and one that can’t be faked. Most other traits stem from a genuine will to be a good person to others, and this amounts to a reputation of someone who is, at their core, kind.
So, it stands to reason that when wondering how to become a people person, you’re asking how you can improve on each of these characteristics. The good news is that most of the work is pretty easy, assuming you’re not already a horrible person.
Ten Tips on How to Be a People Person
Based on the characteristics we’ve identified (you may find more), you can see how to be a people person by looking at ways to practice each one. Let’s break them down again, this time with actionable steps to improve your qualities in each of them.
1. Humility – This one can be as simple as just keeping your mouth shut. When you find yourself one-upping others’ stories, make a mental note of it and try not to do it again.
Also, try to practice summarizing elements of your stories, so you aren’t spending so much time talking about yourself. Self-deprecating humor is a great skill to work on if you can, and practicing gratitude, in general, will boost your humility.
2. Calming – Being calming is essentially about leading by example. When your head is cool, others will follow. Practice staying calm in these situations by managing your breathing and controlling your voice. Both of these skills can be practiced at home or with professional help if you have a lot of anxiety.
3. Self-Assured – This is one of the harder qualities to work on, especially if you aren’t sure of your own worth. However, a good rule of thumb is that if you want self-esteem, do estimable things. Set yourself personal challenges and work your way up to harder and harder accomplishments. With enough time, you’ll be very confident in your abilities.
4. Inquisitive – Knowing which questions to ask is half of the battle here. People love talking about their passions, so asking for clarification or for someone to describe how they work or what they do is a good place to start. When it comes to personal questions, this is harder to navigate, depending on how well you know the person.
5. Restrained – Therefore, knowing what and when not to ask is also important. Listen to the way other people engage to learn more about what sort of questions go down well and which ones don’t. Never push when someone is hesitant, and pay attention to barriers that they may be putting up. Remember that you’re not entitled to their conversation.
6. Attentive – Remembering names is one of the best qualities you can invest in. There are countless ways to practice this, such as forming associations, repeating the names back to them as they’re told to you, etc. These skills can then be transferred to other details that you can make a mental note of during your conversations.
7. Unselfish – Practice your listening to reduce the amount of stage time you give yourself in social settings. Active listening makes the difference between someone who’s paying attention and someone who’s waiting to speak. When it is your time to talk, focus on the elements of what you have to say that can be of use to others.
8. Open-minded – Remember that everyone is in the same boat as you are. All people suffer the same insecurities, vulnerabilities, and weaknesses. Allow them to express things to you without judging or correcting them, and you’ll soon build a reputation as a trustworthy person to be around.
9. Complimentary – These should be easy to come up with, but make sure they’re genuine. Whenever you admire something in someone, let them know. Common areas to avoid relate to overly familiar compliments regarding someone’s appearance or commenting on their health or weight. Try to focus compliments on what someone has done, rather than what they are: “you look great in that shirt” is subtly but importantly different than “that’s a great choice of shirt”.
10. Kind - The most common and recognizable manifestation of kindness is generosity. Add value where possible, especially if it doesn’t cost you much to do so. Remember the give-and-take balance, but remember also that kindness is so often free. Whether giving information, connecting people, or recommending a book, small acts of kindness go a long way.
All of these improvements can’t happen overnight. Everyone, even the best people person you’ve ever met, is a work in progress, and these are social skills. Skills take time to develop and come with countless repetitions of practice, so don’t go too hard on yourself if you can’t flip the script overnight.
The Benefits of Learning How to Be a People Person
So, learning how to become a people person is more than just about being more outgoing. Many outgoing people share none of the above characteristics and plenty more share only a few.
Still, learning these skills will promote a more social side to anybody, and this in turn will result in becoming more outgoing in general, as positive feedback encourages more improvements.
But of course, there are plenty more benefits to adopting the qualities of a people person, both personally and professionally.
In building professional networks, you’ll be using many of these skills to build personal, lasting connections with people who will, in return, provide you with opportunities throughout your professional career.
Your humility, kindness, and calming presence will build for you a reputation of someone who knows what they’re doing, is trustworthy, and really shows an interest in those around them.
Your active listening and inquisitive nature will provide you with valuable insights into the industry or roles that are relevant to you, and your kindness will inspire reciprocation.
When it comes to following up, your sense of restraint will allow you to skillfully nurture your contacts, whether prospective customers, professional leads, or people with connections you need access to, and your sense of give-and-take will allow you to give and gather value from each one.
With time, your network will build organically and this is when you’re likely to benefit from a CRM. Dex can keep track of all your contacts in the same place, help you to remember the specifics of each conversation, and gives you the option of customizable alerts to remind you when it’s time to reach out.
This is a much simpler and more integrated way of dealing with the connections you make than using a spreadsheet and can carry you through your career as your skills, and the network it brings, expand.
Leveraging your Introversion to Become a People Person
If you’re an introverted person, you might be thinking that this is overwhelming and impossible, but that’s far from the case. In fact, introverts have plenty of qualities that greatly facilitate the social skills we’ve discussed and can be used to great effect.
Introverts can easier spend more time processing information than extroverts. This leads them to learn to listen a lot faster. They may also find it easier to network using these skills in smaller groups, which, though reducing the reach of any specific networking effort, can result in more valuable and deeper connections.
Introverts and extroverts may have slightly different approaches, but there’s room for everyone to become better at socializing. Here are some tips for introverts to lean into their nature and become people people:
Understand how you recharge – This relates essentially to the definition of an introvert. While an extrovert gains energy from social situations and is drained by isolation, and an introvert is the opposite. This means that an introvert can be as outgoing and energetic as extravert in social situations, but they will need to take time to recharge.
Once you understand this, and schedule for it, socializing becomes a lot simpler.
Network with a medium – many introverts may find it easier if networking isn’t the main focus of the room. There’s a certain awkwardness to forced situations that introverts may be more manageable to extroverts. If you’re introverted, try to attend spaces where something else is going on. A meal, or a performance, for example, gives people something to do while they talk and helps relax the atmosphere.
Connect people – One of the greatest ways you can add value as a people person is to connect people to other people! This takes all of the above skills like listening and understanding and being open-minded; all of which introverts might be best at. From there, it’s about matching common traits in people and connecting them to add value to each party.
So, being a people person isn’t just for extroverts. Anyone can do it, and the trick is to leverage your comfort zone to your advantage. By taking your strengths and working in alignment with them, you can find the right place and time for you to develop your people person skills.
Learning how to become a people person begins with learning what one isn’t. If you’re simply looking to be more outgoing, you can’t expect to benefit from all of the reciprocal value that you’ll be giving when you work on people skills.
A people person makes people around them feel safe, educated, listened to, and confident. This is where they build trust and create close relationships. Working towards others with genuine kindness and empathy, coupled with humility and confidence, creates powerful connections with people who are happy to repay the favor.
Whether this is in the live-action setting of a large social setting, or a more intimate and personal venue, there’s a way for anyone to improve these skills and become more valuable people. As a result, a people person is makes available to them opportunities, privileged information, and the widest audience.