Have you met any humans lately?

by Dr. Peggy Lerner
University of Oklahoma

All jokes and furry friends considered, our world is populated by many members of this species, and based on historical accounts, there seem to have been reasons to improve human interactions for a very long time. Would you like to improve your interpersonal skills and interactions and better some of your personal and professional relationships? Then, please read on!

OU offers three master’s degree programs under contract in Europe; the one highlighted in this article is the Master of Human Relations (MHR). Now and again, I have had the privilege of discussing The University of Oklahoma’s (OU’s) Master of Human Relations program with potential students and explaining why it might be a useful degree for new managers or aspiring leaders.

The MHR web site shares the following: “We are a multi-disciplinary field of study and professional practice combining theoretical perspectives from the social sciences and humanities, organizational studies, the world of work and service, and from multicultural studies. The BA and the MHR prepare students to meet the challenge of working in an increasingly diverse and global workplace.”

For many, this description will speak for itself and a future in the helping professions (e.g. coaching, advising, training) after completion of the degree may already be his or her goal. But for others, how to apply the knowledge gained might be less clear. For those, I pose the following questions to consider and contemplate:

1. Do you have training in a ‘hard science,’ technical or vocational area?

2. Have you been working your way up the management chain and find yourself increasingly put in charge of teams or groups?

3. Are you sometimes unsure of your ‘soft skills,’ e.g. assertiveness, communication, conflict resolution, critical thinking, mentoring, problem-solving, team-building and creating environments in which others are motivated?

4. Are you unsure of whether your ability to lead is as well developed as your technical skills?

5. Could your listening skills use some fine tuning?

6. Are you becoming ever more aware that in working with people they bring personal issues, background and differing ways of doing things into the workplace, and you are not always prepared to manage or deal with these circumstances?

7. Do you find yourself thinking, this would be a great job, event, or world if it weren’t for the people involved?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you are not alone, but among those who are very well-trained for specific jobs, and possibly not yet prepared for or practiced in the management of people. To become a successful manager and leader, one must understand that humans function differently from machines, vehicles and computers. A successful manager and leader must have the ability to recognize how certain aspects of human behavior can enhance the work environment and that some others will need to be addressed, adjusted or eliminated to avoid conflict and restore a healthy work environment. The MHR program is designed to aid you in becoming aware of these aspects of leadership and mentorship, which in turn will prepare you to be effective in the workplace. Much of what is learned is certainly applicable and transferrable beyond the workplace and will also contribute to enhancing personal relationships.

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