5 Crucial Interpersonal Skills For A Successful Career.
#5 Be as interested as you are interesting.
Our interpersonal or people skills come down to how well we interact with people around us and the strength of the relationships we build. We already know that performance doesn’t count for everything, and the higher up the ladder you go, the more critical your people skills become.
You will inevitably experience difficult situations at the workplace, which are further inflamed by complex personalities.
Here are five gems I have come across from the world’s thought leaders that you can use to improve the quality of your interactions and relationships when you need them most.
Is it true, kind and necessary?
Time Magazine has named Dr Deepak Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.” He suggests that before you respond to someone, ask yourself: ‘Is it true, is it kind, and is it necessary?
It may be true, but is it necessary to tell this person? What is the motive for telling this person — do you want to be right or make them feel small? In three months or ten years, will it make a difference?
It may be true and necessary, but can you express it in a way that lands with kindness and compassion with consideration for how it may be received? Consider the timing, tone and choice of words you use.
Remember to bring this into your personal relationships, too, mainly when you get triggered and lose your temper. When you’re about to shout at your kids or partner — is it true, is it kind and necessary?
When you force a mental pause by taking a deep breath and contemplating these checkpoints, you will naturally start to make better choices and improve the quality of your relationships.
You’re right about that.
According to author Wayne Dyer, four words will dramatically improve and diffuse any conflict situation- you’re right about that.
Now your ego may be tingling and thinking, but I can’t let them be right! If someone tells you that you made a mistake or overreacted and you say you’re right about that, you open the way to a more constructive and helpful conversation.
Be prepared to put your ego aside for a moment. I’m not saying be passive but be open to the fact that they may be correct. Where did you contribute to the situation? Is there truth to what they are saying?
If you reply with defensiveness or aggression, you will never be able to resolve the situation, and you both remain in a passive-aggressive climate towards each other.
When you shift into a state to let people believe they are right, you will diffuse a conflict before it begins. This is not done insincerely or with sarcasm attached to it.
In Wayne’s Ultimate Libray, he suggests you must ‘stop yourself and ask yourself — do I want conflict or do I want peace? Then let the person know that they’re right.
You can substitute ‘you’re right about that’ with the phrases, I’ve never considered that before or you’re making a good point or I acknowledge what you’re saying.
To make this work, you have to free yourself from the need of making somebody else wrong.
My husband told me I have a terrible habit of leaving cupboard doors open, and it’s annoying because he has to go around the house closing them. Rather than get annoyed, I said, ‘you’re right about that,’ and could laugh at the situation even though my initial response aimed for defensiveness.
Now I am so aware of that habit I go around the house checking that I’ve closed them. It’s a simple example but it could have escalated into an argument about nothing. When you can own your part, you diffuse conflict before it begins.
React to the outcome, not the event.
Have you ever had a situation where someone let you down? You asked them to do something, and they dropped the ball? You won’t resolve anything if you go into the discussion angrily and criticise them. That’s reacting to the event.
Author and leadership expert Peter Bregan suggests we must react to the outcome. How do you want to be able to work with this person going forward? How do you want the relationship to be after the conversation?
What is your highest intention? Is it to be right or to assert dominance over them? Or is your highest intention to have a courageous conversation with the intention to continue to work constructively based on mutual respect and trust?
Tell this person you know what they’re capable of and ask what contributed to them dropping the ball. Explain the implication of their behaviour that your trust has been compromised.
Reacting to the outcome is discussing how to prevent the same situation going forwards. Ask how you can better support them and if they require training, skills or more frequent meetings with you. Resolve the root cause, not the symptoms.
When you are clear on the outcome, you can lead the conversation with empathy, presence and a willingness to listen.
Feedback is the breakfast of champions.
There are always times in your career when you are giving or receiving feedback. Management consultant Ken Blanchard says that feedback is the breakfast of champions because your ability to receive feedback openly and willingly demonstrates that you are coachable and committed to growth in your career.
When you have to take in information that is difficult to hear, take a breath and insert a mental pause button. Decide that whatever comes your way, you will reply gracefully with ‘Thank you, you’ve given me something to think about or ‘thank you, I hadn’t considered that.
Then sit with it. Do not get defensive and react when you are emotional. Now do what you promised — think about it and reflect on it. Is it true? Where did you contribute?
When you are in a neutral and calm state, then feel free to open the discussion again. You could say, ‘I’ve thought about our discussion, and I would like to chat about it’ or ‘having reflected on your feedback, I don’t think this is accurate because…’.
It’s one thing to hear the feedback but another to internalise it and apply it. The more you demonstrate your willingness to grow and improve, the more credibility and trust you earn from those around you.
Be as interested as you are interesting.
It’s easy to converse with people you know, but what about when you have to meet new people, network and build relationships? In a nutshell, you need to get comfortable with conversations.
Most social anxiety comes from a fear of not bringing value to a conversation; it’s the feeling of ‘what do I have to offer. If you can relate, switch your focus to listening and asking questions.
Dale Carnegie famously said, ‘To be interesting, be interested. Your default strategy, no matter how shy you have told yourself you may be, is to ask questions. If you feel self-conscious about what you offer, ask the other person about themself.
Everyone has a past, a present and a future, so start there. Ask them where they worked previously before this role. You can ask about their biggest challenge and if they have any vacation plans. It doesn’t matter what you ask but shows genuine interest in them.
If you’re in someone’s office and you see a picture of their kids — ask them to tell you how old they are. Or, if you see a framed certificate, ask them about it.
All you want to do is create a foundation to continue the conversation. This is how relationships are built, one conversation at a time.
Dale Carnegie said:
‘There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.’
It’s the same with conversations.
If there’s one skill to master above all else, it’s self-awareness. It’s one thing to know these tools but entirely another to slow down in the moments when you are triggered so you can respond mindfully rather than react with regret.
It’s not easy, and you will make mistakes but use those situations as a science lab of your life. Why did you get triggered? What made you lose your temper? How can you do it better next time?
No matter what, you can always act your way back into the trust. To repair relationships, you may need to dig deeper into the toolkit and tell them, I’m sorry, I made a mistake, or I overreacted.
When you ensure what to do, use the guiding words of Maya Angelou,
“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Here’s to your people skills,