Posts Tagged ‘Interpersonal Skills’

The value of relating to others

PrintArticle contributed by Amy Sargent

I sat down after finding my name inscribed in calligraphy on the place card.  It was a delightful night to be out on the town — the warm, summer breezes and city lights danced well together to create a jovial spirit for this fundraising event. Though I knew no one in attendance–yet–my plan was to turn on my extroverted switch and add some new acquaintances to my social network on this festive evening.

Within moments a good-looking couple sat to my right, holding hands, and a few others filtered in across the way, but the seat to my left remained empty. The table was so large that conversation with guests across the expanse of linens and silk flower arrangements would be in vain, so I decided to hone in on the lovebirds. But despite my open-ended inquiries, it was quickly obvious that they’d rather spend the evening whispering in each other’s ear rather than engage with me, which was fine, but left me sitting alone.

As our salad plates were cleared, she swept in and sat to my left.  Attractive, mid-forties, with short, well-coiffed hair, a smart navy business suit, and power pumps.  She was one of those very-well-put-together business professionals that somehow always left me feeling inadequate. But that was my issue, not hers. Masking my intimidation, I smiled confidently and put out my hand for the firm-enough-but-not-too-firm handshake and welcomed her to our table.  She looked me over with a nonchalant glance, pursed her lips, and began texting someone (obviously more important than me) as she sat down.

Not one to be quickly daunted, as she finished her text I introduced myself and asked her about her work.  As she answered, with a clipped, succinct sentences, I hurriedly formulated my own response in my head. I honestly didn’t hear a word she said, as I was contemplating what I could possibly say when she asked about me that would make her raise her perfectly plucked eyebrows with interest. I never got my chance. She didn’t reciprocate nor showed any interest in conversing.  After several failed attempts to draw her out, I caved and turned to my chicken dijon with rice until the presentation began. So much for connecting that evening. It just wasn’t going to happen.

There is a quality of social and emotional intelligence called interpersonal effectiveness, and it’s the ability to tune into others with compassion and sensitivity. You know the type. They have a contagious, positive enthusiasm that puts you at ease the moment you meet them. They demonstrate a genuine interest in you and you can tell they actually want to know you. These people possess exceptional listening skills, interact smoothly with others, and are able to make even the most uncomfortable situations comfortable.

Not only were my table partners lacking this quality that night, but so was I. Instead of knowing how to navigate the icy situation with my well-dressed companion, I eventually mirrored her coldness and gave up. The once-cheerful evening quickly became a disappointment and I longed for dessert to be served, not so the decadent sweetness could delight my mouth, but because it signaled the welcome end of an uncomfortable evening.

Does it matter if we really connect well with others?  Theodore Roosevelt stated,

“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”

I admire people who can build rapport with all types, no matter the situation.  But specifically in the workplace, interpersonal skills are an important value add because it is our relationships, with bosses, managers, coworkers and customers, that — get this — have the greatest impact on our happiness and contentment in our roles, more so than our workload or tasks or responsibilities or opportunities. (

“Financial capital is the funding you need to get off the ground, sustain growth, and develop operations. Human capital is the team that brings value to your organization. And while both are essential resources for your business, social capital — the connections and shared values that exist between people and enable cooperation — is the key to entrepreneurial success.” — Chris Cancialosi

If you’ve ever experienced conflict with those you work with, you understand the depth of stress these strained relationships can cause, and we all know the ill-effects of stress, let alone it being downright miserable. Interpersonal relationships also directly affect our productivity. If you’re a leader with disengaged employees, prepare yourself to watch your resources wash right down the drain. Studies show that companies with engaged employees earn twice the net income of those with disengaged employees.  How does the saying go?  “75% of people quit their bosses, not their jobs.”  When you have a chance, check out this surprising infographic of stats:

Max Messmer, who wrote Managing Your Career for Dummies, says this:

“Your career success in the workplace of today – independent of technical expertise – depends on the quality of your people skills.”

How do you know if your interpersonal skills could use some work?  Self-awareness is a key, and if that is lacking, we may miss how we come across, and may need the help of an outside opinion.  If you have a close friend and/or colleague that will be up front with you, and you’re feeling brave, ask them these questions:

  • Is the first impression I give cold or warm/inviting?
  • Do I ever come across arrogant or unapproachable?
  • Am I a good listener or do you feel I’m too quick to share my own stories, opinions, and insights?
  • Do you feel safe to come talk to me about anything?
  • Do you feel like I know you well?  Do I allow you to truly know me?
  • Do I ever come across like I’m judging you or devaluing your viewpoint?

If you don’t have someone who’ll give you honest responses, you may consider working with a social + emotional intelligence coach to do a 360 assessment, where others have an opportunity to evaluate you.  These can be very eye-opening and give you revealing insight as to how you come across as you interact with others. The beauty of a 360 as well is that the raters can remain anonymous which encourages participant authenticity.

In the meantime, in the words of Stephen Covey, “Seek first to understand.” Try focusing on just one of these suggestions this week to see if you can begin to make a shift in your interpersonal effectiveness:

  • Ask open-ended questions. Most people like to talk about themselves, and rarely get asked how they are feeling. Learn to draw people out.
  • Make yourself maintain eye contact if you are one who tends to look “out there” when communicating.  Don’t they say the eyes are the window to the soul?
  • Force yourself to listen and not be thinking about what you’ll say next. I’m terrible at this. This can be tricky, especially if you’re concerned about having the perfect response.  Really tune into what they are trying to communicate by staying present in the moment.
  • Watch for cues that demonstrate not only what they’re saying, but not saying. Is your presence making them uncomfortable? Are they bored because you are talking too much about yourself? Did your last comment make them wince?  Again, watch for reactions in the eyes.
  • Develop an understanding of cultural, religious, socioeconomic, and gender differences.  It’s too easy to offend someone by our ignorance.  Read, read, read to educate yourself about diversity.
  • Withhold judgment.  It’s one thing to have your own opinion.  It’s another to think it’s your way or the highway.  Remain open to new ideas and ways of doing things.
  • Share details about yourself when appropriate. The whys are much more interesting than the whats.  Learn to be a storyteller.
  • Check your own non-verbals.  Are you frowning?  Are your arms crossed?  Are you fidgeting? And by all means don’t check your phone while others are trying to talk with you!
  • Ban complaining. No one wants to hear it, really, and it puts colleagues in an uncomfortable position. (“If I nod, then they think I agree, if I don’t, they think I’m not being supportive…!”).  Find a close friend to share your struggles with — or a counselor or coach — but make an effort to keep complaints and negativity out of relationships, especially at the office.

There will of course be people that we just can’t connect with. It’s normal. But with some brushing up on our interpersonal skills, we can at least make those situations a little more tolerable, if not pleasant.

Empathy and the Shy Little Lady

Article Contributed by Guest Author Patrick B. McLaughlin M.A., M.Ed.

Although this is a story about Halloween, we didn’t want to wait until next Halloween to share it.  It was written by Patrick McLaughlin, an amazingly empathetic S+EI coach from Quebec, Canada.   Enjoy!

Whether one is a parent, a friend, a manager, a police officer or whatever, a well-developed facility in ‘Interpersonal Effectiveness’ goes a long way in creating the possibility of Trust and in Improving Relationships.  The individual who demonstrates such Impersonal Effectiveness is not inhibited by the reality that there can be an element of risk in not being aware of the other’s potential reaction.  However, there is a powerful safety valve contained in sensitivity and in the ability to ‘read’ what is not being verbalized.

Far removed from the corporate world, here is a Halloween event which, at least in my opinion, reflects the qualities of Empathy and Interpersonal Effectiveness.

The local organic food store displays a multitude of enticing items but, since space is limited, circulation can be challenging at times.  I had just picked up my ‘Millet and Soya Bread’ and was making my way in the direction of whatever other required item was on my mental list. My progress was somewhat interrupted  by the presence of a mother and her daughter also experiencing some degree of difficulty in circumventing the various barriers.  The little girl was rigged out in a party dress and I noticed that something resembling a floral design and sparklers illuminated her face.  Not being particularly inhibited by nature, I said to her, ‘I like your face’.  Very shyly she looked at me and then turned to her mother for consolation.  Now my conversation continued with the mother and I asked if the little girl was shy which the mother confirmed, then addressed her daughter in French.  Presuming that the language barrier may have been the primary reason for her discomfort, I also spoke to her ‘en français’ but the hesitency remained.  The mother informed me that her little girl was preparing to go ‘trick-or-treat’ing, its being Halloween.  ‘Alors tu vas chanter ce soir?’ (So you are going to sing this evening?).  She murmured  something which I understood to be ‘Yes’.  When I asked her what she was going to sing, (Qu’est-ce que tu vas chanter?), silence returned.

The shopping continued and I would presume that the little girl was glad to find herself once more in the reassuring safety of her mother’s caring, delighted that the inquisitive stranger had finally left her in peace.

It was not to be.  Our paths crossed again at the checkout counter.  The little girl looked at me with some suggestion of comfort.  So I started again, all en français.  ‘I also will be going trick-or-treating this evening and I will be singing many songs in order to get lots of goodies’, (a figment of my imagination, of course)  and I sang her a bit of a song…’Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques, Dormez-vous, Dormez-vous? etc’.  Then I pushed gently ahead, asking her what song she was going to sing.  Wonder of wonders..she sang her song, clinging to her mother.  ‘You have a lovely voice’, I said, ‘and you will surely gather lots of candies and cakes this evening’.  ‘Will you share them with your Mummy?’ ‘No.’  ‘Why not’, I asked.  Without a moment’s hesitation, she came up with a rather sound justification for keeping all the goodies for herself.  ‘My Mummy does not like cakes’.

Not only was this a wonderfully warm encounter, but I noticed that the mother, the gentleman behind the counter and two other ladies who were there to shop and not to hear the two of us rehearsing our singing programme for Halloween had delighted smiles on their faces. The power of empathy had not only successfully inspired this young lady to sing in public but had reached out and touched three strangers and evidently warmed the heart of the mother who must have been delighted to witness her shy little daughter abandoning her reserve in such a delightful manner.  The power of empathy created a positive change, even for a moment, in the spirit of all these individuals who beforehand were complete strangers.  And, judging by her attitude in the final scene, her Halloween was not ruined.

This impromptu encounter most certainly illustrated the extent to which the expression of empathy can create positive change in a group setting.  The little lady who was the focus of my attention was not the only one to manifest that something had touched her in that moment; the evidently delighted response of the others, even though they were merely onlookers, was a testimony to the power of empathy.

Giota, a Living Symbol of Resilience

Article Contributed by Guest Author Patrick B. McLaughlin M.A., M.Ed.

‘Films that Transform’ is a series of documentaries whose stated purpose is captured in the outline: “The journey toward growth and transformation on the life journey is marked by both promise and pitfalls for each of us.”

The film presented most recently was ‘Giota’s Journey’, the story of a 48-year old Montreal lady born with cerebral palsy, unable to speak and confined to a wheelchair.  However, Giota is a living symbol of resilience; she may not be able to speak but she is able to communicate.  Unwilling to accept remaining imprisoned in her own isolation, Giota, using the Bliss system, named after its creator, is able to reveal her dreams, her joy, her disappointments and aspirations through movement of her eyes in the direction of non-visible dual columns of numbers allowing a trained interpreter to verbalize her thoughts.

In the case of such a multiple “handicapped” individual whose very existence depends on the ongoing presence of family and external caretakers, is it possible to recognize any semblance of ‘Personal Power’?  However, rather than floundering in a morass of self-pity, Giota courageously reached beyond the limitations of her condition and is currently enrolled in a Psychology programme at a Junior College.  I would presume that it is not her intention to one day work in this area.  The ultimate goal is irrelevant; that Giota would even contemplate such a journey is a demonstration of the “Personal Power” factor which incited her to fully utilize her intelligence rather than allow herself to spend her life under a cloud of self-rejection and isolation.

In spite of Giota’s very apparent physical and neurological limitations which quite possibly may initially stimulate negative reactions, it is evident that her courage, determination and optimistic personality may serve as a wake-up call to lead one to appreciate that the external image does not define who the other person is.  Giota’s “Interpersonal Effectiveness” skill may sow the seeds of reflection in appreciating differences.

In a later conversation with Dr. Tom Hutchinson, professor in the Medical Faculty of McGill University, a reference was made to “Interpersonal Effectiveness” as an essential quality among medical practitioners.  I asked him what impact this documentary would hopefully have on young medical students.  He expressed a hope that the experience of seeing someone who, at first glance, appeared so ‘different’ would encourage aspiring caregivers to see the ’whole person’, not simply the health issue.  In other words, medical practice would be greatly enhanced by the development of “Interpersonal Effectiveness”.

Dr. Hutchinson is in charge of the ‘Whole Person Care’ programme whose mission is to ‘transform western medicine by synergizing the scientific advances of modern biomedicine with the potential for healing in every healthcare encounter.’

A later blog will cover the conversation which I had with Dr. Hutchinson in which we looked at the value of Social and Emotional Intelligence awareness in the next generation of medical practitioners.

How do Expertise and Social & Emotional Intelligence Relate in Your Career?

Article contributed by Virg Setzer,MSOP

In my past blog comments I discussed two of the Nine Essentials to Career Success – Ownership and Mindset.  This week I am addressing the third essential, Expertise. 

What is Expertise?

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines expertise as:  expert skill or knowledge in a particular field” and Expert as, “a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area”

In the business world it is not at all uncommon to hear the phrase, “what is his or her expertise?”  In an interview, “tell me about your expertise”, or as senior leaders discuss key successors, the individuals expertise and overall capability is frequently a major discussion.  Sometimes expertise is described using different terms, such as what is his talent, but it all boils down to what is the special capability an individual possesses.  What is the capability or expertise that person has that sets them aside from others, in effect gives them a competitive advantage.

Expertise – Critical for a successful career.   There are many attributes necessary for success, but Expertise is clearly one of the essentials – it is in fact essential to continually build and enhance one’s expertise.  Expertise is not simply the special knowledge gained from focused education and experience. We all know of many people who have a vast resume of educational accomplishments, degrees, certifications, etc., yet are not all that effective in their performance.  Expertise is gaining that special knowledge and associated experience, but most importantly expertise is the ability to employ and apply your knowledge and skill in real world situations, and to do so in a highly effective manner.  Often there are people who are equally qualified in terms of education and experience, but it is the real expert who is able to apply it to achieve maximum performance.

Is expertise limited to technical or functional areas of knowledge and experience?  The ability to effectively employ and apply one’s capability encompasses a number of factors.  Those that are successful likely do not think of their capability as including social and emotional intelligence competencies, yet as we consider Personal Competence and Social Competence, we might make a case that all twenty-six competencies in some way have an impact.   A few however are key contributors to the successful application of expertise.  I believe those that may have the greatest impact are:

  • Organizational awareness: Reading a group’s emotional currents and power relationships; being able to “size up” a situation and plan an appropriate response.  This is critical in applying your expertise in any organization.
  • Integrity: Maintaining high standards of honesty and ethics at all times.  A must to build credibility.
  • Initiative & bias for action: Readiness to act on opportunities.  The term, “timing is everything” does in fact often apply in business – this competency is a major contributor to successful application of expertise.
  • Personal agility:  Readily, willingly, rapidly and effectively anticipating and adapting to change.  Our rapidly changing global and technological world requires personal agility now more than ever.
  • Communication: Listening attentively and fostering open dialogue.  Essential for every effective relationship.
  • Interpersonal effectiveness:  Possessing diplomacy, tact and interpersonal skills, and knowing how to use them to ease transactions and relationships with others; the ability to relate well and build rapport with all people.  Application of expertise cannot be completed in a vacuum – interpersonal effectiveness is essential.
  • Powerful influencing skills: Wielding effective tactics for persuasion.  A sub-set of effective communication, but also critical to success.
  • Building Bonds: Nurturing and maintaining relationships, cultivating a wide network; connecting with others on a deeper rather than superficial level.  Essential for a continued effective relationships.
  • Coaching & mentoring others: Identifying others’ development needs and bolstering their abilities.  Developing others supports and helps affirm your expertise.
  • Building trust: Being trustworthy and ethical when working and relating to others; ability to establish a bond of trust with others.  Trust is the foundation for successfully employing your expertise.

Building Your Expertise:

Building one’s expertise is not a quick or simple process.  It is also a never-ending process.  As people begin their business careers they may start to build their expertise based upon their educational background, undergraduate and graduate educations – the knowledge they acquired in school.  Over time expertise is expanded and the educational expertise supplemented as experience occurs.  The understanding gained from application in the workplace and on-going learning is vital to enhancing one’s expertise.

Building your expertise also takes into account the topic in my last blog – Mindset – building your expertise requires a “possibilities mindset” – a mindset of continuous learning and development.   I doubt that there is a formula or template for how to build your expertise?  But I encourage everyone at every stage of your career to periodically conduct a self-assessment of your expertise – an Expertise Audit.  Ask yourself, what really is my expertise?  What is the value I bring to the workplace?  Where do I have holes or voids in my expertise?  Have I only focused on developing my technical and functional knowledge and skill or have I also considered the social and emotional competencies associated with effectively deploying my expertise?  How do I best test what my expertise is?  What do I use to compare my expertise against?  Who can give me meaningful input about my expertise?  What actions must I take to improve and enhance my expertise?

Real Expertise sets you apart – it gives you a competitive advantage – consider how you can achieve that level of expertise.  Expertise is one of the Nine Essentials to Career Success – it cannot be taken lightly.  Whether you are 20 or 70, I encourage you to continuously build your expertise and in turn enhance your career!

Developing Others—The Power of Listening

He was seated comfortably, three paragraphs into the lead sports page article when she approached him from behind his favorite chair. “Dad, I really need to talk to you.” She dangled her 10 year old, lanky legs over the edge of the chair as he distractedly muttered, “Uh, huh?” She begins her lengthy diatribe about an event that happened at school and the call he should expect from the teacher and that it wasn’t her fault but she was next to the kids who did it, etc. As she ends her monologue, he mutters, “Uh, huh. Okay. Sounds good.” She swings her feet back over the arm of the chair, onto the floor, and walks away feeling rejected and unimportant, knowing that when the teacher calls, her dad will be hearing it for the first time.

Have you ever done this to your kids? Has it ever happened to you where you knew someone wasn’t really listening? And how many times might you have done this to your employees? Instead of the newspaper, your attention is on your computer screen as you try desperately to keep up on incoming email. Or perhaps you are answering every ping on your smart phone? The only difference between home and work is that your family may be more forgiving than your employees and other work colleagues. Have you considered the cost to your relationships and your team’s productivity when you don’t listen?

Valarie Washington, CEO of Think 6 Results, writes in her article, The High Cost of Poor Listening, “60% of all management problems are related to poor listening,” and that “we misinterpret, misunderstand or change 70% to 90% of what we hear.”

Washington also writes, “There are no shortcuts to becoming a great listener and the price tag for poor listening is high. Listening well can cut down on misunderstandings, miscues, damaged relationships, missed opportunities and disagreements while building strong alliances, increasing knowledge and delivering better results, faster.”

Top executives listen more than they talk and when they listen, they set aside everything else, including the inner clamor, and listen with their full attention. They know that the only way to really know what’s going on, and to really hear what the other person is trying to say, is to listen fully to what’s being said and what’s not being said but is trying to be conveyed.

Great leaders are great listeners and as a result, their employees are more engaged, more passionate about their work, and far more productive. Is it time for you to sharpen your listening skills? To fully assess your Leadership competencies including your ability to coach and mentor others through genuine listening, contact the Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence at or go to our website to learn more.

Preparing for Retirement – Why Social + Emotional Intelligence can help with your career transition

Article contributed by Howard Fox, MA, ACC

I facilitated a workshop on Social + Emotional Intelligence (S + EI) recently for the staff employees of a local university, and was struck by “Robert”, one of the participants.  What was most interesting was his general demeanor towards his job, and how he was preparing himself and his employer for his last years prior to retirement.  Repeatedly during the session, Robert would state, “Why should I care? What does it matter? And, I’ll do what I need to do until I retire.”

As a consultant/manager, my reaction might be, “well, if this is the way you feel, how would you like to start your retirement early?”

As a coach, my reaction was:

  • How are these thoughts serving or not serving those around you in this room?
  • How are these thoughts serving YOU/or not serving you in creating a legacy for yourself?
  • How important is creating a legacy to you?
  • What would you like your peers and co-workers to remember you for?
  • What impact do you think your last years prior to retirement will have on you and others once you retire?

The workshop structure prevented me from fully engaging in a private coaching session with Robert, but if he did seek me out for individual coaching, there are a number of S+EI competency development strategies that I would use to assist him in creating awareness, insight, and possibility for what the remaining working and retirement years will have in store.

A successful coaching strategy could entail working with Robert across many of the S+EI competencies, but a number of competencies seem ideal in helping this individual work through the issues at hand:

Self Awareness – What does a “day-in-the-life” look like for Robert?  How does he feel waking up in the morning prior to going to work?  How does he feel at the end of the day?  What parts of the job does he enjoy the most, and what part the least?  How would he like to feel on his first day of retirement?

Personal Power – What parts of the job provide him with the greatest opportunities to solve problems and make a difference?  What does he do to relish in these achievements?  What parts of the job do not give him the satisfaction that he seeks?   What would it take to exert control over the things that he does not receive satisfaction in doing?  Or, what would it take to feel in control and make things happen? What are his dreams for retirement?  What does he envision these days to look like?

Initiative – What are the top five initiatives he would like to see happen in his job that will enhance the capabilities and effectiveness of his department before he retires?  Of these five initiatives which one could he undertake today?  What support from management or co-workers does he need to undertake these initiatives?

Service Orientation – It is said that people remember their interactions with us if they are treated in a helpful, respectful manner, and that the quality of these interactions drives their perception of satisfaction with their experience of us.  What would managers, peers, and co-workers have to say about their interactions with Robert?  How often does he make himself available when others need his assistance?  How often does he assist in completing a task or support an organizational initiative because it’s the right thing to do, not because he grudgingly (and sometimes loudly) feels he has to?

Intentionality – What activities could Robert plan for and undertake to ensure these remaining work years are as productive and valuable as possible for him and his organization?  What plans could he put in place and see through that would ensure his department can continue to function successfully after he’s gone?  And for his retirement years, what does he want to achieve for himself and his family? What kind of support does he need to produce this plan and make it actionable?

Interpersonal Skills – What opportunities does he have to interact with his peers and co-workers?  How can he ease the interpersonal transactions in the workplace?  How can he bring people together and find common purpose and direction?   An understanding of the Robert’s DiSC profile or Myers-Briggs Type (MBTI) would add to his interpersonal awareness and development.

Inspirational Leadership – What steps can Robert take to create a vision for his department?  What means does he use to communicate the importance of his vision and get buy-in from his manager, peers, and subordinates?  How often does he share his ideas and thoughts about how work ought to get done or new initiatives that ought to be undertaken?  Chances are, Robert has a great deal of insight into these arenas since he’s been with the organization for a good long while.

Coaching and Mentoring Others– As Robert prepares to create a vision and plan for how his years prior to retirement will unfold, what steps is he taking to prepare his colleagues for his departure?  What development, mentoring, and training will he undertake to prepare the staff?  How often does he provide constructive feedback and acknowledge and recognize the progress they are making?

Concluding Comments
The opportunity to coach an individual like Robert is a chance to help someone create a positive and lasting legacy, and plan for how they might enjoy and thrive in their retirement years.  There is no certainty of the events that Robert’s organization will face after he leaves, or what he might face during retirement.  What is certain is that being aware of and developing his social + emotional intelligence will help him show up and be confident in his ability to leave a lasting legacy, support the growth and development of others who will be stepping into his shoes, and in the long run, feel  a sense of pride.  Much better mindset than sitting back and asking, “Why should I care? What does it matter?” day after day, year after year until he retires.  Research suggests he’ll even enjoy better health and is more likely to thrive in retirement as a result!