This interpersonal skills example can happen any day at work or in life. It was our second day in Beijing. My cousin, my mom, and Isabel went to visit Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. It was majestic, fun, but a super long walk. By 1pm, we were all exhausted, hungry and decided to Uber back…
An interpersonal skills example can turn up when it’s least expected. It was the second week of my China trip. My mom, cousin, daughter and I had spent the day at the Beijing Zoo. It was a 90 degree, humid day in Beijing. We were all exhausted and were heading back to the hotel to rest up. Just before…
My cousin in China has been running a travel agency for 20 years. She’s one of those people who knows exactly how to maintain good relationships. During my trip to China, I learned one interpersonal skills example after another from her. First, some background: my oldest daughter and I visited our extended family in China together for the…
Interpersonal communication isn’t an exact science that can be solved with a math equation or with a formula. Interpersonal skills are complicated as they depend on the context of the situation, social cues and the personal experience of those involved. With so many different signals that can influence your communication, it’s important to have a tangible understanding of…
Interpersonal communication is an important skill across all facets of your career. Whether you’re aware of it or not, interpersonal communication is present when you’re interviewing for a job, talking with your co-workers, or asking for a promotion. Even when you do well across the ‘hard’ skills, such as data analysis, accounting, programming, you still won’t…
Only 20% of professionals get 100% correct on this quiz. Are you in the top 20%? Find out in just 2 minutes by taking the quiz below. Your interpersonal communication style can directly affect your work reputation and your overall work effectiveness. Your communication style pertains to How you speak to someone one-on-one or in a group setting. How you…
The most frequently asked question I receive from readers is some version of how to be successful at work or in my career. Below is the latest question I received in this category. Ying, a Chinese immigrant working in the US used the Ask Me Anything tool inside the Soft Skills Gym to send…
It took me about six years to learn how not to make this mistake at work. In some ways, I am still learning how to avoid it, as my instinct as an engineer and an overachiever is to tell people that I am right when I feel that I am right. You may say, “if you…
Anyone can master interpersonal communication. There are few people who are naturally good at it. For most people, it takes conscious effort and practice to master this skill. Here are 7 steps to achieve effective interpersonal communication at work — today!
- Start with self awareness – Do you know how well you communicate right now? What works and what doesn’t? If you don’t know, gather feedback so you can know your strengths and weaknesses. Use the rest of this list to help with your self-assessment.
- Always keep the other person in mind– For any instance of interpersonal communication, plan out your approach ahead of time. Start with the other person in mind — Try your best to put yourself in their shoes and figure out what might be their mindset, sensitivities, and how they may receive your words. Effective interpersonal communication can only happen if you understand where the other person may stand.
- Determine your desired “win-win” outcome: The outcome of any conversation must be a “win-win,” as not all outcomes you desire are good for the relationship. For example, you may want to prove that you are right, but that would mean the other person needs to be proven wrong. You may win the argument, but lose the relationship. That’s not a good outcome.
- Gather the facts: While facts can’t be the only focus of your conversation, you need the facts to keep the discussion as unbiased as possible. It’s hard to resolve anything if all you have is “he said she said.”
- Practice a calm approach/tone: This will require the most time, especially if you are emotional about the situation. You need to calm down first, and then communicate with an open tone. This requires time, since our instinctive reaction is to take a defensive or offensive tone. An open tone can be one that gives the benefit of the doubt, or focuses on “we” instead of “you vs. me.” Your openness and calmness will invite the other people to listen, and your tone will show that you are there to build the relationship.
- Listen as much as you speak: Effective interpersonal communication is a two way street. You should spend 50% of the conversation listening. We are sometimes prepared so much that all we focus on is talking. You can lose the listener quickly that way. Pause after a few sentences so the other party can respond. That way you can adapt your communication based on how they react. Sometimes it takes fewer words than you think to achieve the “win-win” outcome.
- Don’t expect anything: We cannot control or change anyone else. This is an easy concept that is easy to forget. After all this work we put into structuring an interpersonal communication, there is no guarantee about how the other person will react. Everyone is responsible for their own actions. All you can do is play your part the best you can, accept whatever you get, and adapt your actions from there.
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Effective interpersonal communication at work is essential to your career success. Yet it’s often not clearly understood nor easy to improve. After researching on Google regarding how others discuss interpersonal communication, I will offer my own perspective – a detailed definition of what is interpersonal communication and 3 most common myths about interpersonal communication.
What is Interpersonal Communication
- Understanding the other’s situation – in order to build a relationship with someone, we need to be aware of where the other person is coming from.
- Communicating in the right manner – it’s not just what we say that matters but also the tone we use and how we say it. Additionally, by considering our understanding of the other person, we figure out how to best our intentions and ideas to that particular individual.
- Influencing them to listen and/or take action as needed – People are more likely to listen to us when we listen first to them and make efforts to establish common grounds. When we approach any communication with the intention to create a win-win situation, that’s when we will maximize our influence on others and inspire them to action.
At the end of the day, the purpose of communication is to reach a common understanding, build a better relationship, and/or agree on what to do next if action is required.
3 Most Common Myths about Interpersonal Communication
It’s immensely difficult to improve your interpersonal communication if you still believe in some common myths. Here are three of the most common myths:
- Myth #1: Focus just on the facts: Facts are important in a conversation but can’t be the only focus. Often we spend too much time figuring out what facts we want to communicate and too little time on how we want to communicate them. Every person we speak to is human with insecurities, ambitions, and biases. So remember the common adage: “It’s not what you say, but how you make people feel that matters.”
- Myth #2: If I am right, I can say so: It’s never a good idea to kick someone when they are down. If someone on your team makes a mistake, communicate that but focus the conversation more on where to go from there and allow them to recover. If your customer over-billed you, you still don’t want to over-step in your communication. Approach the situation gently and patiently. It’s always better for the relationship if you give others the benefit of the doubt.
- Myth #3: Sugar coat bad news: Bad news like a layoff message or a message to your boss about a mistake you made at work is difficult to deliver. It’s important to deliver the message tactfully, but this is not the same as sugar coating. Sugar coating implies being not direct or clear about the gravity of the message. While sugar coating a message may make you feel more comfortable, it could confuse the other person or make the listener feel patronized. Sincerity and a focus on moving forward will help more. Whatever happened already happened. So be straightforward and focus on next steps.
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Have you ever wondered why having the best answer to a business problem sometimes makes no impact at all? In school, we were always incentivized to give the best answer – the best answer leads to good grades, which lead to job offers. So, naturally I brought that mentality to work. I would work tirelessly to get the perfect, best answer, but was often disappointed when nobody seemed to interested in hearing it.
After five years, I’ve learned that the best answer is not as good as a practical answer that have executive buy in and champions who are willing to implement the solution.
This is just one example of why interpersonal skills are more important than hard skills. I think of hard skills as what it takes to develop the perfect solution to a business issue. I define interpersonal skills as our ability to build relationships with others, to effectively understand their circumstances, communicate our proposed solution based on their business reality, and persuade them to take action. Only when we combine soft skills, like interpersonal skills, with our hard skills can we become more effective in business.
Here is another example of why interpersonal skills are more important than hard skills: I went to the dentist yesterday to do a routine cleaning. I’m not particularly scared of dentists, but I’m not fond of the experience either. It’s just something to get done.
I was given a new dentist — Dr. Vo — but at the same office. As soon as she started examining me, she started “scolding” me for waiting too long for a cleaning (it’s been a year) and not flossing enough, as I had gum bleedings and sensitivity in some of my teeth. It made me tense, but I said nothing.
Then she told me that I may have the beginnings of cavities on three teeth (no actual cavities yet), and she started scolding me again for waiting too long to get a cleaning. After “scolding” me three times, I asked her to stop repeating herself. After the cleaning, I promptly told the front desk to always give me my old dentist — Dr. Sood — for future appointments, even if I have to wait longer to get an appointment.
My experience there is what prompted me to write this article. Was my cleaning well done this time? Yes. Did Dr. Vo give me the best diagnosis? Probably. Dr. Vo had all the hard skill to give me her best answer, but I left with a “bad taste” in my mouth because of her interpersonal skills. Nobody wants to feel stupid or wrong during a business transaction, even if they were.
The business world is not too different. People and companies value good customer experience, practical solutions, and tactful communication methods. We may think that business decisions are made mainly based on logic, but that would be a naive assumption. Here are three more examples about interpersonal skills which illustrate their importance in business:
- Major deals are signed on golf courses – why? Interpersonal skills were used to build close relationships (through a common interest, like golf), and the trust built using these interpersonal skills leads to signed deals.
- All logical factors being equal (like price, convenience, delivery time, etc..), people usually choose the vendor with groups that they’ve had good experiences with. Sometimes, people will even choose a higher price with their current vendor because they value the existing experience, rather than wanting to risk having a bad experience with a new, lower priced one.
- A mediocre solution that have executive buy-in will get implemented over a more perfect solution created in a black box. This is the lesson I learned in consulting: It’s great to be smart (hard skills), but if I don’t have the interpersonal skills to understand my clients, what’s practical to implement in the company’s current circumstances, and how to best persuade them to take action, I will not be able to make any impact.
I can help you improve your soft skills, including interpersonal skills. Start today by signing up for the Soft Skills Gym.
I look forward to your comments. I am always in your corner.
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