Interpersonal Skills Example: Maybe It’s a Misunderstanding?

beijing zoo china tripAn 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 getting to our hotel room, I told my mom something.  She replied sharply.  I replied sharply back and tried to explain.  She said more sharp words and abruptly went to her room.  I was baffled and upset.  It was an awful conclusion to an otherwise awesome day.

Later, I spoke to my cousin who was with us during this exchange.  She said that it was just a misunderstanding since we were both tired.

I am being intentionally vague about the details of our exchange for two reasons.  First, I don’t remember the details, only how we felt afterwards.  Second, you only need four simple facts to understand today’s interpersonal skills example:

  1. I said something in a very matter-of-fact way to my mom.
  2. My mom was tired, took it to mean something else, and questioned me sharply.
  3. I was tired and escalated it by responding defensively.
  4. She was more upset by my tone than by what I said.

How Does This Interpersonal Skills Example Apply to the Workplace?

We all get upset over little things at work.  We may not remember what it was about, but we remember how it felt.  Like Maya Angelou used to say:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

If we want to improve our interpersonal skills and build great relationships, we must learn that all-important lesson.

Three Lessons Learned From This Interpersonal Skills Example

Many frustrating workplace conversations are due to misunderstandings, not bad intentions.  If we give others the benefit of the doubt, even when they speak to us sharply, so many workplace conflicts would be avoided.  Here are three tips my cousin highlighted for me:

Tip 1: Give the benefit of the doubt instead of finding fault. The whole argument would have been avoided if I had paused to say that I must have miss-communicated.  Doing so would have immediately diffused any escalating emotions.  Instead, we both got upset and blamed each other for the argument.

Giving others the benefit of the doubt is an effective way to avoid conflict.  If we pause to acknowledge any potential miscommunication at work, the other person can respond in kind.

Tip 2: Be kind and postpone if needed.  We need to be kind, even on our bad days.  Being kind on a bad day preserves good work relationships and helps us recharge.  This is obvious, but it’s hard to do.  The key is doing simple things to avoid conflict, like keeping conversations short and rescheduling meetings.

Tip 3:  Address the conflict ASAP.

Like Maya Angelou said, people don’t forget how you made them feel.  If it was bad for you, it was bad for them, too.  The last thing you want is for the other person to get resentful.  We can all avoid that by being proactive and resolving the problem quickly.

After taking a nap and talking to my cousin, I approached my mom.  I apologized and told her I didn’t mean to sound so sharp. When she shared why she was so upset, I listened and showed her I understood her point of view.  After 5 minutes, we moved on to other topics and had a great trip.

Here’s the point: don’t assume the problem isn’t worth mentioning, address it directly. Take some time to recharge, proactively acknowledge it, then find out if they want to chat about it.  A mere 5 minutes is all you need to fix a good relationship without leaving any undue baggage.

If you enjoyed this article, see the other two interpersonal skills examples also from my china trip 🙂

Your Comments: Did this example help you?  What do you agree or disagree with?

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5 thoughts on “Interpersonal Skills Example: Maybe It’s a Misunderstanding?

  1. PJ

    its a good read. However your suggested solution applicability in work life is difficult. Particularly if you have such thing with your peers. it may have other effects.

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