Advice for Dummies on Interpersonal Competence

Today is Friday, so this post is on interpersonal competence.

On Wednesday, when I was writing about outstanding performance, I mentioned Marty Nemko’s book, Cool Careers for Dummies.  I was rereading it last night, and I was struck by how much the advice Marty offers in his closing chapter, Ten (Or So) Career Musts for Everyone, applies to becoming interpersonally competent.

Here is some of that advice.

Become a master communicator.  The key is good listening: really trying to understand what the talker is saying, while noticing changes in her tone of voice and body language, imagining how she’s feeling and asking follow-ups to be sure you really understand…Don’t talk too much, or too little.  Talk 30 – 50 percent of the time.  Ask questions to draw out quiet people.

Prize integrity.  If you – especially when it is too your detriment – do the ethical thing, you’ll be loved and respected on this earth.  And you can go through life with your head held high, knowing you’re making the world a better, not worse, place.

Become beloved.  Be generous with earned compliments, stingy with criticism.  Think twice before hurting a person’s self esteem.  As yourself: “Do I really need to say that?  If so, how can I say it so she feels OK?”

Ask for what you want.  Politely asking for what you want – advice, training, more responsibility – is usually worth the risk.  Make a list of the benefits versus the liabilities of making a request.  You’ll probably find that you have nothing to lose and much to gain.  Rehearse your request – then reduce it to a few guide words.  Practice beforehand.  Imagine the worst case scenario – could you survive?

Control your anger.  Anger is a career killer.  You can be calm 98% of the time, but blow up even rarely and you may be branded as a hothead.  Even passive aggressive anger gets noticed.  People feel it.  In the nanosecond that you feel anger rising in you, say: “excuse me, I need to use the restroom”.  In the privacy of that stall, amid the atmosphere of toilet paper and toilet seat protectors, take some deep breaths and ask yourself, “will displaying my anger serve me in the long run?”  Rarely will you answer yes. 

Always look forward.  Everyone has bad things happen to them, but my most successful clients don’t wallow.  They always ask themselves “what’s the next positive step I can take?”  I can offer you no better advice.

Cool Careers for Dummies is a cool book and Marty Nemko is a cool guy and a good writer.  (I love the way he was able to conjure up a vivid image of a toilet stall in an office building in the “control your anger” advice above.) 

In short, this really isn’t a book for dummies.  It’s a book for people who want to become a career and life success.  It’s full of good common sense advice.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website for more common sense.  Check out my other blog: for common sense advice on leading people and running a small business.

I’ll see you around the web, and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand – my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can

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