Advice to a Niece on Her College Graduation, Part 5

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

This is the final post in a series inspired by my niece, Brett’s, graduation from college. 

Interpersonal competence is the fifth key of career and life success.  Brett, no matter how self confident you are, how good you are at creating positive personal impact, how great a performer or dynamic a communicator you are, you will not succeed if you are not interpersonally competent.

Interpersonally competent people have three things in common.  1) They understand themselves.  They use this self understanding to better understand others.  2) They build and maintain, long term, mutually beneficial relationships with the important people in their lives.  3) They resolve conflict in a positive manner.

You have to understand yourself if you want to understand others.  Take a few minutes and answer these questions. 

  • Do I like to spend time with people, or do I prefer to be by myself? 
  • Do I like to take in information in a structured step by step manner, or do I prefer getting a lot of information all at once and figuring out the connections for myself?
  • Do I make decisions with my heart or with my head?
  • Do I like to resolve things quickly, or do I like to wait to the last minute to commit to a course of action?

You probably lean to one or the other of the choices in the four questions above.  Once you know this information, think about the people around you.  How are they similar to you?  How are they different?

For example, if you make decisions with your heart, you will have a difficult time convincing someone who makes decisions with his or head to do something because “it is the right thing to do”.  Instead, you’ll need to figure out the rational, logical reasons for what you want to do if you are going to convince a “head” person to go along with your ideas.

While it’s important to know yourself, it’s more important to know how you are similar and different from others, and to use this knowledge to help you become more influential with them.

Interpersonally competent people are also good at building strong, lasting relationships.  My best advice for relationship building is to give with no expectation of anything in return.  I know that it seems that the world works on quid pro quo.  That’s why when you do something nice and unexpected for others, you’ll be on your way to building a strong relationship with them.

Here’s an example.  In most recent ezine, I featured a book by Valerie Sokolosky called “Do It Right.”  I featured it because I thought it was a good book that would be beneficial to my readers.  I also hoped that I would give Valerie some exposure to an audience she might not normally reach.

The day after the newsletter went out I got this e mail from Valerie.

“Bud, you are so kind. I so appreciate this. And how can I help YOU????? This is what networking is all about. And coming from a place of abundance. You have my values, friend. Let me know how you are doing.”

Valerie and I are friends now – all because I took a little of my time to feature her book.  It seems that my readers benefited, she benefited, and I benefited all because I took a little step and did something with no expectation of anything in return.  It’s karmic really, it seems that very often you get things back when you least expect to.

Interpersonally competent people build relationships by doing for others.  They don’t keep score.  They know that in the long run, good things will come back to them if they do good things for others.

Finally, interpersonally competent people resolve conflict in a positive manner.  No matter how interpersonally competent you are, or how easy going you are, you will inevitably find yourself in conflict.  People will not always agree with you, and you will not always agree with others.

My favorite method for dealing with conflict is counter intuitive.  By definition, conflict is a state of disagreement.  When I’m in conflict with someone however, instead of focusing on where we disagree, I focus on where we agree.

I look for any small point of agreement and then try to build on it.  I find that it is easier to reach a larger agreement building from a point of small agreement, rather than attempting to tear down the points with which I don’t agree. 

Most people don’t do this.  They get caught up in proving their point.  They hold on to it more strongly when someone else attacks it.  If you turn around the discussion and say, “Let’s focus where we agree, and see if we can build something from there,” you are making the situation less personal.  Now the two of you are working together to figure out a mutually agreeable solution to your disagreement.  You’re not tearing down one another’s arguments just to get your way.  Try this, Brett.  It works.

As you probably expect there are some common sense points here too.  Understand yourself.  Think about what makes you tick.  When you are working with someone else, think about what makes him or her tick.  If he or she is different from you, decide what you need to do to be better able to communicate with him or her.  Second, do things for other people – and don’t keep score.  Good things will come your way, often from unexpected sources.  Build relationships by be willing to do for others whether or not they are willing to do for you.  Finally, when you are in conflict, look for where you agree with the other person.  Use these small places of agreements to build a mutually acceptable resolution to your conflict.

I hope this week’s worth of posts have been helpful, Brett.  In a way, they are a Cliff Notes version of my new book “Straight Talk for Success.”  You have a copy.  I gave you one on the day you graduated.  Good luck to you as you begin your career.  You have my very best wishes for a successful life and career.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website for more common sense and to subscribe to my weekly newsletter “Common Sense.” 

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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