Interpersonal Competence, Relationships and Success

Today is my birthday.  I’m 59.  And you know what?  I feel better than I did when I was 49.  I’m lucky.  I have my health.  I have a beautiful, loving wife and every day I get to do a job that I love. 

Because it’s my birthday, I want to thank you for reading this blog.  I appreciate you.  So here’s what I’m going to do.  I am going to give ten copies of my latest book 42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success to the first ten people who send me an email at with the words “Free 42 Rules Book” in the subject line.  These are hard copies of the book, signed by me, not the eBook version.

Now on to today’s post…

Competence is one of the keys to career and life success that I discuss in several of my books: Straight Talk for Success; Your Success GPS; and 42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success.  If you want to succeed you need to develop four basic, but important competencies: 1) creating positive personal impact; 2) becoming a consistently high performer; 3) communication skills; and 4) becoming interpersonally competent.

Here’s an overview of how to become interpersonally competent.  It’s Rule 34 in 42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success.

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.

Pat Wiesner is a friend of mine.  He is the publisher of Colorado Business Magazine and writes the “On Management” column for the mag.  A couple of years ago, he wrote a great column entitled “The Biggest Management Sin of All: How to Lose Your Job or at least Deserve to Lose It.”

The biggest sin?  Demeaning people. Pat says, “My belief is that if we get caught shouting at people, demeaning them in any way, we should be fired. On the spot.”

I agree. And this holds for everyone – not just people in leadership and management positions. Raising your voice and demeaning people is not only poor leadership, it is one of the hallmarks of interpersonally incompetent people.

Belittling, intimidating, or otherwise demeaning people is not only nasty, it is destructive to their self esteem and self confidence. Pat says, “Once you have made someone feel really negative about himself, how long would it take to reverse that feeling?  Pretty tough to do.” I believe that interpersonally competent people help others build – not destroy – their self confidence.

Interpersonally incompetent people often seem to feel that the best way to feel good about themselves is to make others feel bad about themselves. That’s why they often engage in demeaning and bullying behavior.

This is simply not true. The title of one of the first self-help books I ever read – published by Thomas Harris in 1969, I’m OK, You’re OK – says it best. Interpersonally competent people come from an “I’m OK, You’re OK” place. Bullies and demeaning people come from an “I’m OK, You’re Not OK” place.

Interpersonally competent people realize that we’re all OK. They work hard to meet people where they are and to build strong relationships with all of the people in their lives.

Treat people with kindness and respect. Help them enhance their feelings of self esteem. Do what you can to build their self confidence. If you do, you’ll be known as an interpersonally competent person – and interpersonally competent people are welcome wherever they go.

Interpersonal competence will help you create rich relationships that last a lifetime.  In The Little Black Book of Connections, Jeffrey Gitomer offers the best piece of common sense advice I’ve ever seen when it comes to relationships:

“Everyone wants to be rich. Although most people think being rich is about having money, rich is a description for everything but money. Rich relationships lead to much more than money. They lead to success, fulfillment and wealth.”

The common sense point here is simple.  Successful people are interpersonally competent.  There are a few common sense points associated with interpersonal competence.  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.

That’s my take on interpersonal competence and success.  What’s yours?  Please take a moment to leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  As always, thanks for reading.


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  1. Happy birthday, Bud!

    This post reminds me of Steve Roesler’s earlier this week, with the comments about demeaning and bullying.

  2. Beth:
    Thanks for the birthday wishes.
    I bet you didn’t know that Steve Roesler is a good friend of mine. We worked together in the Training and OD Department at Pfizer in the 80’s, and we have worked together on several consulting projects since we left our corporate jobs to pursue the entrepreneurial life.
    All the best,

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