By Joyce Weiss
No person is an island, and interpersonal skills are crucial for everyone’s success. Unfortunately, few business schools teach interpersonal skills, and most people learn how to relate to others in the business world by trial and error. While that approach may eventually work, too many errors can ruin your reputation and halt your company’s productivity.
Whether you know you need an interpersonal skills tune-up or just some new ideas to relate to others better, the following four interpersonal skills will enable you to work better with others and succeed in business.
1. Active Listening
True listening goes way beyond just hearing the words someone else is saying. When you’re an active listener, you don’t interrupt or judge the other person. Even if you disagree with what the person is saying, you’re able to understand the person’s contribution from his or her point of view. Listening also involves prompting the other person to tell you more by asking open-ended questions. Simple statements such as, “Tell me more,” or “How interesting,” show people that you are actively listening. Finally, taking some time to summarize the person’s main points helps reinforce what you just heard and alerts the speaker about any potential misunderstandings.
Just because you outwardly support someone doesn’t have to mean you completely agree with him or her. You can accept what others say without putting your own bias in the picture. Trying to control or manipulate the person’s ideas will only lead to mistrust. Therefore, allow the other person to share their idea without your criticism. Your goal should be to simply let the person know you’re listening and that you value their contributions.
3. Constructive Criticism
If you disagree with what a person did, focus on the behavior that you want to see, not on what the person did. Simply stating, “That was dumb,” or “I don’t agree with what you did,” doesn’t help things improve; it only fuels an argument. Instead, make alternate suggestions and reflect on what it would take to change the behavior.
4. Group Facilitation
Face any difficult situations that affect a group of people with the entire group. Encourage everyone to join the discussion and get their buy-in on fixing the problem and opinions on the best course of action. Also, be aware of the less-talkative members; they often have great ideas but need some prompting to voice them.
Having strong interpersonal skills will set you apart in today’s marketplace. People will want to be around you, which will position you as a respected leader.
Joyce Weiss, M.A. CSP, is a corporate communication strategist and coach. For the past 30 years, she has perfected patented strategies that have addressed peer bullying, standing up to upper management, career advancement, and resolving conflict. Weiss has been a frequent speaker at ABA’s Annual Meeting & Marketplace. She just launched an online coaching program called Communication Skills at Work. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.