Interpersonal Effectiveness Within the Complexity Of Human Relationships

Science has focused much of its effort on discovering the physical laws that govern our physical environment and our relationship with it. But there is another aspect in human existence that is as complex as the physical environment it thrives in. The emerging science of emotional intelligence has made startling discoveries on the social aspect of human life. Studies in this field, such as those of Daniel Goleman, have proven that our the daily interactions with each other  have far-reaching effects on our physical bodies and is as significant as our relationship with the physical environment.

We are ushered into the domain of interpersonal relationships the moment  human hands assisted our entrance into the world, Our daily interactions with our families, our kin, our friends, those we work with and even with strangers affect our body’s function. Interpersonal situations such as an altercation, a relationship break up, the lost of a loved one, bonding moments, all trigger a flow of hormones that regulate the functions of our internal organs.

Emotional intelligence (EI) experts have established that our brains are somewhat “wired” to each other and to avoid short circuits, we need interpersonal skills to interact with others properly. Effective interpersonal skills make us attuned to each other and enable us to demonstrate compassion and sensitivity that put those around us at ease. They give us the ability to relate well and to build rapport with all kinds of people. Interpersonal effectiveness is one of the capacities of EI under the cluster of social awareness.

People lacking this competence

  • have difficulty relating to others as they have “rough-around-the-edges” personalities.
  • have an approach to people that tends to “chill” the transaction.
  • may be arrogant, insensitive, distant, unapproachable, impatient, too intense, too quick to get to the agenda, and/or too busy to pay attention.
  • may devalue others and dismiss their contributions, demonstrating a lack of respect.
  • fail to listen and instantly jump in with their opinions, solutions, and conclusions.
  • are overly directive and sharply reactive toward others. Often tell others what to do. Are unable to “read” other people and don’t take the time to build rapport.

People with this competence

  • Know how the social world works: what is expected in social situations, and is sensitive to social signals.
  • Take a genuine interest in, and are curious about, other people; they want to know who they are, what they do, and how they think.
  • Have exceptional listening skills: they listen for what’s not being said as much as for the spoken words; they listen for understanding, without interrupting, without judgment.
  • Ask far more open-ended, clarifying questions than those who lack this skill.
  • Meet people where they are so they can ease interpersonal transactions and get done what they need to get done.
  • Interact smoothly with others, even at the nonverbal level.
  • Demonstrate a skill in building and mending relationships.
  • Understand and respect cultural, religious, gender, socioeconomic and cultural differences.
  • Share information with others, and obtain more information in return.
  • Know others’ communication styles and relate to others using the optimal approach.
  • Understand and use diplomacy and tact in relating with others.
  • Have a contagious positive, enthusiastic attitude; quickly put people at ease.
  • Can match and mirror cues from others to demonstrate understanding.
  • Have the ability to build rapport.
  • Have the ability to defuse high-tension situations with ease.

To strive for effective interpersonal relationships is therefore crucial to a healthy and meaningful existence but it is challenged by the fact that people are wired differently. How can unique individuals co-exist peacefully, respect each other and benefit from relationships? The answer might be difficult to imagine considering the complexity of human nature. But the good news is studies on emotional/social intelligence have revealed that human beings have built-in capacities for social interaction such as  empathy, cooperation and altruism. Although these capacities are affected by other factors such as genes, upbringing and past experiences, social intelligence can be developed, nurtured and harnessed.

Here are tested development tips that will  open a space for a breakthrough in your interpersonal relationships. These will require your commitment, patience, perseverance and determination:

  • Focus on other people first.  “Seek first to understand.” So admonishes Stephen Covey in his book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”
  • ”Understand that people come in different styles: take a DISC profile or Social Styles Inventory, or Myers Briggs. Learn to “read” others and enhance your ability to approach others with the appropriate interpersonal skills. Become skilled in using all types of interpersonal skills, know and understand the people you relate with, and select the interpersonal approach that is most comfortable for them, not for you.
  • Take a 360-degree assessment that measures interpersonal skills. Ask for honest feedbacks from others whom you trust. Do you come across as arrogant, insensitive, distant, unapproachable, impatient, too intense, too quick to get to the agenda or task at hand, or are you too busy to pay genuine attention to others?
  • Take a course or read a book on listening, and learn to truly listen to others – not only what they are saying, but what they are not saying. Listen for what motivates them, what they need from you in the moment; listen for their emotional state.
  • Pay attention to how people respond to you: Do they look uncomfortable? Do they back up, check their watch, look away for a way to escape? Do they appear nervous, stumble over their words, fidget with their papers or personal items? Work triply hard to observe others’ reactions to you.
  • Share information. Share the “why behind the what.” Confide how you arrived at your thinking and conclusions, and more importantly, invite others to share their thinking and ideas.
  • Manage your non-verbals. People respond more positively to individuals who are smiling and calm, who nod while the other person is talking, who speak in a pleasant tone, not too rapidly or forcefully, whose body language and face indicate an openness, individuals who appear relaxed and welcoming.

Our joy will be sweeter if we have someone to share it with; our grief would be lighter if there are others to help us carry it; pains would be bearable if someone else could empathise; and our anger would grow if there is no one to express it to. We are social beings. Let’s not burn bridges more than we build them. Remember, healthy relationships equal a healthy life. Bad relationships poison life or worst, shorten it.

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