A massive chunk of your success at work depends on how well you navigate the social landscape around you. Often, the higher the position you’re aiming for, the better you need to be at relating to others.
So without having the requisite skills to connect to, relate with, and influence those we work with, it’s difficult to get ahead at all. Here’s the thing, though: most people think building relationships at work is about getting other people to pay attention to you.
The reality is that it’s the exact opposite. As Dale Carnegie put it, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
That said, there’s a vast difference between those who win people over with sincerity and genuine concern, and brown-nosers who are just insufferably annoying. If you want to join the ranks of the former, here are the five interpersonal skills you need to do it.
P.S. Give yourself the tools to foster better, stronger relationships at work with SSA Academy’s WSQ course on communicating and relating effectively at the workplace today!
Without being able to understand and relate well to yourself, you won’t be able to do it with others.
In his 1983 book on the theory of multiple intelligences, psychologist Howard Gardner refers to this skill as intrapersonal intelligence. Essentially, it’s about knowing and being secure in who you are.
Self-aware people know what they want in life, what motivates them and what doesn’t, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what their life values and principles are. This underpins their ability to recognise these characteristics in others, and use it to relate better.
Crucially, they’re also more willing to appraise themselves honestly and objectively, as well as being more receptive to feedback from others.
It’s what differentiates a great leader from a mediocre one. Fantastic leaders know themselves deeply; their self-knowledge is what allows them to know others so well and admit when they’re wrong.
Empathy is one of the most powerful interpersonal skills you could have in your toolbox. Every employee benefits from being better able to see things from others’ perspectives.
The more empathetic people are, the better they are at collaborating, resolving conflicts, and establishing and building rapport at work. All of these are crucial in determining personal and team job performance.
Beyond this, though, empathy also allows you to know people better than they know themselves. If you’re aiming for a management position, this is indispensable since it puts you in a better position to advise and coach others.
Knowing people’s needs, their wants, their desires, and their goals; all of this is necessary to motivate others and unlock their full potential.
The data concurs. Based on research from Google’s Project Oxygen, a whopping 7 out of the 10 behaviours of the best managers depend on practicing empathy. The behaviour at the top of the list? Being a good coach.
Empathy can even improve your bottom line; so many business processes depend on identifying and understanding unmet needs and responding to them.
To go even further than that, you need to understand that you can’t always depend on people to know what they want. The best innovators in the world, including Steve Jobs and Henry Ford, succeeded because they gave people something they didn’t even know they wanted. Without empathy, it wouldn’t have been possible.
“Vulnerability” is having a moment; more and more, people are realising the importance of vulnerability in the workplace.
The fact of the matter is that people would rather not put on a different face at work. It makes sense since we spend so much of our lives working. What’s important about this, though, is why we’d rather be authentic in all aspects of our lives: we crave psychological safety.
Going back to Project Oxygen, Google’s researchers found that the secret ingredient for team performance wasn’t technical expertise or a commitment to efficiency. It was whether or not team members felt safe with one another.
If people are allowed to be their authentic, full selves at work, they can devote their fullest attention and energy to working and collaborating better.
To that end, leaders often play a huge role in setting the tone for psychological safety. Paradoxically, if you want to lead well at work and in life, you can’t be afraid of showing vulnerability and being authentic.
To quote Simon Sinek, “When a leader makes the choice… to sacrifice their comforts and sacrifice the tangible results, so that the people remain and feel safe and feel like they belong, remarkable things happen.”
Obviously, persuasiveness is a huge asset to salespeople in particular, but this isn’t just exclusive to them. No matter what your role is within an organisation, you need to know how to influence others.
Whether you’re pitching an idea to your boss, negotiating contract terms with a client, acting as a mediator in a work-related conflict, or trying to motivate your subordinates as a leader, good persuasion and negotiation skills are key.
Fundamentally, you need to be an excellent communicator. It’s not enough to merely be articulate; you have to communicate with people at their level, based on their interests and the things that are important to them.
That necessitates practicing active listening.
If you want to do a satisfactory job, listen to what’s being said. If you want to change the game and exceed expectations, you also need to pick up on what’s not being said.
Sometimes, it means paying attention to non-verbal communication cues. Other times, it means reading between the lines. It makes all the difference if you’ve already built up a strong relationship with the other person. When you have ongoing rapport and camaraderie, it’s easier to “read” people and sense what they’re not saying to you.