You need to be interpersonally competent to build strong relationships. In 1988, researchers at the Department of Psychology at UCLA suggested that there are five dimensions of interpersonal competence…
- Initiating relationships.
- Providing emotional support.
- Asserting displeasure with others’ actions.
- Managing interpersonal conflicts.
Self-awareness was not one of the interpersonal competence factors identified by the UCLA researchers in 1988. On the other hand, the first three – initiating relationships, self-disclosure and providing emotional support — are ways to build and nurture relationships. The last two – asserting displeasure with others’ actions, and managing interpersonal conflicts — are ways to resolve conflict in a positive manner.
I believe that self-awareness is the foundation of interpersonal competence. Self-awareness is the first step in building positive relationships and in resolving conflict in a positive manner. Self-aware people understand how they are similar to, and different from other people.
They use this insight to help them do things like initiate relationships with a variety of people; determine how much they should disclose about themselves at various points in a relationship; and determine the appropriate amount of emotional support they should offer others. Self-aware people also use their knowledge of themselves and others to determine when and how to assert their displeasure with another person’s actions, and to manage and resolve interpersonal conflicts.
If you understand yourself, you can better understand others. I’ll use myself as an example. I prefer to think things through before I make my position on an issue known. There are several people I know who “think out loud,” meaning that they reach a position on an issue by talking about it. When I am with one of these people, I join them in thinking out loud. I know that if I don’t, decisions are likely to get made while I am thinking through my position silently.
Here’s another example. I make intuitive leaps. My mind goes from A to B to F. A lot of people I know process information sequentially. Their minds go from A to B to C to D to E to F. When I am with these people, I don’t blurt out my intuitive leaps. When I have one, I go back and fill in the B to C to D to E before I come out with F. In this way, I am better able to get my point across to my sequentially thinking colleagues and clients.
One more: I am happy to leave my options open, and to change my mind somewhat late in the game. I know a lot of people who don’t feel comfortable with this. They have strong needs for closure. Once a decision is made, they want it to stay made. When I’m dealing with these types of people, I ask myself if the change I am proposing will make a real difference. If not, I don’t propose it. If I think it is necessary, I bring it up. However, when I do, I am very clear that I am revisiting a decision that has already been made, that this might be frustrating to other people, but that I think it is necessary to rethink the decision – and then I give very specific reasons for wanting to revisit the decision and how such a conversation can yield better results.
The common sense career success coach point here is simple. Successful people build strong relationships with the important people in their lives. They follow the career advice in Tweet 126 in Success Tweets. “Self-awareness is the first step in building relationships and resolving conflict.” You can build solid relationships by taking the initiative, sharing information about yourself, being emotionally supportive, and sharing your feelings about behavior to which you have a negative reaction in order to resolve conflict positively. However, relationship building begins with self-awareness. Understanding yourself and how you are similar to, or different from others, is great career advice and the foundation of all relationship building.