Interpersonal Skills


Assumptions really are termites to relationships. I hear assumptions every day because the bulk of my leadership coaching is helping people manage their people problems and conflict.
“She’s dismissing my ideas because she’s threatened by me.”
“He’s not promoting me because he doesn’t like me.”
“She’s not including me in decisions because she’s a control freak.”

For any given situation there are MANY possibilities to explain what might be going on. Some of our problems might even be caused by our own blind spots.

Instead of assuming, ASK. Open, honest communication works best. Try something like this:

“The last few weeks I’ve observed _________. Could you help me understand what led to that decision?”

“I’ve presented three ideas this quarter that were declined. I’d be interested in receiving feedback on how I could present my ideas differently to increase receptivity.”

The next time you catch yourself making an assumption, challenge yourself to consider possible alternatives, give the person the benefit of the doubt, and ask!
The gap between love and hate is created by misunderstandings.


Managers – Does Your Team Trust You? Find Out!

​Are you exhibiting these 5 traits to your employees? If not, they don’t TRUST you.
A message and plea to people managers:
Employees who can’t stand one more year with their manager are getting ready to fly. I, and others, will help them leave.
Here are FIVE things you MUST do daily with your employees if you don’t want that to happen:
1. Be OPEN and HONEST. This is a two-way street: Be open with your team, and open to their ideas and input. Always tell the truth.

2. Be COMPETENT. You don’t have to know it all. If you aren’t competent in your position, your team won’t respect you. Find a mentor to help you create a plan to grow as a manager.
3. Be DEPENDABLE. Don’t promise things and not follow through. Do what you say you’re going to do.
4. Be FAIR. Playing favorites kills morale and will cost you.
5. Show you CARE. Your employees must feel you consider their well-being when making decisions and care about what’s important to them. Share their burdens.
Do you exhibit these 5 trust-builders? All five are needed. Not sure? Ask them.
In 2018, commit to invest in the time to become the manager your employees will be torn to ever leave.

Dramatically Increase Your Interpersonal Power. Here’s How.

Did you know there are two additional levels of listening you’ve probably never heard of? I’m going to teach you how to use them, and it will dramatically increase your interpersonal power.

Listening is more natural for some than others, but it’s not as hard as you think. The first step is:

1. You reframe your thinking on the goal of communication

2. Become aware of the 3 levels of listening, and how to operate within them

Most think of communication as a means to convey and receive information, and that’s not entirely accurate. The goals of communication are:

  1. To understand
  2. To be understood
Most of us tend to prioritize the second goal, to be understood. However, when we prioritize the first goal, to first understand others, the second actually takes care of itself. When you seek to understand others, they will respond by seeking to understand you. It’s a beautiful reciprocity that you’ve influenced by being a listening leader.
Within the context of seeking to understand, let’s look at the levels of listening:
Level One is Listening for information – Most people don’t move beyond this level. They listen long enough to get a grasp of the message, then move into problem solving, defending, or some action state in response to what’s been said. The problem with this approach is there’s MUCH more to communication than what’s been verbally stated, knowing the goal of communication is to understand.
This is where level two comes in: Listening for impact.
I went to the park with my daughter this morning, and while I usually keep to myself, today I struck up a conversation with a young mom. She asked me what I do for a living, and I told her I’m a Career Coach. She said, “Maybe you could help me. I still haven’t figured out what I want to do when I grow up.”
She shared she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, and she didn’t have a degree, so she felt very limited in her options.
The career coach could have kicked in with information on mechanics of job search, and places that hire people without a college degree. Instead, I asked myself, “What is the impact this is having on this woman. She’s feeling very uncertain. She hadn’t been planning on going back to work until her children were in school full time. What are the fears and challenges this is causing?”
Because of level two listening – impact – I instead asked more questions and listened to her concerns and fears. This helped me understand that her primary and most pressing need was not job search mechanics, it was support and validation of her ability to contribute in this world. We began to talk about strengths she innately possesses that someone is willing to pay for, such as the natural ability to organize, or listening empathically to people who need it.
She said she had not considered how her natural talents qualify her to make a contribution. Don’t we all tend to fall into that trap from time to time? My mentor says that’s like a bird lamenting they can’t fly without having to use their wings.
This line of conversation took me to the third level of listening – Listening for what’s not being said. As I was listening to her share her career struggle, it enabled me to read what wasn’t being said directly: She and her husband are not on the same page about her going back to work, and it’s causing conflict.
After exercising the three levels of listening, I was able to determine how I might best help her, and the first step was most certainly not brushing up her resume. It’s helping her have constructive dialogue with her husband to get them both on the same page.
He wants her to get a job, but what I’m going to do is coach her to talk to him about what his goals are. So often people issue solutions without taking a step back to talk about the goal. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and until they talk about the underlying issues that lead him to believe she needs a job, she will resent him for what she perceives as forcing her to work when she doesn’t feel confident about her ability to do so.
When your goal is to understand, only then are you in a position to meet the true need of the other person, whether it’s a co-worker, your boss, or a stranger at the park.
What’s one thing you want to do differently as a result of this information? Or, ​do you already exercise the three levels of listening?
All the best to you!

What Body Language Says in an Interview

You can learn a lot about an interviewer by observing their body posture and gestures, and an interviewer can also learn a lot about you, because 55% of communication is nonverbal.

When I was a hiring manager I tried to be conscious of my body language in interviews, and I watched the gestures closely of those I interviewed.

We learn to control and mask our facial cues more than any other part of our body, so the most unmasked, truthful body language is observed at the extremities. 

Below are some body language considerations to take note of while interviewing.

Non-verbals of the Feet and Legs

When someone turns their feet away from you, either both feet or one foot turned away creating an “L” formation, this means they are ready to depart the conversation. They may even swivel their chair so their lower body and torso is pointed away from you.

Alternatively, when a person’s feet (and torso) directly face you, this is a sign of engagement.

When a person has crossed legs, and begins bouncing their upper foot, this can be a sign of discomfort or lack of interest.

If you notice someone disengaging from the conversation with their legs and feet, make note of your body to ensure you’re not initiating their discomfort with your non-verbals. After the interview, perhaps you can determine what you were saying when you noticed a change in their body language.

Watch what your feet and legs convey:

  • Keep your ankles uncrossed. Crossed ankles suggests insecurity or discomfort. I’ve seen many interviewees do this.
  • Don’t jiggle your legs. It projects nervousness and anxiety.
  • Keep your feet pointed directly at the interviewer.

Upper Body Non-Verbals

People tend to lean back and away from someone in an interview when they are not connecting with them. However, this can also be a territorial posture when coupled with splayed legs (usually in men). Conversely, we lean into people when we are comfortable with them.

Arm crossing is a protective gesture. When someone blocks their upper body with crossed arms, it’s an indication they’re being guarded toward you. Gripping the arms while crossed is an elevated sign of discomfort.

Watch what your upper body conveys:

  • Don’t allow your shoulders to rise up. Keep them pulled down and slightly pulled back in proper posture. Shrugged or slumped shoulders displays lack of confidence.
  • Leaning forward slightly is preferable to leaning back, or sitting stiffly, as it displays approachability and comfort with the interviewer.

Non-verbal hand gestures

When an interviewer is leaning in toward you and has interlocked fingers with their thumbs pointing upward, this is a comfortable, open, conversational position.

Watch for hands in pockets, especially if they are leaning back in their chair. This is a dismissive posture.

Watch what your hands are saying:

People tend to wring their hands, or rub their palms together when they are nervous. Pay attention to how you use your hands in an interview. It will be noticed.

Women are especially guilty of touching their hair in an interview, whether pushing away their bangs, or tucking it behind their ear. It’s distracting, and comes across unprofessional. Consider wearing your hair in a style that reduces the chance you’ll touch it if this is a habit of yours.

Another hand consideration is to avoid wiping yours after shaking hands with the interviewer, either with your other hand, or on the side of your pant leg or skirt.

 One of the most confident hand positions is steepling your hands, finger tip to finger tip. You can have them steepled on your lap, or rested on the table in front of you. Try not to appear wooden — no need to keep your hands in one position the entire interview.

Loosely interlocked fingers are a comfortable alternative if you aren’t quite ready for steepled fingers. 

Facial cues

Some negative non-verbals from the face include:

  • Furrowed eye brows
  • Tightly pursed lips, with or without the corners of the mouth down-turned
  • Squinting
  • A delay in opening the eyes after closing them
  • Polite smiles where the corners of the mouth move out toward the ears, instead of curving up toward the eyes

Watch your own facial cues to ensure you’re not projecting these negative non-verbals. In addition, avoid licking your bottom lip. If you’re nervous, you may do this to soothe yourself unconsciously. 

When you smile, ensure the corners of your mouth are upturned, exposing your teeth. Smiles with closed lips often appear forced.

A slight head tilt is also positive sign. People convey openness and receptivity with this gesture. People don’t tend to head tilt if they don’t like you.

Have you observed telling or interesting body language in an interview? Please share with readers in the comments.

All the best to you!​

How to Handle People Who Reject Feedback

Giving feedback is hard for many people. And it’s frustrating to have your feedback met with resistance or hostility.

​The good news is you can do a lot to make it harder for someone to respond negatively to feedback, through preparation and delivery.

Reflect on the following before you ever say a word:

  • Have I made my expectations clear? When my oldest son reached a certain age we had different expectations around level of freedom while living at home. One weekend our expectations didn’t align and I realized I hadn’t done a good job setting forth expectations up front, or seek to understand his. Once I did, we had smoother sailing.
  • Are my expectations realistic? Ask two trusted and reasonable people if they have an alternate perspective for you to consider.
  • Am I being too sensitive? Give yourself a cooling off period to consider other perspectives. Announcing “I’m offended” is akin to saying I’m not able to manage my emotions. Yes, people say and do offensive things, but there is a space between something that happens to me, and my reaction to it. Within that space lies choice. I’m a big believer the world would be a much better place if we all had thicker skins.
  • What is my motive? Are you giving feedback out of genuine care and concern for the relationship, or with their best interest in mind? Be honest with yourself. What does your head say? What does your heart say? What does your gut say? If all three are aligned on pure motive, proceed with confidence.
  • Am I making assumptions? Things aren’t always as they seem. I recall many times I assumed and was wrong. The late, great Dale Carnegie wisely compels us to “assume the nobler motive” in others. To guard against assumptions become curious, asking questions in a neutral tone. “I think I might be interpreting what you said in a way you didn’t intend. Can we talk so I can better understand your perspective?”
  • Is this an appropriate time/place/medium for feedback? Feedback should be given privately, at a fitting time, in person. Use the phone if face-to-face is impossible. Dive-bomb feedback given before someone is about to deliver an important presentation, or when fighting a fire for a customer is ill-planned. Feedback shouldn’t be given in email or text messages. It will be misunderstood, and things will go sideways in a New York minute.

Give neutral, objective feedback.

  • It’s crucial to omit assumptive statements in feedback. You’re trying to do this, or You did this because…, or, I know you think/feel, etc. Unless you’re a mind reader, stay far away from assumptions and reference observablebehavior only. Example:

NO: “It really bothered me when you reassigned my project to Ellen. It concerns me you don’t trust me to do my job.”  ASSUMPTION ALERT!
YES“Reassigning the Acme project without providing the rationale has left me wondering if I’ve done something to lose your trust. Can you help me understand the reason behind the decision?”

  • No hyperbole, please. Magnifications and over statements such as You neverdo this, or You always do that are a problem. First, they aren’t true; they’re an exaggeration. Second, they’re inflammatory, setting the stage for our feedback to be ignored because people know they don’t always or never do anything, which weakens credibility of the feedback.

Calmly handle resistance

If you’ve provided objective verbal feedback, at an appropriate time and place, with pure motive, on observable behavior only, in a calm, neutral tone, it’s harder for someone to respond poorly. However, if it is met with rejection I recommend this approach:

  • Explain providing feedback was difficult, you reflected on the situation prior to coming to them, and you’re concerned their reaction will make it harder to come to them and have open communication in the future. You might add that positive communication and conflict resolution is critical to your collective success.
  • Remain silent. Maintain eye contact. Wait for a response.
  • If they respond favorably and soften, success! 
  • If they continue defensively, explain perception of the situation remains. Ask for their opinion on how the situation should be resolved. Remain silent. Maintain eye contact. Wait for a response.
  • If they continue to operate from a negative place, simply thank them for their time and part company.
  • Immediately document the conversation, its outcome, including their response to the suggested resolution question. Use exact phrases if possible.
  • Follow up a couple of days later and ask them if they’ve had time to reflect on the discussion, and if anything has changed. You want to allow them time to come around if they were having a bad day, or going through something you were unaware of.
  • If the original situation was serious (e.g. you were giving feedback about inappropriate behavior) and their stance has not changed, consider escalating to Human Resources or the person’s manager, along with your documentation of the conversation (which, in their own words, will demonstrate their unwillingness to resolve conflict).

Some people cannot admit their mistakes. You may have to cut your losses with these people, but don’t assume they aren’t coachable until you try. Unwillingness to accept feedback will catch up to them eventually. Congratulations, you should now be a feedback ninja!

All the best to you!