It Always Pays to Be Nice

Today is Friday, so this post is on interpersonal competence. In my work as an executive coach, I have found that interpersonally competent people share at least three things in common:

Today is Friday, so this post is on interpersonal competence.


In my work as an executive coach, I have found that interpersonally competent people share at least three things in common:

  1. Interpersonally competent people are self aware.  They understand themselves, and as a result they understand others.
  2. Interpersonally competent people build solid, long lasting mutually beneficial relationships with the people in their lives.
  3. Interpersonally competent people are able to resolve conflicts with a minimal amount of problems and upset to relationships.

Today, I’d like to focus on relationships.  To begin, I’d like to share a story about the importance of relationships.

A few months ago, I had a meeting with a potential client.  I have known this guy for about 20 years.  He was a new HR rep at the company where I worked prior to starting my consulting and coaching business.  Now, he is a senior HR person with that same company and I am an executive coach.


A few weeks previous, we had a chance meeting.  I followed up and asked if I could have a few minutes of his time to tell him what I’ve been doing recently.  He said “sure”. 
As we were chatting, he said something that really hit home.  “When I was a young guy here, a lot of the people at your level didn’t pay a lot of attention to me.  That wasn’t true of you.  You were nice to me.  I can remember you asking me if I’d like to go to lunch or dinner a few times.  I was never able to make it, but I really appreciated you asking.  Quite frankly, that’s the whole reason you’re here now.  You treated me well many years ago when you didn’t have to.”  I told him that I really didn’t remember those things.  He said, “I do, and they meant a lot to me.”

There is a common sense point here.  Interpersonal competence comes from within.  Build relationships, and treat people well because it’s the right thing to do – not because you have something to gain from it.  People can spot a phony a mile away.

I have identified four tips for building strong relationships.

  • Help people feel good about themselves.
  • Listen.
  • Put yourself in their shoes.
  • Ask for their help.

Here are some of additional thoughts on that build on these tips.  If you use them, you will be able to build strong, lasting relationships with the people around you.  A few of them overlap with the points I’ve made on becoming a great conversationalist – as interpersonally competent people do well in conversations.

  • Work hard at relating well with all kinds of people.  People who are different from you, might make you feel uncomfortable at first.  However, they also have the potential for teaching you something you didn’t know.
  • Listen well and demonstrate your understanding of others’ points of view.  As questions if you don’t understand, repeat your understanding to make sure you got it right.
  • Be a consensus builder.  If you focus on where you agree with another person, you’ll find that it will be easier to resolve differences and come to agreement.
  • Learn how to relate to all kinds of people.  Focus on building mutually beneficial relationships.
  • Put others at ease.  Be diplomatic and tactful.
  • Be warm, pleasant and gracious and sensitive to the interpersonal needs and anxieties of others. 
  • Be receptive to feedback. 
  • Take a deep breath when you are angry.  Don’t blow up.  Present your side of things in a measured tone of voice.
  • Take responsibility for your feelings.  Don’t blame others if you are unhappy.
  • Be easy to get to know.  Share your feelings.  Be open about your personal beliefs.
  • Be attentive to the needs of others.  Listen actively.  Set a goal of listening twice as much as you speak.
  • Avoid judging and criticizing and preparing your response while the other person is speaking.  Instead, focus on understanding what they are saying, and the emotions behind what they are saying.
  • Show others the respect they deserve as human beings – listen to them and do your best to put yourself in their shoes.  Respond to the feelings they share with you before responding with facts. 
  • Be humble, not a know it all.  Apologize when you’re at fault.  Give people credit when they are correct.
  • Speak only when you have something to add to the conversation.  Don’t make comments just to hear yourself speak.  Refrain from stating the obvious.
  • Look people in the eye when you are speaking with them.  Ask questions to clarify things that are not clear to you.
  • Acknowledge other people for their contributions and talents.  Everyone likes to hear nice thing about themselves.

The common sense point here is simple, and a little zen-like.  People can spot a phony.  So, don’t just act in an interpersonally competent manner.  Be interpersonally competent.  Treat people with respect.  Engage them.  Listen to what they have to say.  Avoid being judgmental and overly critical.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website for more common sense.  I am not posting regularly on my blog right now, as I want to concentrate on this one.  It is still up though.  Please don’t cancel your RSS feed as I will be posting there occasionally.  And, you can still get a free ebook version of my book 4 Secrets of High Performing Organizations by visiting


I’ll see you around the web and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand, my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.