If you want to become interpersonally competent, you need to do three things: 1) Develop a deep understanding of yourself. Use this understanding to determine how you are similar or different from others. 2) Build strong, lasting mutually beneficial relationships with the important people in your life. 3) Resolve conflict in a positive manner.
A few days ago, I was in New York City and had dinner with Gary Steele, a close friend. Gary is an interesting guy. He had plenty of opportunities to play major college football, but he chose service and enrolled at the United States Military Academy. He retired after 23 years in the US Army as a full Colonel.
He also played football when he was at West Point. As it so happens, 40 years ago, he played a game at Penn State when I was student there. I saw him play that day. What a day it was. Penn State was the Number 2 team in the country that year. Gary and his mates almost beat us. It took a fluke play at the end of the game to clinch the win for Penn State. By the way, Gary caught eight passes for 156 yards that day.
Over dinner, Gary and I were talking about the importance of treating all people with the dignity and respect they deserve as fellow human beings. That’s what interpersonally competent people do. Later that evening, Gary sent me an excerpt from an 1879 address made by the West Point Commandant, John McAllister Schofield, to the corps of cadets. In part, it reads as follows…
“The discipline which makes the colleagues of a strong organization effective in operations is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make a strong organization. It is possible to impart guidance and to give directions in such a manner and such a tone of voice to inspire in a colleague the feeling of an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentments and a desire to disobey. The one mode or other of dealing with colleagues springs from the corresponding spirit in the breast of the leader. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them regard for himself, while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect towards others, especially his subordinates, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.”
General Schofield’s words work for anyone, not just leaders. I love the line “He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them regard for himself.” That says it all. Respect others and they will respect you. Strong relationships are based on respect and trust.
The common sense point here is simple. Interpersonal competence is an important key to career and life success. The ability to build strong relationships is a key to becoming interpersonally competent. If you want to build strong relationships with the important people in your life, respect them. Your respect will pay big dividends. As General Schofield points out when you respect other, you cannot fail to inspire high regard for you in them.
That’s my take on interpersonal competence and respect. What’s yours? Have you found that respect begets respect? If so, please leave a comment, sharing your experience with us. I welcome and encourage your comments. Thanks for reading – and writing.
Interpersonal competence is one of the keys to success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success.