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Published on October 4, 2017

The Most Important Interpersonal Skills for a Successful Career

The Most Important Interpersonal Skills for a Successful Career

Gone are the days where we can lock ourselves up in an office and avoid people. More and more companies are going towards open plan spaces and promoting transparency, collective work and communication. As an introvert, one of the biggest challenges I’ve had in my career was working with so many people. My type of socializing is to have everyone in one room so we can all read our favourite books without having to talk.

But that’s unrealistic in this world, especially when the current system is set up for extroverts as Susan Cain, the author of the book Quiet, says.

Funnily enough, today, I run retreats, events and workshops and spend days with hundreds of people – training many on mindset, leadership and business. If I had known what I know today when it comes to interpersonal skills, especially as an introvert, my life would have been a lot more easier.

Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, if you’re someone who’s hungry for growth and striving to climb up the ladder, in this post, I’ll share with you the most important interpersonal skills you need to have to create not only a successful career but also a fulfilling one.

Awareness of Your Own Voice and Behaviors

Whenever I hear conversations from saving ducks crossing the road to war, crime and economic crisis, I always bring it back to self-awareness. At the end of the day, whether it’s about career success or major crisis in the world, it always start with us – humans. As humans, we have the power and the advantage to do things other species in the world can’t do. And that’s self-awareness – bringing it back to the first practical step we can take.

Self-awareness is the weapon of the next generation leaders, the awakened ones and the heart-led way-seers. It’s about having the emotional intelligence (EQ) and understanding how our internal reality (values, beliefs and thoughts) can influence our external reality (actions and reactions from others).

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We’ve been listening to the media, news and others for so long that we’ve forgotten to listen to our internal voice, gut feeling, intuitive clarity and the connection with God, if you will. So when we start to pay attention to our thoughts, we become self-aware. And when we become self-aware, rather than re-acting, we’re now presented with choices on how we respond to situations.

As Viktor Frankl said,

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Confidence to Take on Challenges

I see many people going round and round in the vicious cycle of lack of confidence and wanting to achieve goals. I feel that self-confidence is a bit overrated today. Yes we need it for success and yes that will help us create so many opportunities but let’s take a pause and go back to the basics.

Where does it come from? Lack of self-confidence can stem from having been programmed since young by others that we’re not good enough, not fully understanding the task we’re doing, actively creating stories in our head that are not beneficial for us and not having mastery in that particular area. Most importantly, when we say we don’t have the confidence, most of the time we’re comparing ourselves to someone else by minimising ourselves and putting them on the pedestal.

So what if we forget for a moment, the whole pressure of needing to have the confidence, and rather just focus on the task in front of us and get really good at it? Mastery takes time and mastery takes practice. But by taking action and creating consistent practice, we also develop confidence along the way. Win-win-win? Yes please.

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Communicate Through Words and Actions

The communication methods we’ve been taught have gotten us this far. However, we’re now at a time where people are asking for authenticity, vulnerability and speaking from the heart. This is an opportunity for us to start changing the way we communicate with others so we all can become more real with each other and more connected with our heart. And that communication is not only communicating from words, gestures or tones, it’s also about communicating energetically.

It’s not news that we’re made of up energy and the ‘vibe’ the we feel from others is the electromagnetic frequency that’s emitted from the heart. Back in 1993, a social science study was done where 4000 meditators gathered to meditate, and there was a 23.3% drop in crime rate in Washington DC.

Overall in the world, there are more people practicing mindfulness meditation now than ever before. More and more people are going to the retreats and jungles. We’re becoming more empathetic and we’re starting to feel more. That means when we meet with others, both virtually and physically, we’ve already communicated a large chunk of information through our energy before the words are even said.

But where does that energy come from? Our emotions.

As you already know, our thoughts create feelings, feelings create emotions and emotions create energy, and then leads to our behaviours. Therefore, a big part of our communication relies on our thoughts. So when we’re dealing with others, it’s important that we’re in the right state of mind so that we can convey a message congruently through both our words and actions.

Listen to Understand

Dale Carnegie, the author of How To Win Friends and Influence People, says that people love to talk – especially about themselves. People want to be heard. When we’re fully present and listen attentively with the intent to understand, that’s one of the quickest ways to win friends and influence people.

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As an introvert, one of my strengths has always been listening. Since young, I have always been the go-to person among my friends for them to seek counsel. When I was in my corporate career, I was one of the most trusted people by the senior management. Now today in my coaching and training business, my clients share about the secrets that they’ve never told people that are holding them back in their lives.

One of the few things people tend to do when someone else is speaking is jumping in before they finish and jumping to conclusions. And also listening but not remembering what they’re saying. Presence is importance when we listen. In order to be present, we must have the willingness to listen with the intent to understand rather than listen with the intent to respond.

Negotiate and Persuade for a Positive Cause

In any type of career, these are one of the essential skills that will allow you to be able to influence others with the direction that you want to take. However, in order for us to be able to negotiate and persuade others, we need to have the first four traits so we can come from a place of empathy and compassion.

Ability to speak up and speak our truth is also important here. Many people – especially women – from my experience, have trouble asking for what they want and persuade without getting emotional. It’s important that we have the desired result in mind while we’re going this process but at the same time, have the ability to remain unattached to the outcome.

Brian Tracy, world renowned motivational speaker, says that the only difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is the ability to follow through. When it’s time to present our opinions and speak up, we do this a lot in our heads but we don’t take action. When we’re negotiating and persuading others, it’s a critical skill to hold space ourselves, present ourselves with confidence, speak with facts, negotiate with empathy and follow through with our intentions.

Lead Yourself First Before Anyone Else

There are many aspects to hone in on our leadership skills. Today, I’d like to come from a perspective where we do the introspective inquiry work. In the book Shakti Leadership, one of the best selling books on leadership, it says that we need to acknowledge and make the fragmented parts of ourselves whole in order to lead successfully. Ken Wilber, a well-known writer on transpersonal psychology, is also well-known for this process where we look at different identities of ourselves.

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For example, we have the Control Freak, the Seeker, the Visionary, the Driver and the Wounded Self. There are more identities out there but let’s stick to these five parts. The Control Freak will always want to make sure she gets everything according to her way and get everything perfect. But the Driver will just focus on making things happen. Even just looking at these two parts, when they exist within our mind and there will be conflict and stress.

In my Leadership workshops, I tackle leadership from self introspection perspective because at the end of the day, if we can’t lead ourselves, how can we lead others successfully? If we don’t have empathy and clarity towards ourselves, how can we show that to others?

As a leader, we need to get our ‘inner’ team right first. That means, we need to negotiate with all parts of ourselves in a way that we can work in harmonious ways. In fact, I just did this exercise with one of my clients, who is an Executive Coach. She’s a perfectionist who has to get things right before she can get things done. That means, she can never get things done without conflict within herself because the Perfectionist in her needs to take time to make sure everything is right.

However, the Driver within herself gets extremely frustrated because she can’t get things done quick. We dug deep and did some work. Eventually we were able to lead all parts of herself. The Perfectionist finally decided to step back until the projects are completed by the Driver so she can come in and do the final check. Now everyone’s happy.

In order to lead a successful career, we must first be able to lead within ourselves, know ourselves and understand all parts of ourselves.

Small Shifts Within Profound Great Shifts Externally

There are many other areas that we can look at but if we just focus on these points now, that will allow you to hone in on your interpersonal skills. At the end of the day, people around us are the mirror reflection of ourselves. Therefore, when we start to make these shifts within ourself internally, then we will be able to start seeing positive and profound shifts in our external reality.

More by this author

Arabelle Yee

International Speaker, Life & Business Strategist, High-Performance Coach

Arabelle Yee The Most Important Interpersonal Skills for a Successful Career

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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