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).


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.


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.


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.


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

Trending in Smartcut

1What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating) 2How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done 317 Types of Online Work at Home Jobs that Really Pay Off 421 Cover Letter Tips to Hook The Attention of Employers 5How to Quit Your Job That You Hate and Start Doing What You Love

Read Next


The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.


So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:


  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.


According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via


Read Next