This is the third in a series of five blog posts on the key components of Emotional Intelligence: Self Perception, Self Expression, Interpersonal Skills, Decision Making and Stress Management.

We’re now at the third building block of emotional intelligence: Interpersonal Skills. Here we see how the areas of self perception and self expression start to build upon each other. Knowing and understanding how you feel about situations and being able to communicate your thoughts effectively will support the arena of Interpersonal Skills.

Let’s look at the three main Interpersonal Skills that we can continue to develop along with other emotional intelligence skills:

  • Interpersonal Relationships: Developing and maintaining relationships based on trust and compassion.
  • Empathy: Recognizing and understanding other people’s feelings and perspectives. Being able to communicate their point of view and behave in a respectful manner.
  • Social Responsibility: Acting responsibly and being willing to contribute to the welfare of others.*

Trust and compassion are cornerstones of all three of these areas. Although they may sound like aspects of more personal relationships, they are also the foundation of solid business relationships. They can even be the litmus test of how successful your company is at reaching its financial goals.

Take my friend Scott Marvel, for example. Not only does he leverage these areas of Emotional Intelligence in running his company, Daily Planet Productions, he’s built a successful charity that’s raised over $100,000 to support the homeless. Give a Shirt pulls together talented artists who design T-shirts that he and his team hand screen. 100% of all profits go to Streetwise, which provides support, immediate employment, and workforce development for Chicago’s homeless population.

How does Scott run a company and a charity that inspires so many people? Well, if you ask Scott, it all goes back to Mr. Rogers and his famous quote about helpers.


When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” –Fred Rogers



Scott is always willing to put in the extra time, energy, and effort if it will fill a need or lift someone up. This desire to help make the world just a little bit better is second nature to Scott. Social Responsibility is in his DNA. He has an innate passion to serve.

And Scott’s passion is contagious. Just ask any of the designers that contribute their time and art to his cause. Nate Azark, founder/creative director of 12line Studio, a full service design studio has been designing shirts for Give A Shirt from day one. Here’s Nate’s take on Scott:

Scott really cares about doing good for others. At first I thought there must be some catch. Why would this guy spend his nights and weekends printing T-shirts for this cause without making a dime? Well because his heart is as big as he is. You might say it’s three sizes too big… 

It’s one thing to donate your own time and energy. It’s quite another to inspire others to donate theirs. That’s influence. And it’s a critical component to being a successful leader.

Another of Scott’s superpowers is how open and supportive he is of his colleagues and friends. When you call him with a question about your upcoming project, he doesn’t just answer the question. He’ll ask you how your Dad is doing and even remember your Dad’s name. He listens, understands, and shares what’s going on with him as well. This shows compassion and builds trust, two pillars of strong interpersonal relationships.

A key contributor to his successful relationships is Scott’s ability to empathize for others. He reaches out to communities outside of his own to better understand them. When communicating with others, he checks in to see that he’s understanding the situation correctly so others know he understands their perspective. It’s not enough to understand– the other person has to know that you do.

Let’s look at how we can learn from Scott as we practice growing these areas in our own lives.

Interpersonal Relationships:

  • Take time to connect. Whether it’s spending the first few minutes of your day checking in with your team or scheduling weekly one-on-one check ins, your time is well spent. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can connect and share information when it’s done on a regular basis.
  • Make a list. Think about everyone on your team or the key people in your life. Make a list of one thing you could tell them that would strengthen that relationship. Is there a request you need to make? A thank you that needs to be said? A misunderstanding that could use some clearing up?
  • Embrace differences. Conflict is inevitable. How do you want to handle it? Think about times in the past where you’ve experienced conflict. What worked? What didn’t? What do you want to do differently next time?


  • Repeat after me. How do you know you truly understand what your team thinks? Next time, ask them for their perspective. Take a moment to reflect back what you heard. You’ll clear up any potential misunderstandings and ensure that you actually understood them correctly.
  • Ask and listen. As a leader, coaching someone involves asking questions to support the other person’s capacity to solve the problem themselves. Look at what words start the questions you typically ask. “Why” questions may put someone on the defensive. Look at alternative questions that start with “What” instead. What did you learn from that experience? vs. Why did you do that? You can feel the difference.
  • Have the talk. Sometimes our feelings get in the way of making that tough call. Rather than avoiding difficult conversations, let your empathy support having the talks you’d rather not have. How can you be assertive and empathetic at the same time?

Social Responsibility:

  • It’s not about you. How are you supporting your team so everyone meets their goals? What can you do differently to let your team know you’ve got their back?
  • Use your influence. Where can you leverage your position to serve the greater good? Maybe you can get your team some extra paid time off after pulling long hours to make a deadline. Maybe you can use your skills to support a cause you’re passionate about inside your company or your community.
  • Take the hit. When things don’t go as planned, how do you take and/or share responsibility? How do you keep your team motivated when the going gets tough?

Interpersonal Skills are where our internal dialogue get checked and balanced with the people around us. Learning to balance our Empathy with our Assertiveness takes practice. We’re not always going to get it right. Checking in with others to understand their perspectives along the way will create better alignment on whatever topic you’re facing. It’ll also continue to deepen the trust needed when it’s time to make the big decisions..

Stay tuned for the next blog in the Emotional Intelligence series where we look at Decision Making.

*For a deeper understanding of Emotional Intelligence, I recommend the work of Steven J. Stein, author of The EQ Edge and The EQ Leader. Stein developed a valuable assessment to better understand how you’re currently using your emotional intelligence skills, allowing you to clarify opportunities for personal and professional growth.

If you’d like to better understand your own emotional intelligence skills, taking the assessment and getting a debrief from a certified emotional intelligence expert might be the right step. Contact me for more information.