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Interpersonal Savvy Makes or Breaks Careers!

Interpersonal savvy as a career accelerator

Interpersonal savvy lives in team players, individuals that know what’s going on in their colleagues’ personal lives, and the folks that can smooth over ruffled feathers arising from interpersonal conflicts. Savvy is brought to life when we draw upon the right level of interpersonal skills and approaches from within our people skill toolbox. It allows us to choose the skills best adapted to each person we interact with. Too much and we come across as disingenuous or shallow. Too little and we tend to come across as lacking approachability, being too direct, or being impatient. 

Interpersonal skills, of vital importance in today’s working world, typically include empathy, listening, collaboration, and conflict management

The key is being able to get along well with all kinds of other people by holding back or muting personal reactions and focusing on others first. Savviness occurs when we work from the outside and move inwards. 

Sounds simple enough in concept, but how do skilled individuals do this?

Why interpersonal savvy is important

Let’s start by acknowledging that all people are, in fact, different (not better or worse, just different). Differences can be observable like physical differences (height, eye colour, weight, etc.), whereas others are observable in time (such as motivation, ability to articulate, warmth, coldness, etc.). Others still are not observable at all, except in very close relationships (such as values, personal information filters, etc.). Understanding these differences is the first step toward developing interpersonal savvy.  

Getting stuff done!

One important consideration to get anything done is the ability to see the differences in others and work with those differences (either by managing or leveraging them) for everyone’s benefit. Interpersonal savvy flourishes because we meet others where they are! It’s about making the interaction (or transaction) easy and smooth. That’s possible when we accept their style (or way) of doing things (meaning we don’t fight them) and don’t let our own style get in the way. So, let’s look at a few key techniques to improve our savviness.

First Few Minutes

First impressions are important. Adopt an open and approachable manner that allows you to absorb information early. This is done through rapport. Remember approachable people get more information naturally. Why? Because they put others at ease, and people at ease talk more.

The more we create an environment where the other person opens up early on, the more we learn about where they are coming from. This means we are more effective in tailoring our approach to the rest of the discussion.

Managing non-verbal cues

An interpersonally savvy person recognizes the importance of reading and adapting to non-verbal communication and cues. For instance, appearing and sounding calm, and open. Engaging by keeping eye contact, smiling, nodding, and, where appropriate, paraphrasing to confirm you’ve heard the intended message. We can aid this process (because all skills are a process in the end) by using a paced and pleasant tone of voice and using more neutral words (avoiding strong or loaded language). 

As important as what and how we say something, is how we behave. All non-verbal elements need to “send a consistent signal” to the other person. For example, if our tone and words are perfect but we are regularly checking our watch (a sign of impatience) – the mixed signals will break rapport and lead to less than ideal outcomes.  


In the context of interpersonal savvy, listening focuses on absorbing information and understanding so that we can choose an appropriate response style with the other person. We need to listen effectively without interrupting or jumping in with our own views (park judgments), however, clarifying questions are helpful (to ensure understanding). 

Final Thoughts

Interpersonal savvy is a key competency that involves being an effective listener and communicator while also being able to absorb and process information quickly. It can accelerate, or sink careers depending on the degree of skill mastery! Sharpening a few key areas can help you ensure that you are on the right side of the equation… 

Your turn

Sign in to the Community Member Area or comment below to share your advice with others on how you address the challenges of interpersonal relationships in the office.  

Give it a try!

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