Are you winsome at work? Are people drawn to you and your ideas? Do you have presence and influence?
Startup success hinges on your ability to win over others. That’s the view of entrepreneurs Ash Ali and Hasan Kubba, authors of The Unfair Advantage. They discuss how you can determine whether interpersonal skills are your unfair advantage, and they provide tips on how to improve these skills.
Continue reading to learn about the importance of interpersonal skills in business.
Unfair Advantage #4: Interpersonal Skills
Interpersonal skills are your ability to relate to—and persuade—potential customers, employees, and investors. Ali and Kubba discuss the importance of interpersonal skills in business, asserting that excellent interpersonal skills give you a huge advantage.
(Shortform note: Research supports Ali and Kubba’s claim that interpersonal skills are valuable when launching a startup. Data shows that 85% of financial success comes from the ability to communicate effectively with others, whereas only 15% comes from technical skills or knowledge.)
Ali and Kubba say that everyone has unique strengths and weaknesses when it comes to relating to others. The key is to accentuate your strengths and accommodate for your weaknesses. For example, if you’re more introverted, you might need to make a purposeful effort to put yourself in situations where you’ll meet new people. Alternatively, you can partner with someone who’s naturally extroverted, an approach we’ll discuss more later in the guide.
(Shortform note: Although introverts may benefit by tapping into the skills that come more naturally to extroverts, they don’t necessarily need to transform themselves into someone they’re not to achieve success. While startup founders are often portrayed as hard-charging, outgoing extroverts, research shows that roughly four in 10 top executives identify as introverts, including Google CEO Larry Page and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Introverts tend to foster a better team environment than extroverts and are better listeners, a major asset for effective leadership.)
How to Know If Interpersonal Skills Are Your Unfair Advantage
How can you tell if interpersonal skills are one of your unfair advantages? Evaluate how easy it is for you to connect with people. Do you intuitively adjust your communication style to match others’ moods and personalities, or do you consistently “rub people the wrong way”? If you’re unsure about your skills in this area, Ali and Kubba recommend asking your friends and family for input.
(Shortform note: To expand your insight into the strength of your interpersonal skills, you may consider the approach Olivia Fox Cabane suggests in The Charisma Myth: assessing your presence, power, and warmth. Do you give others your full attention when talking to them? If so, you have presence. Do you appear confident, secure, and assertive in getting what you want? If so, you have power. Do others feel that you genuinely care about their well-being? If so, you have warmth. According to Cabane, these three characteristics determine how likable and persuasive you are to others.)
How to Improve Your Interpersonal Skills
If you want to develop your interpersonal skills, consider the following action steps:
- Be inquisitive. Express interest in how people think and feel, and listen carefully to their responses.
- Stay in touch with your emotional reactions. Be sure you base your decisions on sound logic, not passing anger or excitement.
(Shortform note: As Ali and Kubba indicate, being inquisitive and self-aware are both effective ways to improve your interpersonal skills. Research shows that curiosity expands our empathy and enhances our ability to understand people whose experiences and worldviews are different from ours. Being self-aware helps us think more objectively about our feelings and actions, allowing us to align our behaviors with our values. In turn, this enhances our ability to relate authentically to others and make a positive impression.)
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Here's what you'll find in our full The Unfair Advantage summary :
- The guidebook you need if you're planning to start a business
- How to find and use your unfair advantages (everybody has some)
- The steps you must take to achieve startup success