In my experience as an executive coach it is rare to have a client who during the course of our engagement does not seek help at some level or in some instance in the art of human interaction. And I’m always impressed when this occurs, for it is an insightful recognition that no matter what position that person holds, how powerful, skilled, intelligent, innovative, or gifted, the ability to relate to others is pivotal in his or her personal and professional effectiveness.
I’m reminded of an incident several years ago that stirred up an intense debate between my boss and me about a certain colleague who though extremely skilled at what he did, had some severe interpersonal deficiencies. I argued that in the long run his inability to interact favorably with other people would one day be to his detriment. But my boss strongly defended the guy, arguing that as long as he produced such profitable results it would outweigh his inability to get along with people. Neither of us ever won the debate though, for soon after we had engaged in that heated conversation the man left our firm and took a position elsewhere.
Human interaction is an art whether we think of it that way or not. It is a creative activity, creative meaning that by definition it evolves from our own thoughts and imagination. And true artists are much more than just conveyors of their thoughts – through painting, sculpting, music, writing and so forth – but are equally concerned with how the audience will receive and perceive their works. That’s why those who are masters at human interaction are artists, by creatively conveying their thoughts in such a way that considers how others will receive and perceive them.
Who knows who would have won the argument about my former colleague, perhaps my boss was right on that one. But I also know that the most successful people I run across consider their ability to relate to be pivotal in their personal and professional effectiveness – and that means seriously developing and practicing the “art” of human interaction.