Interpersonal Effectiveness

By Joe Alberts
Clinical Psychologist, The Resilience Centre

To use interpersonal skills effectively we have to decide the relative importance of:

  1. Achieving our objective
  2. Maintaining our relationship with the person(s)we are interacting with, and
  3. Maintaining our self-respect

It is important for us to know what we actually want – in other words what our goal is.  This is easier said than done and many interactions go off track when emotions interfere with knowing what we want.

Try this before your next “difficult interaction” with someone.  Decide before hand what you want to achieve and be clear in your communication.

Objectives Effectiveness 

The key question to ask yourself here is “What specific result or change do I want from this interaction”?  It may be what the other person is to do, to stop doing, to commit to, to agree to, or to understand.  It is important for the objective to be as specific as possible.  The clearer you are about what you want, the easier it will be to apply objectives effectiveness skills, and the clearer you will be as to whether or not you succeed in reaching your goal.

Examples are:

  • Refusing an unwanted or unreasonable request and making the refusal stick.
  • Requesting others to do something in such a way that they do what you ask.

Relationship Effectiveness 

The key question to ask yourself here is “How do I want the other person to feel about me after the interaction is over (whether or not I get the results or changes I want)?” At its best, you will get what you want and the person may like or respect you even more than before.

Examples are:

  • Acting in a way that makes the other person actually want to give you what you are asking for.
  • Focus on their needs and happiness and listen attentively. People who feel understood often wants to help in return.

Self-respect Effectiveness 

The key question to ask yourself here is “How do I want to feel about myself after the interaction is over (whether or not I get the results or changes I want)?”  Self respect effectiveness means acting in ways that fit your sense of morality, and that make you feel a sense of competence and mastery.

Examples are:

  • Standing up for yourself
  • Defending a friend
  • Stepping forward to say something courageous.

Deciding on the Relative Importance of the Three Effectiveness Types 

  1. All three types must always be considered
  2. Each type of Effectiveness may be more or less important in a given situation
  3. Each type of Effectiveness can be overused to our own detriment

As always balance is the key: 

Objectives Effectiveness – If we always focus on achieving our objectives others will feel unimportant or even used.  Choose wisely when you pick your objectives.

Relationship Effectiveness – Always subverting your needs in an interpersonal relationship does not work.  You lose yourself in the relationship and also lose the respect of others.

Self-respect Effectiveness – Some individuals make maintaining their self-respect the major issue in almost all interactions.  Always wanting to be on top or to have control or power, wanting to prove a point or defend  a position no matter what will compromise long term effectiveness.

This key lesson in Interpersonal Effectiveness was taken from the Dialectic Behaviour Therapy (DBT) Skills Training Manual by author Marsha Linehan and published in 1993.  Dialectic Behaviour Therapy is proven to help with emotion dysregulation, including people who have traits of Borderline Personality Disorder, suicidality, self harm and addiction problems.  The Resilience Centre offers a fully adherent Comprehensive DBT program consisting of Individual Therapy, Group based skills training, telephone coaching and therapist peer support.

Finding Hope in Your Relationships

By Ivette Moutzouris

Registered Psychologist

I am a strong believer in hope. I wouldn’t be working in this field if I didn’t believe that change is possible and looking forward is definitely part of the process.

If I had to put it in my own words it means looking forward with a desire and yearning that things can get better. Without hope we are stuck and oftentimes we are stuck looking at what we don’t have, what hasn’t worked out and if you remain in the frame of mind long enough you can start to feel down and lose the very thing that can propel you forward……hope!

We need to believe that things can get better so that they do get better. But this doesn’t mean that life becomes perfect with this attitude. It means that we search for the meaning and sometimes the acceptance of what was and what is. By making some sense of the past and the present we can learn to improve, to make better choices, to change our expectations. We can also see what has worked (even if this didn’t happen often) and take better control of our immediate future by reproducing it again and again. In Psychological terms this perspective is called Solution Focused Therapy. It is the idea that change occurs when we focus on solutions rather than the problem. This doesn’t mean we disregard the problem(s) it simply means that solving our problems involves focusing on what’s working or has worked in the past instead of over focusing on what hasn’t. I have recently been reading a book on marriage- saving techniques which has this focus and in the first few chapters I was impressed by the author’s strong conviction that marriages can improve. She often had hope for her clients even when they seemed to have lost hope and she taught them how to look for exceptions in their marriage (i.e. times when things were going well) and to work on building on what already existed that was good. She found that this approach not only encouraged more immediate change but it also gave her clients a more practical and hopeful way of looking at their relationships. She also stressed that if something wasn’t working then adopt a different approach. This may seem obvious and simplistic but she did point out that in our relationships we often get stuck relating and reacting a certain way and this becomes a habit.

This approach is not only proactive but it is also reflective and hopeful because it is making a decision that things can be different and learning how to put this into practice. Once we experience a positive change it gives us hope into our future. It is an encouraging way of looking at your life. Instead of focusing on the negative we learn to be wiser as we reflect on the past, live in the now and look forward to the future.


Weiner-Davis, Michelle.1992. Divorce Busting. New York. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.