Connecting the dots between customers, colleagues and community

Improve your interpersonal IQ
  Spring 2013
Dear Clients, Colleagues and Community,

Many of us love technology and the efficiencies it affords.  Some of us dislike technology and see it as impersonal and even rude.  A lot of us are simply trying to leverage the benefits of the digital age while continuing to build relationships through "old school" interpersonal skills.

This month's newsletter focuses on some specific ways we can reap the benefits of technology while maintaining our ability to distinguish ourselves through great eye to eye and toe to toe communication.

With enthusiasm,

Mari Pat Varga


Leave the Phone home

Recently I had the opportunity to work with a senior leader who wanted to improve his communication with his co-workers and direct reportsHe asked them what he could do to improve.  Their feedback was unanimous:  "Put your iPhone down!"  Ten colleagues all said that "Joe" - while a well respected and competent individual - always appeared pre-occupied and distracted by his phone or tablet.  They did not feel listened to or heard by him.  One colleague even said, "I think you are in love with your phone. She is your master!"



He heard the feedback and created

a specific plan to help him create balance between the use of technology and his interpersonal skills.


  1. Turn it off or put it away:  When you are having a conversation or meeting with someone and are face-to-face, put your technology away for those 15 - 30 minutes to demonstrate you care about the person and what is said.
  2. Leave it home:  Experiment by leaving your phone home one day and see what changes.  How did it feel?  Did you need to make different choices?  Were those changes positive or negative? 
  3. Schedule time to check:  Rather than being available around the clock waiting for a call, an email or text, agree that you will check for messages three times a day (9 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. as an example) 

Joe found that while these changes were not easy but he has discovered the benefits of balance:


  1. Developed more personal relationships with colleagues.
  2. Understands better their interests and perspectives.
  3. Increased awareness about his physical surroundings.
  4. More attentive to people issues.

It's not either/or, is it both/and.  Balance is key. 

Improve your interpersonal IQ
Comfort with all delivery modes is essential
Many of us are simply out of practice.  Because of our reliance on technology, we don't spend as much time practicing the different communication modes that help us express our ideas fully and reach all audiences.

1)  Writing
  • Take a creative writing course
  • Commit to sending out at least one handwritten thank you card per month.
  • Take time to edit and review each written communication twice.

2)  Speaking

  • Enroll in a public speaking course to fine-tune your skills.
  • Volunteer for opportunities at work or within your community where speaking is required.
  • Ask for feedback from colleagues after each presentation.

3)  Digital

  • Review your social media presence - does it accurately reflect your personal brand?
  • Visit to accelerate your career through effective online positioning.

Building your communication acumen from equally comfort in all modes will improve your interpersonal IQ!  


Lampposts of Berlin
Handwritten notes reflect the pulse of Berlin's heart

NPR featured a story recently highlighting the capital of Germany, Berlin, as one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world.  There are said to be more cell phones than people in Berlin.

Having said that, one of the most intimate ways to communicate in Berlin is through messages on lampposts.  In Berlin, lampposts matter.  They are totem poles of information.  The posts are covered with notes and stickers on topics ranging from romance to apartment rentals to politics.  Sometimes if you look hard enough you will find insights, powerful reflections or exquisite commentary on social issues.  The notes are packed so heavily and tightly that some posts are said to have their own geology.

Each night thousands of fresh notes cover the post's landscape.  People are having their say and others are reading their words.  Despite all our advances in how we communicate with each other it is interesting that there as still places where posting a note in a public square could garner more attention than a hundred tweets.


Everything is a conversation
Every choice we make sends a message

When we are driving on the highway and someone swerves in front of us they are sending a very clear message:  I am more important than you.  I matter, you don't.  It is easy today to feel anonymous - behind the wheel of our car, walking down the street with our headphones on or traveling down the corridors of our office building not looking up from our cell phones.  We are in our own world and we think no one is noticing but in fact we are sending out very loud and clear messages.
  • I don't have time for you
  • I don't care
  • Everything else is more important

While we may not be thinking those things on a conscious level, they are being communicated.  We can all benefit from being more mindful about the repercussions of our actions.  Pay attention to the conversation that is going on in your head when you are at that critical moment in traffic, as you pass someone in the hallway or on the street.  What are you trying to communicate?  


Alone Together
5000 friends and feelin' blue

The title of Sherry Turkle's book, "Alone Together:  Why we expect more from technology and less from each other" says it all.  We live and work in a time when we may be more connected to others (5000 Facebook friends someone recently shared!) than ever before and yet we've never felt more alone or isolated.

We are tethered to our devices and even when in public places we carry on cell phone conversations with others assuming we have some sort of a veil of privacy or anonymity.   Turkle shares that research tells us that Americans are becoming increasingly insecure, isolated and lonely.  We work more hours than ever before and don't have time for socializing except through social media.   As Lev Grossman, TiME magazine, says, "...we are substituting technologically mediated social interaction for the real time intimacy that comes from a person-to person interaction."

There is a lovely park near my home in Chicago.  I walk through the park trying to catch someone's eye to say hello but soon recognize it's futility as most people are too buried in their home screen to look up.

This week, focus on how you travel through your hallways at work, the aisles of your grocery store or the park near your house.  Lift your head, say hello and smile.  It really will make someone's day...and yours. 



The World Tweets

"More than 70% of our active users are outside the U.S.and over 60% of them are using Twitter on their mobile devices.  We'll continue to work at reaching every person on the planet."

Katie Stanton, VP, Twitter 


The force of your ideas
is what matters.

During her recent book tour Justice Sotomayor stop by to see Jon Stewart at The Daily Show.  He asked her if it was difficult to stay measured in her approach as a judge.  She said, "If you want to be a part of history as a judge then you know that what lasts is the force of your ideas and the strength of your expression of them."


When you have something important to say, think about "how" you will communicate. Choosing the right vehicle to express it is key. 


Customize your communication
Understand the preferences of your audience.

A colleague of mine always reminds me to call him if I want a quick response.  Another shares that the best way to get of hold of her is to text.  Another wants to linger over lunch.

In today's world, we work and live with multiple generations from the Gen 2020's to the Traditionalists.  They all have their preferences about how they would prefer to be communicated with.

The most proactive thing we can do is to ask what they prefer.   Rather than leaving three voice-mails and becoming upset when someone does not return our call, ask what the best way to reach them is.  It is easier to change our approach than to expect others to adapt to us.
Perfect your Subject Line:  One of the best ways to get others to open your emails is by crafting a compelling subject line.  #1  Describe the email's bottom line message (Submit your survey today and receive complimentary newsletter).  #2  Add humor when appropriate (Last chance to share your amazing wisdom and insights).  #3  Add definition about the action required  (FYA, for your approval...FYI, for your information...NAR, no action required, etc.)
Effective communication is a two-way street and involves give and take.  Strengthening your awareness and committing to fine-tune your skills will improve your interpersonal IQ, help you invite communication and build relationships.

If your goals, business initiatives or leadership developmental opportunities could benefit from message development, speech coaching, communication training or strategic meeting facilitation let's have a conversation today!
All the best,
Mari Pat Varga
Varga & Associates, Inc.