Interpersonal Skills

Take steps to improve your interpersonal skills and move up the career ladder

You have probably heard the saying that an A&P certificate is a “license to learn.” We get that hard-earned certificate in our pocket and begin the process of learning more specific technical information and skills that help us advance as an aircraft mechanic. For those wishing to advance in an aviation career, it takes more than learning technical skills. Yes, improving your inspection, maintenance, and troubleshooting abilities is important. But don’t forget — it’s just as important to develop your interpersonal skills — the skills that allow you to effectively interact with other people.

Libby Wagner, “The Influencing Coach” and president of Seattle-based Professional Leadership Results Inc. says that being competent in technical skills is not enough in an aircraft maintenance environment. “One error that people in technical fields make is they believe that if they are competent in their technical skill areas that’s really all they will need to succeed and to continue to advance in their career. But in the workplace, we are being asked to perform in two areas — both technical skills and interpersonal skills.”

Reduce stress
One way that we can begin to improve our interpersonal skills is by reducing our level of stress says Debbie Mandel , a stress-management specialist and author of Turn ON Your Inner Light. “To develop interpersonal skills, I tell people they need to first manage their level of stress,” Mandel shares.

“You have to let go of your anger. You have to step back and objectify a situation which might be unpleasant for you at work so that you can come off as assertive and not aggressive. It means respecting other peoples’ opinions and unique perspectives.”

Reducing stress in the workplace can also lead to a less-stressful home life. “If you can’t manage your stress, it will be impossible to develop your interpersonal skills, and it carries over to the home,” Mandel adds. “When you manage your stress, you think clearly, you don’t fly off the handle, you don’t get a crystal ball of negativity that everybody’s out to get you.”

There are several ways to manage stress. Remember that stress and anger are not caused by situations in the workplace (or at home), but rather by how you choose to react to those situations. The important thing is not to let those situations get you stressed out. “If you are angry, take a deep breath, or take several if you need to, and get your blood pressure down,” Mandel says. “Take a walk. Get the stress hormones out of your body because they are inflaming you. When you are inflamed by stress, your language becomes inflammatory. You become negative and inflamed. Take a break and relax. Get your blood pressure down so you can think straight. When you can calm down, you will be able to focus better on the situation.”

Make it a goal to be positive and motivated at work. Being negative not only brings you down; it also brings down the morale of the team. Do whatever it takes to reduce your level of stress. If you try to reduce your stress and have a positive attitude, but still find yourself in a bad work situation, consider a job change.

Public speaking
Public speaking is usually toward the top of the list of things mechanics hate to do — right up there with fuel cell work and cleaning the “honey bucket.” But don’t underestimate the importance of good speaking skills. “You have to be a good communicator to be seen as a leader and as one of the best,” shares Suzanne Bates, president and CEO of Bates Communications and author of Speak Like a CEO: Secrets for Commanding Attention and Getting Results.

Just about anyone can become a good speaker. “Contrary to common myth, the ability to be a good speaker is not a natural-born skill,” shares Bates. “I don’t think there’s such a thing as a natural-born speaker. Everybody has to learn. There is a common misconception that people were born to do it.”

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