A Multi-dimensional Approach To Managing Interpersonal Relations
We all need relationships. We are all involved in relationships. Man’s need for affection leads him to building relationships. The need for affection is the need for relationships. To be human is to be involved in relationships, such as family, friends, business, communal and nation-to-nation relationships. No man is an island unto himself. We are human because we belong and relate with other people in the society. Building, managing and sustaining relationships are important in our lives.
These are some of the important messages in Kelechi Shadrach Okoronkwo’s book, Managing Interpersonal Communication: A study on Temperament and Perception (Kraftbook Limited, Ibadan; 2015). The book teaches us how to build and manage relationships in a sustainable and mutually beneficial way. Success in life, the book says, depends on our ability to manage relationships. It says that relationships have to be well managed to create maximum benefits for all concerned.
As we all know, it is not easy keeping relationships. But Success in every business begins with the ability to keep relationships. That will help you to get people to cooperate. How then do you get people to cooperate? All discussions, illustration and demonstrations in Okoronkwo’s book are models to answering this Interpersonal Relations question.
The author’s allusion to E.M. Forster’s essay on tolerates relives our moments and shows direction: Surely the only sound foundation for a civilization is a sound state of mind… If you don’t like people, put up with them as well as you can. Don’t try to love them. You can’t, and you’ll only strain yourself. But try to tolerate them. On the basis of that tolerance to a civilized future may be built. Certainly I see no other foundation for the postwar world.
We can agree with Foster that the world is full of people, the way it has never been so full before, and people are all tumbling over each other. Most of these people, he says, “one doesn’t know and some of them one doesn’t like; doesn’t like the color of their skins, say, or the shape of their noses, or the way they blow them or don’t blow them, or the way they talk, or their fondness of jazz or their dislike of jazz, and so on. Well, what is one to do? There are two solutions. One is the Nazi solution. If you don’t like them, kill them, banish them, segregate them, and strut up and down proclaiming that you are the salt of the earth. The other way is less thrilling, but is on the whole the way of the democracies, and I prefer it”.
The author’s demonstration of self-perception as a gateway to Live Positions—the ways people appraise themselves and others— is also instructive. The author says there are four Live Positions namely: I am Okay, you are not Okay. This is the situation where an individual thinks that he is superior to others. People with this live position find it difficult to cope with others because they puff-up themselves always and people tend to dislike them for that. The second is I am not Okay, you are not Okay. People with this live position think that everybody is the same—never-do-wells. They don’t see themselves to be good and they do not see other people to be good either. Individuals with this mental image are neither eventful nor daring. The third one is I am not Okay, you are Okay. People with this Live Position think that they are inferior to others. They feel that every other person could do better than they could do. This is a poor live position; and finally, I am Okay and you are Okay. This is the normal and only good live position. This set of people believes that they can do well the way others could. These characters expect other people to be good because they themselves are good. They are daring and most times successful.
The book 212-page book has two parts. Part A discusses Temperament and Perception and their effects in Interpersonal Communications. It goes on to argue that Temperament and Perception are factors that affect relationships. The key to successful management of relationships, the book reveals, is in understanding behavioural differences among people. Indeed, people are different. What works for some people may not work for others. The way we relate to some people may not be the way we relate to others. It is important, therefore, to understand each person’s temperament, expectations and idiosyncrasies in order to know how to relate well to the person. This is what is meant by temperament in this valuable book. Perception is not always the same as reality. But perception is as important as reality. In relationships, we need to understand and manage perception. Inter-personal communication is critical to successful management of perception. We need to communicate well to avoid perception problems and to ensure sustainable relationships. Communication is the key to the success or failure of relationships.
Part B dwells on some nuggets that make relationships work. They adequately summarized in his two quotes on page 101 that “Every one of us has conscience. You can always appeal to our consciences by challenging our weaknesses in a positive way”, and “Eventually, great men in all businesses go out of their ways to keep their relationships; because their relationships are their businesses”.
This book teaches us how to value, understand and keep relationships. Successful management of relationships requires great skills.
• Dr. Adinoyi Ojo Onukaba is former Managing Director of Daily Times Nigeria Plc.