What is Interpersonal Wisdom?

Interpersonal Wisdom is a term I am using to describe the ways of being in coaching or talk therapy that bring about the best results regardless of the specific theoretical orientation or preferred working model of the talk therapist.  The best guides get good results because of who they are and the way they apply their interpersonal talents.  This is fertile ground in the helping community that builds on previous work and consequently the ideas below are evolving.

Interpersonally wise therapists are experienced as authentic without being perceived as trying to be authentic.  They believe that being is more important than doing, and that character is more important than competence.

Interpersonally wise therapists are comfortable with relational complexity and know how to continuously maneuver within the evolving therapeutic relationship.

Interpersonally wise therapists use self-disclosure to improve the therapeutic alliance.

Interpersonally wise therapists are able to offer accurate intra or extra relational interpretations that hit the mark and make their client (s) feel understood.

Interpersonally wise therapists apparently take risks earlier in the process and are not people-pleasers, thus often resulting in lower client satisfaction ratings in early treatment.

Interpersonally wise therapists create positive energy that summons the extratherapeutic factors that are largely responsible for bringing about change.

Interpersonally wise therapists are able to express honest disclosure without alienating their clients. Their authenticity and strength of character enable them to be bold.  When their directness does create tension they are able to repair the alliance and generate an even more productive working relationship.

Interpersonally wise therapists are capable of artful continuous relational assessment.

Interpersonally wise therapists create a safe environment for exploration of emotional issues by being laid back AND direct and by being in charge but not controlling.

Interpersonally wise therapists are open to new experience and are highly curious.

Interpersonally wise therapists appreciate the concept of therapeutic containment.

Interpersonally wise therapists are perceived to have high integrity because while they are flexible as to implementing their approach they are seen as consistent with regard to their own personal narrative and their expressed values.

Interpersonally wise therapists have an advanced sense of timing, especially when relaying sensitive information or when challenging clients.

Interpersonally wise therapists believe that positive and negative energy can be transmitted between human beings and they make a choice to transmit the positive.

Interpersonally wise therapists embody the relational quality known as “approachable authority”.  They own their own strength but do not take themselves too seriously.

In summary interpersonally wise therapists are non-conventional, congruent, curious and bold. They are realistic optimists with high character that convey genuine caring for their clients and seem to intuitively understand how to offer the right amount of active listening, direction AND containment simultaneously.  They have faith in the universe, which allows for client agency and activation of the extra-therapeutic factors that lead to change.  They have high tolerance for relational complexity and excellent anxiety management ability in ambiguous and stressful conditions.  They solicit ongoing feedback from clients and alter their approach continuously based on that feedback, but they do not come across as squishy or people pleasing.  They are adept at reading people and adjusting their approach based on the full range of interpersonal cues coming from clients.  They are expert at repairing therapeutic relationships after inevitable working alliance disruptions.  Most importantly, they have the ability to like a lot of different people because they have a deep appreciation for the humanity beneath the presentation.


About Kevin Kervick

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Ordained Minister, Teacher, Mentor, Community Builder.
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