Asset 33: Interpersonal Competence

Learning to walk in other people’s shoes

Most young people know how to make friends. They notice when something bad happens to a friend, and

when someone is acting differently. Empathy—one of the most important social and emotional

skills—doesn’t come naturally to everyone. In fact, learning to walk in another’s shoes is tricky for many

adults. After all, some people are easier to read and understand than others. Young people who strive to

understand their own needs and feelings and know how to appropriately express them are more likely to

respect the needs and feelings of others. Interpersonal Competence is Asset 33 of Search Institute’s 40

Developmental Assets, the qualities, experiences, and relationships that help young people grow up

healthy, caring, and responsible.

Here are the facts

Research shows that young people who have empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills are more likely to

grow up healthy and avoid risky behaviors, such as violence and alcohol and other drug use. About 45

percent of young people, ages 11–18, say they have empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills. Family is

the cornerstone of most young people’s lives, but everyone needs friends, too.

Tips for building this asset

Interpersonal competence involves a young person’s ability to make friends and develop lasting

relationships, as well as emotional aptitude. That’s the really tricky part. Parents and other caring adults can

help young people learn how to monitor their own expressions of feelings, read other people’s reactions

and feelings (even if they aren’t expressed in words), and adjust social interactions based on the situation.

Building interpersonal competence is a lifelong process, so be patient. Every relationship in a young

person’s life is a chance to grow and learn.


Also try this

In your home and family: Welcome your child’s friends into your home. Spend time talking with

them and getting to know them.

In your neighborhood and community: Get to know your neighbors—adults and kids—by hosting

a dinner party, potluck, or holiday gathering. Be sure to include young people in community social

events as much as possible.

In your school or youth program: When new people join your class or program midyear, assign a

young person to show the new person around, introduce him or her to people, and adjust to the new

environment. This will help the new person feel more comfortable making friends. The young

person in the buddy role will also develop greater interpersonal competence!