Interpersonal Skills demonstrated in movies

10 Life-Shaping Interpersonal Skills from Epic Movies

When Chris Gardner showed up to the job interview of his life looking homeless with dried paint in his hair, interpersonal skills were his only hope. Fresh out of jail, sitting in front of the hiring board at Dean Witter, he had nothing to rely on beyond the power of his words.

Fortunately for Chris, there is nothing more influential than interpersonal skills. If you’ve got them, the world is your oyster. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter how you’re dressed.

This post highlights the life-altering interpersonal skills you probably didn’t notice when you watched the movie.

Interpersonal skills make all the difference. If you’ve got ’em, you might make scenes in your life as memorable as the following.

1. Reframing your Way out of an Impossible Situation

The chief broker challenged, “What would say if a guy walked into an interview without a shirt on and I hired him. What would you say?” Gardner’s answer was pure brilliance, the brand of interpersonal skills that make high achievers what they are.

Gardner reframed the questioner’s suggestion that he’d look bad for hiring him and implied there was no chance the hiring manager could look bad – an indirect compliment. This interpersonal skill – conversational reframing – is priceless. NLP reframing methods teach us that meaning is malleable, we can redefine anything if we know how.

2. Getting Through to Someone

Great life coaches, therapists, teachers, leaders, and parents know how to believe in people more than they believe in themselves. Often this alone saves a troubled soul from self-destruction. Can you break through someone’s outer shell and see who they are? Are you willing to take the risk of insisting on someone’s greatness? This may be the most important element of Freedom Writer’s founder Erin Gruwell.

3. Using Non-verbal Communication

Use whatever means you can to connect with someone. And it’s ok to play on their terms, especially when the roles are appropriate. Non-verbal communication is a part of NLP training. This scene from the Wolf of Wall Street makes it more than obvious how useful it can be.

4. Raw Honesty and Accepting Consequences

Follow up in prison:

Most of us are obsessed with how we look and what price we’d pay if we were honest. Letting your guard down, admitting the truth when you’re most vulnerable – and accepting the consequences of your actions – is so rare that this scene from Flight is shocking.

Is making yourself vulnerable an interpersonal skill? Absolutely. It takes practice. There are effective and ineffective ways to do it, mature and immature methods of bearing your soul.

5. Pattern Interrupt – Abrupt Interpersonal Skills

In NLP, we call it break state. When you do something to interrupt an established frame of mind, you take control of the situation. You can do this to yourself or with others when the situation calls for it.

In this scene from The Notebook, a typical date is blown out of the water. Whatever was going on before became instantly irrelevant and a new reality was born. Interrupting patterns can be done abruptly or elegantly. In either case, if done well, it belongs among the most useful interpersonal skills.

6. Knowing the Devil in the Details

With the Meta-Model, NLP is famous for its ability to get specific. There are times when nothing matters more than having the right details.

Imagine you are told:

1. Go out and get dinner.


2. Go to the store, get a head of romaine lettuce, two chicken breasts and the bottle of white win of your choice. Bring them back, and I’ll cook!

One request to get dinner is vague, but both are valid requests. Based on the first request, you’re left to fill in the details for yourself. You could head out to pick up a pizza. If the requester’s expectations were the latter, you’d have a classic miscommunication.

Are you chronically making request #1 when you really should be making request #2? People with high interpersonal skills know what a difference specificity makes.

7. Standing Up for Yourself

Some of us struggle to stand up for ourselves even when doing so is reasonable. In My Sister’s Keeper, Anna stands up for herself while up against the highest stakes – letting her sister die to preserve her own quality of life.

This isn’t about what appears right or wrong, but the realization you can stand up for your needs in any situation, even when those around you reel in shock.

8. Remaining Calm When Confronted

What allows people to remain calm when confronted, even when the stakes are high? Knowing who you are and where you stand. In Lord of War, Nicolas Cage didn’t necessarily play a good guy, but he knew who he was, much more so than the agent who interrogated him.

Understanding your values (whether they be good or evil) is the foundation of interpersonal awareness. You know who you are in relation to others. This leads to rock-solid certainty when you need it.

9. Getting People to Identify with your Point

In this first of two Robin Williams scenes, professor Peter Keating has his class identifying with the dead to make his unforgettable point. Seize the day couldn’t be forgotten because Keating led his class to identify so heavily with the object lessons in his story.

Notice how he paces and leads his audience to relate so intimately with inanimate objects. When others identify themselves with your message, you become legendary. When your message serves others so well, as this one does, your legacy is one to be proud of.

10. Entering Someone Else’s Reality

Patch Adams isn’t your normal doctor (see my interview with Patch Adams here). The difference? He could relate to people by entering their world. In a life where many of us feel alone, people who can connect deeply are priceless gems.

What’s so hard about accepting someone else’s reality and stepping into it? It requires setting aside your own. This may be why embracing and working within another’s reality is among the more uncommon interpersonal skills.

Scenes like these stand out because the interpersonal skills within them are exceptional. What if they were commonplace? That’s a vision the iNLP Center could get behind.

iNLP Center Staff
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