SEA Professional Development Week: Melanie Meyer on Developing Interpersonal Skills in Evaluators

My name is Melanie Meyer and I work with the research office of the Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA). As my background is in health and human services policy and administration, and I have a Master’s in Adult and Continuing Education, I am interested in how organizations develop their talent and how we can make lifelong learning appealing for everyone.

Lesson Learned: Communication takes on a lot of different shapes and is the tool for managing a lot of different tasks during an evaluation. Helping young evaluators hone their interpersonal skills sometimes take a backseat to the more technical skills, but understanding, collecting and expressing the right information effectively is a critical skill to building up your credibility and effectiveness.

When you are good at communicating, things seem to go better. For example, an elder law attorney once told me that he was so good at communicating with and helping his elderly clients that they would agree to accept a guardian (and a judicical finding of incapacity) and that they thanked him!

Hot Tip: We all need that kind of interpersonal finesse when presenting findings that could be difficult for the audience to hear or are vulnerable for misunderstanding. To teach these skills, you can use case studies to help young professionals identify the coded meaning or implicit challenge. For example:


Lesson Learned: In addition to being skilled in decoding spoken messages, evaluators can benefit from honing their reflective or empathic listening skills (check out Brené Brown’s take on empathy). People, largely, want to convey their knowledge and experience and know that the person they are giving their time to really hears all of their messages.

Rad Resources: Stephen R. Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says that “empathic listening is not listening to advise, counsel, replay, refute, solve, fix, change, judge, agree, disagree, question, analyze, or figure out.” With empathic listening, evaluators can more often draw more robust information from people in interviews and can more effectively navigate the egg shells, minefields, dips, and peaks of planning, producing and presenting an effective evaluation. For more information, see Natasha V. Christie’s article, “An Interpersonal Skills Learning Taxonomy for Program Evaluation Instructors.”

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Southeast Evaluation Association (SEA) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the SEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from SEA Affiliate members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “SEA Professional Development Week: Melanie Meyer on Developing Interpersonal Skills in Evaluators”

  1. Good Evening
    My name in Monika Wheeless and I am a second semester student attending A&M-Central Texas.
    I agree that “empathic listening” is an important skill to attain in the field, you must listen to gain the information needed.

    I also agree that interpersonal skills is tantamount to the interview process. It is a must to be able to engage the client, making them feel comfortable not intimated during the interview process. Mock interviews are very good tools to hone the skills of interviewing.

    Very good points.

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