Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal Skills Definition

Investopedia / Madelyn Goodnight

What Are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills are the behaviors and tactics a person uses to interact with others effectively. People use interpersonal skills all the time when dealing with others, whether in the workplace, in social situations, or within a family.

In the business world, the term generally refers to an employee's ability to work well with others. Interpersonal skills range from ways of communicating and listening to attitude and deportment.

Key Takeaways

  • Interpersonal skills are behaviors we use to interact with others effectively on the job and in the larger world.
  • Some people are born with good interpersonal skills but everyone can learn, develop and improve them.
  • Expressing appreciation, resolving disputes, and listening well are all interpersonal skills worth practicing.
  • Excellent interpersonal skills in the workplace can enhance camaraderie, improve working results, and support career development.
  • A lack of solid interpersonal skills can put an employee at a disadvantage where group involvement, desired assignments, positive reviews, and job advancement are concerned.
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Interpersonal Skills

Understanding Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills are often referred to as people skills, social skills, or social intelligence. They involve reading the signals that others send and interpreting them accurately in order to form effective responses. Individuals show their interpersonal skills all the time simply by interacting with others.

Everyone has a personal style and an interpersonal style. Some people are more successful than others at using interpersonal skills for specific, desired results. Interpersonal skills may be based in part on personality and instinct. However, good ones can also be introduced to people and improved upon.

While interpersonal skills can be developed, they cannot be learned solely from a textbook. For some people, they should be practiced, used daily, observed, and then tweaked. That is to say, these skills may come naturally to certain individuals, but others have to work at cultivating them. This cultivation often happens through continuous interaction with other individuals.

In many organizations, employees with strong interpersonal skills are valued for their pleasant demeanor and positive, solution-oriented attitude.

These employees are seen as team players who work well with others to achieve a goal. In more human terms, everyone likes being around them. That's a welcome attribute in any social interaction, including those involving work.

Interpersonal skills are strongly linked to a knowledge of social expectations and customs, whether that knowledge is inherent or learned. People with the strongest interpersonal skills adjust their tactics and communications as needed, depending on the reactions of others to their messages and meanings.

Those without good interpersonal skills can still succeed in business if they are allowed to work in areas that don't require regular interactions with a variety of people. These areas might include research, development, coding, and system testing.

Examples of Interpersonal Skills

The many types of interpersonal skills that can lead to great outcomes at work include:

  • Clear communication, whether you're explaining an idea or asking a question in person, in writing, or by phone
  • Attentive, careful listening
  • Confirming that you comprehend what you've heard from a colleague or customer
  • Empathetic behavior that shows you understand and care about a colleague's situation
  • Supporting the useful ideas and honest efforts of colleagues
  • Responding positively to communications from others
  • Presenting a willingness to get a job done
  • Building relationships
  • Being positive

Benefits of Interpersonal Skills

The importance of solid, properly-used interpersonal skills in the workplace can't be overstated. Their benefits provide advantages for individual employees and companies as a whole. These benefits can include:

  • Better camaraderie
  • Increased trust and dependability
  • More and better creativity through successful collaboration
  • Effective and efficient task completion
  • More enthusiasm for a particular task or job
  • Elimination of unnecessary problems
  • Greater productivity
  • Opportunities for greater exposure to different, positive experiences with other employees or clients
  • Opportunities to display qualities of leadership
  • Opportunities for promotions
  • The growth of a reliable professional network that can help build a career

Can Interpersonal Skills Be Learned?

Normally, social or interpersonal skills are learned by taking part in daily group activities, through specific daily actions involving others, and by watching other people succeed or fail in simple interactions.

Everyday life within a family, at school, at church, or on the playing field offers a wealth of opportunities to be introduced to and practice your interpersonal skills. These skills can be picked up naturally and used with sincerity. The best interpersonal skills are never forced, even if they are used with specific purposes in mind. They are a tool for positive results and living, whether at work or within a community or a family.

Strong interpersonal skills are prerequisites for many professional jobs and for a successful career.

Using Interpersonal Skills in the Job Search

Interpersonal skills are highly valued in the business world. Job seekers should use every opportunity to show their interpersonal skills on resumés and at interviews.

Some of the highly valuable interpersonal skills for business that you can display include:

  • Active listening
  • Eliciting and fully processing information from a speaker
  • Negotiating in sales, marketing, law, and customer service
  • Public speaking
  • Conflict management
  • Team building
  • Collaboration

Showing Interpersonal Skills on a Resumé

On a resumé, a job seeker can highlight the interpersonal skills they have as they relate to the skills sought by the employer. They can underscore those accomplishments that tie directly to important interpersonal skills. For instance, they might highlight an example of teamwork that got a task done to rave reviews, successfully communicating useful ideas to others at a stressful time, or building relationships that underpinned a positive financial outcome.

Showing Interpersonal Skills During an Interview

It can be difficult for an interviewer to gauge a prospective employee's actual ability to perform a particular job in one, potentially short interview. Therefore, candidates should put their interpersonal skills to work during any such opportunity to meet.

Bear in mind that one of the most important interpersonal skills could be simply making a connection with the interviewer. Be friendly, empathetic, understanding, and enthusiastic. Then, look for opportunities in the conversation to drill down to some specifics. For instance:

  • Note how well you've worked with others to achieve specific goals and that such collaboration would be a priority for you in this new job.
  • Explain how listening to customers carefully has been a key to success in your sales.
  • Demonstrate how your patience and clear communications with fellow employees turned a brand new team into a success story.

Sharing your positive interpersonal skill experiences on a resumé and during job interviews in this way can help a company determine how well your skills would fit, not just the job that you've applied for but also, within the larger organization.

Using Interpersonal Skills in the Workplace

Strong interpersonal skills such as negotiating, problem-solving, and knowledge-sharing can be the main requirements for certain jobs. Other interpersonal skills seen as essential for all employees include:

  • Teamwork
  • Verbal and written communication (e.g., in-person meetings, emails, phone)
  • Non-verbal communication (e.g., eye contact, facial expressions, gestures)
  • Dependability
  • Responsibility
  • Empathy

To showcase these skills, try to get involved with colleagues to solve problems. Volunteer to take on tasks that no one else will. Or, be enthusiastic about tasks you're given that you may not enjoy.

Be confident and positive in every dealing with colleagues or managers. Ultimately, being successful with interpersonal skills in the workplace comes down to coming up with and using ideas smartly to build good relationships with others.

It's difficult to imagine a company thriving if its employees do not have interpersonal skills. Most jobs are not isolated and require interaction between many individuals within a firm. These can be colleagues on your level or those more highly placed in the firm, such as a managing director or CEO.

Poor interpersonal skills can be a detriment to an individual and to the workplace, overall. Even if an employee does their work well, poor interpersonal skills could limit their career development at a firm. It could even be a factor in their termination.

Remember that people want to work with individuals that they like and whose personalities improve their workday. Strong interpersonal skills help every employee and company.

Fast Fact

According to research firm Gartner, just 8% of communications executives feel that their staffs have the communications skills that are necessary to meet their companies' business needs.

How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

Once acquired, interpersonal skills can be improved. They are best honed by practice. Expressing appreciation for team members and support staff, displaying empathy, moderating and resolving disputes quickly, and controlling displays of temper are all good activities for improving your interpersonal skills.

Active listening can be practiced by repeating back a speaker's comment to make sure true communication is taking place. Furthermore, people can demonstrate their active listening skill by providing a carefully considered and appropriate answer.

Courses often teach these skills and many firms offer them to their employees as a part of cultivating a strong workforce.

What Is an Example of Interpersonal Skills?

Types of interpersonal skills include being a good listener, understanding what's being said, and providing a positive, useful response. Someone with good interpersonal skills might decide to resolve an argument among colleagues that's preventing them from getting an important task done.

How Do You Show Interpersonal Skills?

You show interpersonal skills by the way you behave toward other people. Someone with good interpersonal skills will be supportive, kind, empathetic, patient, and respectful in the way they work with colleagues. Typically, they'll be a pleasure to be around.

How Can I Improve My Intrapersonal Skills?

The way to improve your interpersonal skills is to practice them every day in your daily activities, whether at work, home, or in social situations. Remember that these skills essentially are relationship skills—skills you use to get along with others. When you notice someone who uses these skills well, you might observe them as they put them to work and try to emulate their behavior as you practice.

Article Sources
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  1. Gartner. "Lead a World-Class Communications Team."