You’ve been learning interpersonal skills – those soft skills, communication skills, and social skills – since the day you were born. Literally. And a good question may well be, why do I need to make an effort in learning these people skills now?
It’s a legitimate question – as you may really be excellent with your personal skills – but it comes with an equally legitimate answer. In a business world in which organisational culture, teamwork, and collaboration are key, it is these skills that stand out as the crucial element that determine the success – or its opposite – of an organisation.
You may think that your interpersonal communication skills are top notch – and you may well be right. However, often in work people can forget about the beauty of personal relationships and fall down the hole of day-to-day tasks. Yet, studies have shown the value of friendships, interpersonal relationships, and peer support at work.
It’s really important to remember that work is not just a place you go that is held up in balance and opposition to life. It’s where life happens too. And the value of interpersonal skills lies in exactly this. To make work a place that is enjoyable to be in, a place that flourishes with healthy relationships, and a place that provides you with all the support that you need.
Here, we’re going to take a look at ways in which you can begin to bring your interpersonal skills up to scratch. It all starts with developing a greater self-awareness – and an awareness of the roles, successes, and struggles of others.
Interpersonal skills are the skills that enable you to relate to and work well with other people. They are social skills, essentially, which are based on the premise of effective communication – both verbal communication and non-verbal.
Interpersonal skills often enough fall into a number of different categories. You’ll find things like the following:
Essentially, interpersonal skills are the complement to the ‘hard skills’, the technical skills – whether engineering or computing knowledge, speaking a second language or understanding business processes – that you will learn out of a textbook and around which your job role will be based.
However, one is no more important than the other. Rather, both are, quite simply, absolutely crucial to your success in business.
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Why not develop your interpersonal skills?
So, how is it done? How can you get down to it and develop good interpersonal skills?
As we said above, it all starts with an awareness of yourself and of others and with a positive attitude. Without these two things, there is no chance that your interpersonal skills are going to improve any time soon.
Let’s take a look at how to get better at your interpersonal relations. And you can find info on the importance of developing your interpersonal skills too!
Emotional intelligence is often something that comes up in discussions of interpersonal skills. And that’s because it underpins and empowers the rest of these skills.
Yet emotional intelligence is not actually immediately interpersonal. Rather, it expresses the ability to be aware of and control your own emotions – and only later, when these emotions may be expressed or not, does this become a social thing.
If you don’t feel like you have your emotions in check, try mindfulness, meditation, or a similar exercise. The aim at the beginning is just to be aware of how you are feeling.
‘Manners’ might seem a little old-fashioned these days. Yet, they should be no less significant than they ever have been.
Honestly. Whilst this all seems a little childish, basic manners are about empathy and respect. If you do something for someone and they don’t show any gratitude, it’s not hugely nice.
Meanwhile, recognition for the completion of a task spurs people on to do more – it’s a hugely motivating factor.
It’s a really simple habit to engage, and it’ll build people’s respect for you just like that.
Besides an awareness of your emotions, one of the most important things to bring into the workplace to develop your interpersonal skills is a positive attitude.
This means a good work ethic – a desire to commit to your work, and a willingness to help others – alongside an openness to the needs of your colleagues.
It also means a good mood too and an ability to avoid sulks when things don’t go to plan.
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Good interpersonal skills lead to success.
A part of a positive attitude is a willingness to apply yourself to new situations and roles. Rather than sticking in your corner managing your own things, try and spread your wings a little and show that you are committed.
This means showing a willingness to take on more responsibilities – with simple questions like ‘is there anything else I can do?’ or ‘can I help you with that?’.
Obviously this needs to be done in a way that doesn’t seem merely interfering. However, that ability to put yourself out there is really key to building other people’s respect for you.
Whilst it might seem a little counterintuitive, part of your interpersonal skills should be the ability to discern when you are actually required to close off your ears and dive into your work.
Because, sometimes, even when you have a task at hand, making an effort to get to know your workmates is more important than the work itself.
Producing a pleasant and productive work environment is the result of producing a comfortable one. And such comfort comes from an ability to just stop and chat for a moment.
Communication is a central pillar of your interpersonal skills. Yet, good communication is not just about knowing how to speak or write clearly. There is so much more to it than that.
Verbal communication skills are those that are based around words. So, this means a polite, friendly, and professional manner in person, on the phone, and in writing.
Clarity is everything here – being able to communicate what you want and what you would like to see from others. Being able to ask a question gently and effectively is a bit of a skill – and ensuring that everyone understands your response is just as important.
Yet, communication is also about what you do when you are not speaking – or everything about your speech besides the content of the words themselves.
Here we are referring to body language, tone of voice, and things like eye contact. If you are talking to some in an inappropriate tone and don’t bother to look at them, this isn’t exactly effective communication.
Listening too is a part of the process that is communication.
Active listening is something that is particularly encouraged by trainers of interpersonal skills. That means ensuring eye contact when someone is speaking to you, nodding and engaging with what they are saying, and repeating back to them what they have said.
It sounds pedantic, but it really isn’t. Rather, it demonstrates that you are mentally present in the conversation.
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Why not develop your interpersonal skills?
Empathy is something that we all have. But, in some contexts, it is worth working on what that might look like.
In moments of conflict, or moments in which a colleague is acting in a difficult way, consider what it might be like to be that person for a moment. Ask yourself some questions: do they have a lot on their plate? Do they have enough support? Is there anything that they need assurance on?
This is an important part of conflict resolution – and you’ll feel like you’ll understand your colleague much better afterwards.
In all of this, there is something that you should keep quite close to yourself. That’s your values. Never sell these out.
Whilst here we have talked a lot about understanding other people and earning respect, one of the most important things you can do for this is to remain strong in your values and your beliefs.
Integrity in this – and assertiveness, not aggressiveness – will ensure that people will understand precisely where you are coming from.