What are Interpersonal Skills?

See also: Employability Skills

Interpersonal skills are the life skills we use every day to communicate and interact with other people, both individually and in groups.  People who have worked on developing strong interpersonal skills are usually more successful in both their professional and personal lives.

Employers often seek to hire staff with 'strong interpersonal skills' - they want people who will work well in a team and be able to communicate effectively with colleagues, customers and clients.

This section of SkillsYouNeed is full of information and practical advice that you can use to improve your interpersonal skills.

Interpersonal skills are not just important in the workplace, our personal and social lives can also benefit from better interpersonal skills. People with good interpersonal skills are usually perceived as optimistic, calm, confident and charismatic - qualities that are often endearing or appealing to others.

Through awareness of how you interact with others - and with practice - you can improve your interpersonal skills.  SkillsYouNeed aims to help you learn and develop your interpersonal skills by providing an extensive library of quality content.  We hope that you find our content useful and rewarding.


Use our self-assessment questionnaire to: Test and Assess Your Interpersonal Skills.


A List of Interpersonal Skills Includes:


You Already Have Interpersonal Skills.

We've all been developing our interpersonal skills since childhood - usually subconsciously.

Interpersonal Skills become so natural that we may take them for granted, never thinking about how we communicate with other people. With a little time and effort you can develop these skills. Good interpersonal skills can improve many aspects of your life - professionally and socially - they lead to better understanding and relationships.

Interpersonal skills are also sometimes referred to as: social skills, people skills, soft skills, communication skills or life skills. Although these terms can include interpersonal skills they tend to be broader and therefore may also refer other types of skills.


Develop Your Interpersonal Skills

There are a variety of skills that can help you to succeed in different areas of life and SkillsYouNeed has sections covering many of these. However, the foundations for many other skills are built on strong interpersonal skills since these are relevant to our personal relationships, social affairs and professional lives. Without good interpersonal skills it is often more difficult to develop other important life skills.

Unlike specialised and technical skills (hard skills), interpersonal skills (soft skills) are used every day and in every area of our lives.


Find out how to improve and develop your interpersonal skills including:

Learn to Listen

Listening is not the same as hearing. Take time to listen carefully to what others are saying through both their verbal and non-verbal communication. Visit our Listening Skills page to learn more.

Choose Your Words

Be aware of the words you are using when talking to others. Could you be misunderstood or confuse the issue?  Practise clarity and learn to seek feedback to ensure your message has been understood.

Encourage others to engage in communication and use appropriate questioning to develop your understanding. Our page: Verbal Communication, introduces the subject, you may also be interested in Effective Speech for tips on how to use your voice to full effect and Questioning which can help you encourage communication in others and clarify what they have said.

Understand Why Communication Fails 

Communication is rarely perfect and can fail for a number of reasons. Learn about the various barriers to good communication so you can be aware of - and reduce the likelihood of - ineffective interpersonal communication and misunderstandings. See our page: Barriers to Communication for more information. Our page Communicating in Difficult Situations offers further ideas to help you to get your message across when stress levels or other emotions are running high.

Relax

When we are nervous we tend to talk more quickly and therefore less clearly.  Being tense is also evident in our body language and other non-verbal communication. Instead, try to stay calm, make eye contact and smile.  Let your confidence shine.

Learn to take time to relax, see our section: Relaxation Techniques. Further relevant pages include: Dealing with Stress and Coping with Presentation Nerves.

Clarify

Show an interest in the people you talk to. Ask questions and seek clarification on any points that could be easily misunderstood. (See Reflection and Clarification).

Be Positive

Try to remain positive and cheerful.  People are much more likely to be drawn to you if you can maintain a positive attitude. More on Personal Presentation and Building Confidence.

Empathise

Understand that other people may have different points of view. Try to see things from their perspective. You may learn something whilst gaining the respect and trust of others. More on Active Listening and read our article: What is Empathy?.

Understand Stress

Learn to recognise, manage and reduce stress in yourself and others.  Although stress is not always bad, it can have a detrimental effect on your interpersonal communication. Learning how to recognise and manage stress, in yourself and others, is an important personal skill.

See our section on stress and stress management, start with: Stress: Symptoms and Triggers.

Learn to be Assertive

You should aim to be neither passive nor aggressive. Being assertive is about expressing your feelings and beliefs in a way that others can understand and respect.  Assertiveness is fundamental to successful negotiation.

Learn more about Assertiveness | Negotiation and Improving Self-Esteem.

Reflect and Improve

Think about previous conversations and other interpersonal interactions; learn from your mistakes and successes. Always keep a positive attitude but realise that you can always improve our communication skills.

See: Improving Communication Skills.

Negotiate

Learn how to effectively negotiate with others paving the way to mutual respect, trust and lasting interpersonal relations.

See our pages: Negotiation Skills and Building Rapport.

Working in Groups

We often find ourselves in group situations, professionally and socially. Learn all about the different types of groups and teams.

See our pages: What are Groups and Group and Team Roles.

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