Interpersonal Skills | Main Region
Interpersonal skills in the workplace
Hiring demand for job candidates with soft skills is intensifying. While a range of soft skills are valued by employers, the ability to build relationships inside and outside your organisation and collaborate and communicate to achieve outcomes is a universal necessity, regardless of your role or industry.
This capability requires strong interpersonal skills, or in other words, the ability to interact, get along and communicate well with others. Consciously or otherwise, you are constantly drawing on such interpersonal skills to navigate the world of work.
For example, you apply interpersonal skills such as listening and speaking to understand what’s required in the workplace, to ensure others understand the messages you communicate, to collaborate with colleagues and to advance projects with clients.
What are interpersonal skills?
Interpersonal skills are the behaviours you use every day to interact and communicate with others well. Interpersonal skills encompass a wide range of skills, but some of the most common are active listening, conflict resolution, communication, collaboration and emotional intelligence.
Why are interpersonal skills important in the workplace?
There are many reasons why interpersonal skills are important, but ultimately interpersonal skills are the foundation for positive working relationships. This makes them key to career success. For instance, employees with well-rounded interpersonal skills can collaborate effectively, adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of a group, and adjust how they participate in teams according to the dynamics of colleagues or stakeholders.
Having good people skills can be highly rewarding on an individual level at work, too. People with good interpersonal skills often enjoy rewarding professional relationships and the fulfilment of having the ideas they communicate embraced. They are also skilled in resolving conflicts to maintain enjoyable professional lives.
At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic emphasised additional value in interpersonal skills in the workplace. This includes the ability to adapt to change, communicate change effectively, work well with others to pivot and develop new services or products, and lead a team successfully.
Examples of interpersonal skills
We recommend you develop a range of interpersonal skills to further your career. Examples of important interpersonal skills to earmark as part of self-improvement are active listening, conflict resolution, communication, collaboration and emotional intelligence.
Active listening is more than just hearing what people say. To be an active listener at work, it’s important to devote your full attention to the person you are speaking with. That way, you absorb their message, respond to them with relevant questions and retain key information.
Employers value active listening skills because they know they can share valuable information with you and it will be received in the way they intend. As an active listener, you are also likelier to retain the information you need to perform your job to the best of your abilities.
Conflict can occur for many reasons. Some issues surface because of adversarial management styles, poor leadership choices, personality clashes and different ideas on the best way forward on a task or activity. If left unresolved, conflict can impact staff absenteeism, lower morale and increase turnover.
Conflict is inevitable, but interpersonal skills help to resolve it. For instance, those with strong interpersonal skills will actively listen to all parties involved, identify the problem causing the conflict and speak specifically about it. They’ll avoid personal statements about the individuals involved and instead speak calmly, communicate clearly and establish next steps for all parties to resolve the conflict.
Communication skills in the workplace take many forms. Fundamentally, communication skills are all about the exchange of messages communicated through writing, speaking and non verbal cues such as body language. Interpersonal communication is also mediated by face-to-face interaction and technologies including phone, video conferencing software, email and social media.
There are a range of areas you can focus on to develop your communication skills, including being aware of your audience, using clear and concise language, remaining empathetic and developing non verbal cues.
Very few jobs involve working in total isolation. Most involve working with others to solve problems or to reach a common goal. To do so successfully, you need to interact proficiently and productively with all team members. This includes being open to the ideas of others, sharing information, setting common goals and plans together, supporting others, delivering on your own personal project responsibilities and adapting when priorities change.
Your feelings can impact the way you interact with others. By managing your own emotions, and recognising and responding suitably to the emotions of others, you’ll develop your emotional intelligence skills and, in the process, create stronger professional relationships. By being emotionally aware, you can keep your own emotions in check, while simultaneously understanding the emotions of others and responding in a way that enables you to maintain a mutually beneficial professional working relationship.
How to improve interpersonal skills
Knowing how to improve interpersonal skills will aid your career success. Given how many skills fall under the ‘interpersonal skills’ umbrella, the best place to start is by conducting an honest self-assessment. We outline other ways to improve your interpersonal skills below.
Remember though that while the range of interpersonal skills is broad, these skills do complement each other. For instance, enhancing your communication skills also enhances your collaboration skills, and vice-versa, so improving both will be a major boost to your interpersonal skills.
1. Evaluate your interpersonal skills
If you want to improve your interpersonal skills in the workplace, firstly undertake a self-assessment. A great place to start is an online assessment, which will help you to think in deeper concrete terms about how skilled you are in interpersonal relationship building and communication.
By completing a self-assessment, you can then plan what you need to do to develop your interpersonal skills further.
2. Create an interpersonal skills development plan
Once you complete your self-assessment, you will have identified certain interpersonal skills that need to be improved. For each developmental area on your list, determine how you can best upskill.
For example, if you need to become a more confident public speaker, practice in front of the mirror, video camera, or supportive friends and family who can provide constructive feedback. Or, if you realise that you are prone to interrupting colleagues, consciously practice active listening in future meetings and conversations.
You can also use opportunities outside of work to build up your interpersonal skills. Sports clubs or school committees, for example, are great places to develop your interpersonal skills.
3. Undertake professional development
There are a range of professional learning courses that will sharpen your interpersonal skills. For instance, Hays Learning is only a few clicks away and provides free online training and microlearning to progress your career and skills, including your interpersonal skills.
With constant learning necessary for ongoing career success, also consider other ways to upskill your interpersonal skills, including apps, social media or through an industry or professional association.
4. Build interpersonal skills in the workplace
Of course, you can also pursue opportunities at work for interpersonal skills development. For instance, put yourself forward to participate in more collaborative project work or spend more time participating in social occasions at work. Be on the constant lookout for any opportunities to put your interpersonal skills into practice at work.
Your manager or mentor can also provide advice on how to improve your interpersonal skills at work.
Importance of interpersonal skills in action
Now that you know why interpersonal skills are important and how to improve interpersonal skills, you’re ready to start putting your newfound knowledge into practice. As we know, interpersonal skills in the workplace really are the foundation for successful relationships and communication. While there are many interpersonal skills examples, by improving in the above areas of focus, you’ll start to see immediate results.
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