How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills are essential for work and communicating with others. This lesson discusses how to create and improve upon current interpersonal skills.

What Are Interpersonal Skills?

As you walk into work and come across your coworkers, your smile and attitude with them are parts of interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills are the ways we communicate and interact with others around us, whether they are classmates, coworkers, or even family and friends. These skills include:

  • How you speak to others
  • Non-verbal behaviors
  • How you help teach and educate others
  • Your ability to empathize
  • Your capabilities in leading and managing various people
  • Negotiation skills

Importance of Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills are key in a work or school environment because this is how you communicate with people that you work with daily. These people are your peers or employees, and you need to be able to communicate effectively. People with excellent interpersonal skills find themselves getting raises and promotions more than others that struggle with communication. Think about it this way: you know the people that are the go-tos at work likely have these interpersonal skills – which means if you gain them, or improve them, then your relationships will improve. This is essential for job satisfaction.

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How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

There are several ways to improve your current interpersonal skills.

  • Listening is key – Although providing your ideas and thoughts may seem incredibly important, making sure you listen to your peers and understand what they are saying is an important interpersonal skill. When listening, take moments to interject and explain what you are hearing from them, so they know you are listening, and you know you understand.
  • Be positive – If you think about the people in your office that usually draw people to them, they are happy and positive about what is happening in their lives and what is happening at work. So put on a genuine smile and stay positive. When speaking with others that are the negative nellies in the office, don’t point out their negative attitude; just continue to stay positive and bring up the good sides of their current situation.
  • Do not bring your personal life to work – Although you will have friends at work or school that you want to talk to about personal things, try to keep your personal sharing to a minimum within the walls of work. The more you stay professional, the more this image will be conveyed to others. When asked about your personal life, state something general, then ask about work or steer the conversation to something else.
  • Show confidence in body language – Make sure to stand up straight, don’t lower your head, look people in the eye, and don’t roll your shoulders. Although this may feel strange for a while, these non-verbal cues do change how people perceive you, and they will also give you better posture. Other good non-verbal cues are full smiles and even strides while walking.
  • Compliment others – When working or going to school with your peers, be sure to genuinely compliment others. If you are managing a team, compliment each individual that works well, and make sure the compliments are personalized. This assures others that you actually see what they are doing, and they may work just as hard if not harder to continue to show it.
  • Display proper etiquette: Most of us have heard ”manners maketh man”. Manners can actually affect how others see you, so knowing how to sit at a table, eat politely around others, and behave in public is important. This is especially needed when working with people from other cultural backgrounds, since different cultures value different behaviors, which you should adapt to if necessary to communicate in a respectful manner.
  • Be confident: Another good skill is confidence in your ideas and the willingness to explain your ideas to others. Being assertive with your thoughts and plans shows that you have leadership skills; just make sure that you temper your behavior so it does not turn into aggression. Assertiveness is explaining your ideas, while aggressiveness is insulting others’ ideas if they don’t match yours.
  • Mediate: You will want to know how to mediate and negotiate between people within your company and people outside your company. This also follows when trying to settle disputes; your ability to see both sides of an issue and problem solve is essential. This entails trying to remove your biases and look at the problem logically.

Lesson Summary

When trying to learn interpersonal skills, it is important to remember they are all based on how we communicate with others. Ultimately, we have to work on our non-verbal and verbal cues, as well as our behaviors, to meet the needs of those around us. Although learning to be more confident, outgoing, and assertive can be a challenge for people who are naturally shy, it is a skill that can increase your standing at work or school and lead to promotions and leadership roles.

Some methods for improving interpersonal skills include:

  • Listening
  • Mediating
  • Complimenting
  • Being positive
  • Demonstrating proper etiquette and body language

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