What Are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills are the behaviors and tactics a person uses to interact with others effectively. In the business world, the term refers to an employee's ability to work well with others. Interpersonal skills range from communication and listening to attitude and deportment.

Key Takeaways

  • Interpersonal skills help us interact with others effectively, on the job and in the larger world.
  • Some people are born with such skills but everyone can improve them with practice.
  • Expressing appreciation, resolving disputes, and listening well are all interpersonal skills worth practicing.

Interpersonal skills are often referred to as social intelligence. They depend on reading the signals others send and interpreting them accurately in order to form a response.

Everyone has a personal style and an interpersonal style, but some are more successful than others. While interpersonal skills may be based in part on personality and instinct, they also can be developed.

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Interpersonal Skills

Understanding Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills can be developed but they cannot be learned solely from a textbook. They come naturally to some people, while others have to work at cultivating them.

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, and that never hurts.

Interpersonal skills are strongly linked to a knowledge of social expectations and customs, whether learned or acquired. People with the strongest interpersonal skills adjust their tactics and communications on the fly depending on the reactions of others.

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 at interviews and on resumes.

Among the interpersonal skills often required in business are active listening—the ability to elicit and fully process information from a speaker. Negotiation is a skill that is prized in sales, marketing, law, and customer service. Other desirable interpersonal skills include public speaking, conflict management, team building, and collaboration.

Strong interpersonal skills are prerequisites for many professional jobs.

Improving Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills are best honed by practice.

Expressing appreciation for team members and support staff, displaying empathy, moderating disputes quickly, and controlling displays of temper are all good exercises.

Active listening can be practiced by repeating back a speaker's comment to make sure true communication is taking place.

If all that isn't enough, there are courses that teach these skills.

Interpersonal Skills in the Workplace

Strong interpersonal skills such as negotiating, problem-solving, and knowledge-sharing are the main requirements for many jobs. Other skills are seen as essential qualifications for all employees, including:

  • Teamwork
  • Verbal and written communication
  • Dependability
  • Responsibility
  • Empathy

It's difficult to imagine a company thriving if its employees do not have these interpersonal skills.