People want to be feel that they have been understood and respected despite the content of a conversation. Poor interpersonal skills can prevent this from happening and lower the effectiveness of communication.
It's important to develop these skills as they are required in your professional and personal life on a daily basis and a significant proportion of your life consists of interaction. In this article, we discuss techniques for improving interpersonal skills.
Interpersonal skills cover the interaction and exchange of information between two or more people. This can be verbal and/or non-verbal communication.
Many soft skills require strong interpersonal skills, such as:
For more info, read our comprehensive list of soft skills.
It's important to develop your interpersonal skills because:
Below we have gone through techniques to develop your interpersonal skills.
To be empathetic means that you are able to identify and understand others' emotions i.e. imagining yourself in someone else's position. Understanding how people feel will help you communicate your thoughts and ideas in a way that makes sense to others and it helps you understand others when they communicate.
To develop empathy:
People want to be around others that are friendly and have a positive outlook even when the company may be in a difficult situation. You don't have to be incredibly sociable but you must develop some type of positive rapport with your team so that the workplace is pleasant for everybody. Also, offer your assistance to others if you have time to spare.
A good way of building trust at work is to let colleagues know that you value their skills. Show this by asking for their help on certain tasks and projects. Also, let them know when they've done a good job so they understand that they're appreciated.
You will be working with the same people daily so it's likely that you will learn about their personal lives. Get to know what's important for them as this helps build positive relationships.
Self-awareness is the ability to accurately recognize your: emotions, strengths, limitations, actions and understand how these affect others around you. By developing this skill you will be able to act more thoughtfully.
Improve self-awareness by:
You may have a difficult colleague in your department but you shouldn't let this get in the way of your performance and this type of issue frequently escalates and can disrupt the whole team.
Try to find one good professional characteristic in this person as it can become significantly easier to interact with them if you remind yourself of this trait.
Assertiveness is when you confidently express your needs and opinions in a fair, honest and calm way whilst considering the needs and views of other people.
People are more likely to like and respect you if you're assertive in your communication rather than passive or aggressive. They will also trust you more and conversation will flow more smoothly.
Be assertive by:
Before engaging in conversation put your phone away and ensure that it's not visible to make it clear that you're fully focusing on the discussion. Be respectful and give those involved your full attention.
Interrupting disrupts the thought process of the person speaking and it's disrespectful. If it's necessary to make an interruption then make a gentle interruption - ask the person if you can interrupt and apologies, for example, "Sorry, can I quickly interrupt/add something?".
This suggests that you're not listening or not willing to listen.
Your body language may be sending out negative communication signals, for example, hunched shoulders, hands in pockets and looking down suggests you don't have much confidence in what you're saying, folded arms might seem like you're not open to the other person's ideas and pointing your finger may look accusatory or defensive. Your body language needs to show that you're engaged and open to the conversation.
Consider how your words are going to affect the others in the conversation before you say anything. You must be honest but you must also remain respectful.
Active listening is when you listen beyond the words being spoken - you understand the message being communicated. During conversations, a lot of the time the "listener" is thinking about how they're going to respond rather than concentrating on what the speaker is saying.
By really listening you can provide a more thoughtful answer that takes the speaker's thoughts and opinions into account.
To develop active listening you should practice the following:
Give the speaker your complete attention:
You need to ensure that you understand what the speaker is saying without your judgments and beliefs getting in the way:
Interrupting is not helpful as it's irritating for the speaker and it reduces the time for you to understand the message:
Being open allows you to understand what's being said by positively receiving feedback and providing honest feedback in return. This gives everyone a fair chance to share their views and opinions and it prevents you from becoming defensive or attacking.
You may think that finishing other people's sentence is helpful or that it shows your understanding. However, others may interpret this as though you think they're not worth listening to or that you're impatient.
Even if you disagree with what someone else is saying you should have the courtesy of letting them speak before respectfully expressing your opinions. Even if you both don't agree at the end of the discussion at least you'll both have an understanding of a different viewpoint.
Interpersonal skills may seem like a simple concept as it essentially involves just speaking with others but as you can see there are many factors to be aware of. It's important to practice these skills whenever you can as the best way to improve is by applying them as much as possible.