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Key Interpersonal Communication Skills you need to Improve

September 5, 2018 - Dom Barnard

Strong interpersonal skills are important for employers because most jobs require you to effectively interact with other people. These skills are now vital for success in the workplace.

In this article, we discuss different types of interpersonal communication skills.

What is interpersonal communication?

Interpersonal communication is the interaction and exchange of information between two or more people. This can be verbal and/or non-verbal communication.

Key interpersonal communication skills

Effective interpersonal communication skills are required to form connections and establish relationships. There are many different types – we have described eleven of the most important skills:

Verbal communication

Verbal communication skills are important for the majority of occupations because they help you interact effectively and build rapport.


  • Tailor your speech to the audience by, for example, avoiding technical terminology.
  • Ask questions to show your interest in what is being said.
  • Match what you’re saying with your voice and your body language.
  • Reflect on what someone has said by summarising and paraphrasing.
  • Actively listening.

Active listening

Active listening is listening beyond the words being spoken – understanding 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. This will help people around you understand that you value and appreciate them.

Active listening

To develop active listening you should practice the following:

  1. Pay attention – give the speaker your complete attention rather than thinking about your response.
  2. Show the speaker that you’re listening and that you’re interested – body language is especially helpful for this.
  3. Clarify your understanding – you need to ensure that you understand what the speaker is saying without your judgments and beliefs getting in the way so ensure you reflect and ask questions.
  4. Don’t interrupt or redirect the conversation.
  5. Provide a suitable response that is honest but polite.

Body language

The impression others form of you is roughly split by:

  • Body (visuals) 55%
  • Voice (sound) 38%
  • Words (content) 7%

So body language is significantly used to understand what is being said.

When communicating with others your aim is to display open body language, such as, a relaxed posture, maintaining eye contact, uncrossed arms, nodding your head, smiling etc. Closed body language should be avoided as you may be perceived as uninterested or even untrustworthy, for example, folding arms or legs, avoiding eye contact, shifting eyes, fidgeting etc.


Don’t just speak with people who have similar views to your own, you should also speak to those who have opposing opinions. Show an interest in what they say with the aim of understanding how they think. This will help with your own development as it challenges you and people will admire you for this because it shows a willingness to learn from others even if you are in disagreement.

Negotiation skills

Negotiation is important in a variety of situations, for example, you may need it to resolve a conflict or create a contract. You must be able to come to mutual agreements that keep everyone satisfied even if there is compromise. Being able to negotiate leads to respect and people will trust you as they know you look out for everyone’s best interests.

Negotiation skills during a presentation

Decision making and problem-solving skills

Most jobs have elements of problem-solving – this is where you think of solutions to deal with a problem. This type of creative thinking can help maintain harmony within a team. The general structure to problem-solving is:

  • Identifying the problem
  • Exploring all of the solutions
  • Deciding on which solution to implement
  • Implementing the solution
  • Reviewing the outcome

Conflict resolution

It’s likely that you’ll need to resolve a conflict at some point. Active listening and problem-solving are useful for this as you’ll need to hear from all sides objectively and you’ll need to come to a positive resolution.

Resolving conflict is not always a negative experience – it can be very constructive and provide you with an understanding of underlying problems, for example, perhaps a team member is having difficulties at home which is making them more irritable.

By forming a plan with those involved, you can help them move forward and manage their difficulties. They may have never experienced this constructive help before your mediation.


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.


  • Tell the other person how you feel.
  • Listen to what the other person says and empathise.
  • Speak at a normal conversational volume.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Avoid words that exaggerate, such as, “always” and never”.
  • Use facts rather than judgements.

Positive attitude

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.


For a business to function effectively people must work well together in order to achieve a common goal. Some people struggle with teamwork because they believe that they know how to do the job better than anyone else and they do not trust others to do their roles. This can create conflict and hurt the overall effectiveness of the team.

If this is something you find difficult assist your colleagues whenever you can and ask your colleagues for their opinions and ideas – be enthusiastic when colleagues offer their own ideas.

Teamwork communication


To be empathetic means that you are able to identify and understand others’ emotions i.e. imagining yourself in someone else’s position. Being empathetic shows your team that you care. For example, if a manager reacts angrily after finding out that an employee has been arriving to work late because their child is unwell, the team is likely to react negatively towards the manager.

It would be more favourable for the manager to be understanding and agree on a plan of action with the employee, such as, the employee starting work earlier and finishing later. Employees and colleagues will respect and trust you more if you empathise with them and express compassion.

Also, 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.

In summary

Your job performance will improve if you develop your interpersonal skills because you will be more of a cohesive member of the company. It’s also likely that your job satisfaction will increase because you will form stronger relationships with your colleagues.

By becoming more aware of how you interact with others and by practicing you can improve your interpersonal communication skills.