Top interpersonal skills in the workplace (With examples)

Top interpersonal skills in the workplace (With examples)
JobStreet content teamupdated on 09 August, 2023

They say that no man is an island. Whether you’re an introvert or a one-person department, 99% of the time you will still have to deal with people. That is why interpersonal skills matter at work, as they do in life.

In this article, we will do a rundown of the top interpersonal skills you need for your career, as well as when job-hunting. We’ll also guide you on how to check those you have mastered, need to polish, and have to acquire through upskilling.

Definition of interpersonal skills

According to Investopedia, interpersonal skills refer to a collection of behaviors that allow you to interact successfully with other individuals. What are the other hallmarks of interpersonal skills?

  • You can learn and develop them.
  • You can use these to show appreciation or to manage conflict.
  • In the workplace, they can help build camaraderie and teamwork.

Importance of Interpersonal skills

Let’s create a scenario to better understand what interpersonal skills are and why they’re so important in life and work.

Bob works as a computer programmer. Bob has always been an introvert and when he discovered the online world, he found his calling. More screen time, fewer people time.

Bob now works in a company that employs 100 people. Even if Bob plugs his ears with a headset, someone almost always comes along.

Usually, it’s his immediate boss. Bob cannot afford to reply in monosyllables. No matter how great his technical skills are, he lacks people skills. People will soon stop talking to Bob because he gives off this vibe that he cannot be bothered. If he receives negative feedback from his boss regarding this behavior but fails to address it, his next promotion may be on the line.

Context of interpersonal skills in personal and professional life

Technical skills are the knowledge we apply to our work. However, employers also look to our interpersonal skills. We need to have a blend of both skills. But when the odds of technical or hard skills are the same, it is the soft skills that will tip the scale.

The Building Blocks of Interpersonal Skills

1. Communication

The National Soft Skills Association found in their study that one of the top reasons a project fails or a business suffers is because of poor communication.

A study done by the Conference Board of Canada on employability skills revealed that communication skills are one of the key traits employees look for when hiring an employee. Next to your technical knowledge of the job, how you conduct yourself during an interview can indicate whether you’ll be a good team player.

Verbal communication

Verbal communication is a very important interpersonal skill because it’s the easiest and fastest way to relay a message, whether verbalized or written.

In verbal communication, you instantly know whether your message has been received based on the other person’s reaction.

Nonverbal communication

Nonverbal communication, on the other hand, has no words at all. It is all visual and auditory. It can be body language. It can be heard in the tone of voice. It’s also in the way a body is postured.

With this skill, you will be able to express different kinds of emotions without the use of any language: joy, sadness, disappointment, anger, triumph.

Eye contact is a nonverbal communication that can also be revealing. Eye contact can mean interest. It can mean that you’re being serious about what you’re saying.

Active listening

Woman actively listening to her co-worker while holding pen and pencil

Active listening is being completely present in communication. Robert Baden-Powell of the Boy Scouts Association said, “If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talk.”

2. Emotional Intelligence

As we began to define different types of intelligence, there was one that ranked high among well-known world leaders. This is emotional intelligence, or what is more known as emotional quotient or EQ. Emotional intelligence is being able to use your emotions positively, such as relating to other people, communicating better, and overcoming your negative feelings.


Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is part of EQ. You know what you are good at and you focus on it. And know where you are lacking and improve on it.


With emotional intelligence as one of your interpersonal skills, you’ll be able to manage your stress levels better. When your emotional intelligence is in place, you are more capable of managing your feelings and balancing these with rational thinking.


According to Very Well Mind, empathy is being able to put yourself in other people’s shoes. Not to be confused with sympathy, which is feeling pity for another person’s plight, empathy is being able to understand what that other person is feeling, and feeling it as well.

Let’s come up with a scenario. This time in the police force.

Jack and Tom who are partners in the beat. They’re assigned to the graveyard shift. But it seems that Tom is a little off tonight. Jack asks him what’s wrong.

Tom can sense the empathy in his partner so he opens up about stressors at home. Jack listens carefully, validates his partner’s situation, and even suggests he consider seeking a professional therapist.

Empathy is being conscious of how someone is feeling. It’s listening to them without judgment or giving unsolicited advice.

3. Conflict Resolution

Understanding the nature of conflict

Conflicts are normal in the workplace. Sometimes the need to be productive at work can get so high it can lead to competition. Or, when something fails, pointing fingers is one of the potential reactions.

According to Gordon Training, conflicts are not always bad. One good example is marriage. It’s unhealthy if one spouse becomes submissive to the other just to avoid conflicts.

Wanda from Sales is annoyed at Jerry from Technical because he wasn’t able to present the product well to the client. Because of that, they weren’t able to land the account.

Instead of talking to Jerry to find out what happened, Wanda just fumes in silence. She doesn’t want to work with Jerry anymore. Finally, she just stops talking to him.

If they had talked about it, her annoyance could have been avoided and the conflict could have been resolved.

Techniques for resolving conflicts

  • Talk directly
  • Plan ahead
  • Avoid blame or name-calling
  • Listen
  • Show that you are listening
  • Talk it all through
  • Work on a solution
  • Follow through

Effective negotiation strategies

According to Champlain College, in handling conflicts, it’s usually effective if someone mediates.Getting two warring parties to put down their weapons is a win-win not just for the company but for you. Here’s what you can do to mediate effectively.

  • Don’t ignore the conflict
  • Clarify what the issue is
  • Bring involved parties together to talk
  • Identify the solution
  • Follow through

4. Collaboration and Teamwork

Importance of collaboration

According to the book, Beyond Collaboration Overload by Rob Cross, before the pandemic as many as 85% spent their week collaborating at the workplace. Collaboration has many benefits, namely:

  • It fosters innovation
  • It improves team dynamics
  • It improves communication
  • It produces successful results

Team dynamics

Have you heard the saying, “Teamwork makes the dream work?” In the work setting, the “dream” refers to a specific work goal.

Let’s use Wanda from Sales and Jerry from Technical. If they worked as a team, they would have presented the competency of their product better. And they might have landed the account.

If Wanda knew Jerry wasn’t familiar with the product, she could have helped him better understand the importance of landing the account.

Building trust within the teams

Teamwork depends largely on communication. But this time, communication is needed to build trust.

It would help Wanda and Jerry, although they are from different departments, to have open communication. This could allow for trust to develop between them.

This trust helps the sales pitch to flow smoothly.

5. Adaptability

Flexibility in interpersonal relationships

According to Leadership Essentials there are two types of interpersonal flexibility:

Basic flex is when you treat everyone in the same way: with respect, honesty, fair judgment, and kindness.

Style flex is adjusting yourself to a particular person in the workplace. For example, let’s say Wanda is the more interpersonal between her and Jerry. She adjusts her personality to accommodate Jerry. She becomes the more understanding one and as the more senior colleague, becomes his mentor.

Embracing change

It has become a norm to set expectations or goals. We put them on our to-do list. But sometimes things don’t always go as planned. Things change and sometimes we need to adjust.

Interpersonal skills require us to embrace change. According to Soul Salt, we lose the enjoyment of creation when we are set on the end product.

This will help us grow in character as well.

Cultivating resilience

According to the New York Times there are four ways to do this:

  • Foster strong social networks
  • Find something to be optimistic about
  • Reduce stress
  • Learn to cope from stressful “shake-ups”

Strengthening your Interpersonal Skills

6. Assertive Training

Defining assertiveness

Skills You Need wrote: “Being assertive means being able to stand up for your own or other people’s rights in a calm and positive way, without being either aggressive, or passively accepting what is “wrong.

Assertiveness can also mean standing up for other people’s rights in a peaceful manner.

Mayo Clinic has these techniques for becoming more assertive

  • Understand your workstyle before making changes
  • Use the “I” message
  • Learn how to say no
  • Practice what you want to say
  • Making use of the body language
  • Don’t get too emotional
  • Baby steps

Balancing assertiveness and diplomacy

Assertiveness can be confused with being a bully or bossy. However, it’s a matter of balancing it with diplomacy. Respect is key when fighting for what you feel is right.

7. Building Rapport

Identifying common ground

When you want to manage conflict, find common ground with the person you disagree with. It’s not about giving up your belief but rather looking for something you can agree on.

Using mirroring techniques

Mirroring may fall under communication but it’s also a skill in building rapport. When you mirror, you repeat or paraphrase what the other person said to show that you were listening.

The role of humor in building rapport

woman laughing with her colleague

Michael Kerr, President of Humor at Work, has this to say: “In workplaces that encourage people to be themselves--that are less hierarchical and more innovative--people tend to be more open with their humor.”

What are the benefits of being humorous

  • You will be fun to work with
  • Humor helps with the stress
  • You become more human in people’s eyes
  • It makes people comfortable
  • You create trust
  • It helps with the company morale
  • You become more approachable
  • You stand out
  • It can help with the growth of the company

8. Developing Empathy

Different types of empathy

Acuity Insights says there are three different types of empathy

  1. Cognitive.When you put yourself in their shoes and know what they are feeling.
  2. Emotional.When you can feel what they are feeling. For example, you can feel their grief of losing a loved one.
  3. Compassionate.When we feel the desire to help them get by.

Brene Brown has this to say in her Ted Talk, “When we work from a place I believe that says I’m enough, then we stop screaming and start listening. We’re kinder and gentler to people around us. And we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.”

That’s the best definition of empathy.

Strategies for enhancing empathy

According to strategies and skills advisor and author, Andrew Sobel, you can improve empathy by:

  • Getting out of your comfort zone
  • Traveling to new places
  • Asking others about your relationship skills
  • Using your heart, not just your head
  • Talking to people and listening
  • Checking your biases
  • Having a sense of curiosity
  • Asking thoughtful questions

The benefits of empathy in interpersonal relationships

Empathy helps in better understanding even the most difficult people. When there is understanding, there are fewer conflicts.

9. Improving Active Listening

Barriers to active listening

According to a study from the University of Minnesota, people only remember half of what was said immediately after listening to someone else talk.

These are some examples of poor listening:

  1. Listening from your point of view rather than having an open mind.
  2. Involving personal and emotional situations while listening.
  3. Making assumptions even before the speaker is done speaking.
  4. Listening only to things you agree with.
  5. Judging what is being said.
  6. Acting like you already know what is being said.
  7. Thinking that what is being said is a personal attack.

Techniques for becoming a better listener

  1. Face the speaker
  2. Look for nonverbal cues
  3. Let them finish talking
  4. Don’t jump to conclusions
  5. Don’t listen to respond
  6. Nod your head
  7. Stay focused
  8. Ask questions

Why is feedback important to the active listener?

Feedback is asking for an opinion. It helps solve problems and can be used for decision-making.

10. Enhancing Non-Verbal Communication

Tips for improving non-verbal communication

This time let’s find ways to improve our nonverbal communication :

  • Keeping eye contact
  • Being conscious of body language
  • Observing facial expressions
  • Noting your tone of voice
  • Asking questions if you’re unsure

Interpersonal Skills in Professional Settings

11. Networking

The importance of networking

There are two important reasons why we network:

  1. We do it to meet other people from our industry, exchange ideas, and find new job opportunities.
  2. It widens our market. If we are in sales, we meet potential clients. Or if we’re in HR, we get to find candidates for positions we need to fill.

Here are some strategies for effective networking :

  • Create a presence online
  • Develop more connections
  • Check out ideas from industry experts
  • Talk shop with peers to swap ideas
  • Connect with professionals in your industry

12. Leadership

In one interview with a successful CEO of a startup, he describes how he usually skips the resumes that have “management skills” written on them. It is very generic. Thousands of resumes use that phrase. And it doesn’t describe what kind of a leader you are.

Lucjan Samulowski says, “The ‘management skills’ term is popular. The right way to think about it is ‘management behaviors and abilities.’”

What did he mean by that?

Simply put, disclose all the ways you were successful as a leader in your previous job. Or, if you’re aiming for a management position, describe ways where you have shown leadership qualities.

Leadership styles and their impact on interpersonal skills

Whether you are management or rank and file, leadership skills are important to have. Not only is it planting the seed of your future career self, but it’s also helpful in creating a healthy working environment for you.

These are the different types of leaders:

  • Autocratic
  • Authoritative
  • Pacesetting
  • Democratic
  • Coaching
  • Affiliative
  • Laissez-faire

Also read: These 12 Vital Leader Qualities Will Help You Succeed

Developing leadership skills

According to the LA Community College District :

Take on new tasks.

When your team leader asks for volunteer help for a task, present yourself. Not only will your leader appreciate this, you can gain new skills by taking on something new.

Observe your strengths and weaknesses.

In knowing the skills you’re good at, you can enhance these or highlight them to make them stand out. When it comes to weaknesses, work to improve them.

Keep on learning.

Brush up your existing hard skills. Take up courses that will help you grow in your field.

13. Problem-solving

Identifying problems and opportunities

According to Unacademy, “Learning the concept of problem identification is crucial for all entrepreneurs since without identifying a practical problem, no effective product can be produced.”

  1. When you identify a problem, it challenges you to create new strategies for your business.
  2. You develop your creative side.
  3. Problems train you to come up with solutions.

Collaborative problem solving

two men solving a problem together in front of a laptop

Remember Wanda and Jerry? Let’s bring them back.

The two failed to land the account. But, instead of fighting, they decide to collaborate on winning their next pitch.

They brainstorm, and they pinpoint failures and weaknesses. Finally, they come up with a strategic plan on how to win that next client.

Decision-making in a group context

The same goes with making decisions as a group. Two heads are better than one, or more. No one has the sole perfect idea. It’s usually a collaborative effort.

14. Giving and Receiving Feedback

Here is the importance of giving feedback :

  • Any opinion is feedback and all feedback is valid.
  • You actively listen when you acknowledge feedback.
  • It can motivate you to perform better.

Techniques for giving constructive feedback

  • Know when the recipient is ready to receive it.
  • Describe the situation well.
  • Give your honest opinion on the situation.
  • Have recommendations on how to improve.
  • Make it conversational.

Receiving feedback gracefully

  • Appreciate when you are complimented.
  • No need to explain.
  • Control your emotions
  • Know if the feedback is valid or not.
  • Improve yourself and then ask for follow-up feedback.

15. Cultural Competence

Another interpersonal skill that is just developing is cultural competence. According to Statista, the number of immigrants and expats in the Philippines has reached 219,000 from 212,000 in 2015.

It’s good to know and respect our co-workers' culture. Co-existing with different cultures provides a harmonious environment in a company.

Developing cultural awareness

  1. Get to know them.
  2. Learn their history.
  3. Check out cultural institutions.

By widening your awareness of other people’s cultures, you also develop a greater variety of relationships.

Strategies for effective cross-cultural communication

Here are some examples of cross-cultural communication :

  • In Japan, business cards are handed out with both hands and a bow from the waist. You, too, should accept the card with both hands.
  • In China, it’s not always black or white, or yes or no. Meetings are for discussion. It’s offensive to expect an immediate answer.
  • In Mexico, some people do business with friends and family only. You need someone to connect you with them if you want to have a meeting.

Example scenario of roles where Interpersonal skills are important

Customer Service

Social skills are very important in customer service because you are dealing with people.

Jasmine handles the customer service account for the clinic appointments in her company. Someone messed up the appointment for an elderly woman named Agatha. Agatha knows she has an 8 a.m. appointment with her doctor but it’s not on the calendar.

Agatha is getting agitated and panicking because she is already in the clinic.

Jasmine decides to search for Agatha’s name in the system and sees that it was scheduled in another hospital.

Jasmine then pencils Agatha in the right clinic at 8 am, even if the rest of the appointments will be pushed a little.

Even if she didn’t have to fix it, that’s great decision-making for Jasmine. And she chose right.


Teacher Beth knows that children these days have shorter attention spans. To address this problem, she communicates her lessons in a clear, precise and short manner. She uses short sentences and concrete examples.

Human resource

Handling people, which is the job of HR, is not an easy task. HR is tasked with managing different personality types–and this can be quite stressful. Interpersonal skills are key in dealing with a wide variety of individuals to successfully meet their needs.


Working isn’t just about the job or task at hand. It’s also about working with people. There are many ways we can be more socially skillful in the workplace–and outside work.

Most of the time, our interpersonal skills can give us a better edge in getting that job. It can also help us better enjoy our job by fostering harmonious relationships with colleagues.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the most important skills to develop?
    ⁠Communication is perhaps the most important skill to develop, verbal, nonverbal and active listening. Because interpersonal skill is actually how we interact with people. Emotional intelligence is next, under which is empathy.
  2. Can introverts be successful in developing strong interpersonal skills?
    ⁠Yes. It’s not a matter of whether you’re an introvert, extrovert. It’s how you relate to a person that matters. With empathy, we can just sit quietly with someone who is going through something, and listen without judgment, which is a key interpersonal skill.
  3. How can I handle difficult conversations more effectively?
    ⁠Sometimes difficult conversations stem from our desire to respond quickly more than listening to the other person. What we can do is let the other one finish speaking and listen to what they are saying. Only then can we address it properly.
  4. How can I practice my interpersonal skills in everyday life?
    • Communicate well, and practice active listening

    • Learn to read people to enhance emotional intelligence

    • Master resolving conflicts

    • Understand the importance of teamwork and collaboration

    • Adapt to your workplace

  5. How do I maintain strong interpersonal skills in a remote or virtual work environment?
    ⁠One good example is teamwork and collaboration. Brainstorming doesn’t always have to happen in an office setting. We can do it remotely or virtually. So is problem solving or resolving conflicts.

    ⁠Let your interpersonal skills shine on the job!

Create or update your profile at JobStreet.  Then start updating your resume now using the interpersonal skills you have just learned and search for opportunities.

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