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.
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?
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 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 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, 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 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
According to the New York Times there are four ways to do this:
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Acuity Insights says there are three different types of empathy
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.
According to strategies and skills advisor and author, Andrew Sobel, you can improve empathy by:
Empathy helps in better understanding even the most difficult people. When there is understanding, there are fewer conflicts.
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:
Feedback is asking for an opinion. It helps solve problems and can be used for decision-making.
This time let’s find ways to improve our nonverbal communication :
There are two important reasons why we network:
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.
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
By widening your awareness of other people’s cultures, you also develop a greater variety of relationships.
Here are some examples of cross-cultural communication :
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.
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.
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