Career Advice

Interpersonal Skills in the Workplace: The Ultimate Guide

Strong interpersonal skills in the workplace can significantly enhance one’s ability to connect deeply with others, resolve conflict effectively, and collaborate on a team. Boosting these soft skills can help you get and keep your dream job.

What Are Interpersonal Skills? 

Your interpersonal skills reflect your ability to interact with other people, communicate effectively, and navigate social situations. They include your personality traits, coping strategies, and non-verbal cues that you use when communicating with others.

In personal relationships, the better your interpersonal skills are, the deeper your relationships become. In professional settings, your interpersonal skills influence your ability to find and retain jobs, earn promotions, and collaborate with coworkers. 

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Examples of Interpersonal Skills 

Interpersonal skills incorporate four key aspects:

  • personality
  • conversational style
  • nonverbal communication
  • emotional intelligence

These elements shape how individuals interact, communicate, and build relationships in various social contexts.

Personality 

Significant traits, including emotional tendencies and quirks that describe you as an individual, contribute to your personality. A wide range of personalities exist, but typically, employers prefer to work with people who are optimistic, empathetic, and honest—all interpersonal skills that lend to a high-trust company culture of mutual respect. 

While many traits seem innate, we all have different sides to our personalities. We can be friendly and demonstrative with some people and shy and reserved with others. We can be serious in some settings and laid back in other settings. 

People with strong interpersonal skills understand this and choose to demonstrate professional personality traits at appropriate times. 

Conversational Style

Conversational style is key to interpersonal skills, particularly in business, where effective communication is essential for success. Think about it—every chat at work moves the needle in ways, whether sharing info, solving a problem, influencing decisions, or building rapport. How we talk shapes these interactions.

What is the basis for good conversations? Active listening. It involves tuning in—not just to the words, but to the feelings and ideas behind them. It helps you understand and shows the other person you value their input. 

Then, there’s seeking out different perspectives. This component isn’t just about broadening the conversation; it’s about finding creative solutions and avoiding misunderstandings.

Being transparent and direct also matters a lot. Clear communication builds trust and keeps things straightforward, making your interactions more productive.

By weaving these skills into your daily conversations, you make each interaction more effective and enjoyable. Remember, productive conversations are all about making sure everyone involved feels heard and respected.

Non-Verbal Communication

Without speaking a word, your body language communicates volumes about your demeanor and attitude to those around you.

For instance, making direct eye contact indicates honesty and builds trust and openness in interactions. Similarly, standing tall with shoulders back and head held high exudes confidence, projecting self-assurance. Respecting personal space by not crowding others shows consideration for boundaries, reflecting good etiquette.

And yes, good hygiene matters as well. It promotes personal well-being and indicates self-respect and regard for others’ comfort. Also, being mindful of your surroundings demonstrates attentiveness and thoughtfulness towards the environment and people.

Emotional Intelligence

Other interpersonal skills fall into the category of emotional intelligence, which is defined by the degree to which you understand your own and other people’s emotions. It includes having skills to manage your behavior, especially when flooded with negative emotions.

Emotional intelligence also allows you to read other people’s signals, interpret them accurately, and respond with empathy.

In the workplace, emotionally intelligent people empathize with different personality types and can work with more people. Because they understand the connections between their emotions and behaviors, emotionally intelligent people are more likely to navigate conflict productively rather than reactively.

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Why Are Interpersonal Skills Important in the Workplace?

Interpersonal skills are invaluable for career advancement. They enable individuals to handle workplace challenges more adeptly, negotiate successfully, and confidently lead teams. Strong interpersonal skills also enhance the ability to network, influencing career opportunities and professional growth. 

In today’s diverse and dynamic workplace, the ability to navigate complex social interactions and understand the perspectives of others is more important than ever. Employees and job seekers benefit from developing their interpersonal skills in various ways. 

Interpersonal Skills Help Job Candidates Navigate Interviews

Candidates with strong interpersonal skills are likelier to nail interviews because they appear respectful, enthusiastic, and engaged.

Interpersonal Skills Help Employees Earn Promotions and Bonuses

The best leaders and managers have strong interpersonal skills, so when it comes time for promotions and bonuses, your interpersonal skills might be more significant than some of your work achievements if they inspire others to excel.

Moreover, if you are in a commission-based job, improving your interpersonal skills will improve your ability to connect with others. People want to do business with people they like and trust, so when your social skills improve, so will your sales numbers.

Interpersonal Skills Help Build and Strengthen Your Network

Strong interpersonal skills will help you leave a positive impression on colleagues and professional peers, which improves your chances of receiving recommendation letters and being recruited or referred for job opportunities.

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Can Interpersonal Skills Be Learned?

The short answer is yes! With practice, you can develop any interpersonal skill. 

Think of it like this: If you know how to do a little yoga, have limited experience with motorcycle repair, and can understand some Italian, your ability to improve depends on how much time you dedicate to each activity. 

The same is true of your interpersonal skills. 

Of course, this raises the question, “How do I improve my interpersonal skills?” 

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How to Improve Your Interpersonal Skills

A first step toward improving your interpersonal skills is inventorying what others think of you. Sometimes, how you intend to come across differs from how people view you. Creating this awareness facilitates your ability to improve your skills. For instance, someone’s sense of humor can come off as insulting or dismissive to others.

Developing self-awareness will help you make shifts so your intentions are more likely to match other people’s interpretations. 

We get it. Asking for this kind of feedback is hard. Consider asking people you trust to be both direct and empathetic for feedback. Depending on how comfortable you are with constructive criticism, you may ask:

  • “In your opinion, what is the most substantial shift I can make to my behavior that would result in stronger relationships?”
  • “What changes in my demeanor do you think I could make to improve my chances of being hired?” 
  • “I would like feedback on how I come across to people, but I need you to be gentle. Could you advise me on small shifts I can make to be more hirable/promotable?”

In addition to self-awareness, focus on improving these five necessary interpersonal skills.

1. Listen With Curiosity

Curiosity is the foundation of great listening skills. When listening to other people, you can demonstrate curiosity by: 

  • asking questions 
  • abstaining from interruptions
  • identifying the person’s emotions 
  • focusing on what you can do to help 
  • rejecting any urges to “one-up” the other person

2. Collaborate Proactively

Collaborating with others gives you access to a greater pool of resources, increasing efficiency and resulting in better solutions. Building this interpersonal skill also influences company culture, fostering a sense of belonging for team members.

Here are a few ways you can become more collaborative.

  • Ask for help when you need it. 
  • Lend a helping hand when relevant.
  • Seek different viewpoints.
  • Listen and ask follow-up questions. 
  • Follow through on commitments. 
  • Give other people credit for their contributions.

3. Reframe Criticism as Feedback

Though feedback can be hard to hear (it can feel like criticism), responding constructively will help you improve your skill sets and deepen your relationship with your manager. 

A great way to showcase this interpersonal skill on the job is to ask your boss for feedback—and then thank them for the constructive criticism they provide.

Here are some questions you might ask:

  • “What skill can I improve to make your job easier?
  • “Can you give me actionable steps to improve my performance?”
  • “Are there any skills I need to develop for this company to be more successful?”

4. Understand Conflict Management

Knowing how to manage conflict helps you focus more on your job and less on reducing tension and managing challenging relationships.

Conflicts escalate when parties feel misunderstood, often leading to interruptions and blame. To de-escalate, actively listen to the other person by giving them space to speak, asking questions, and validating points you agree with.

Before responding, ensure they have finished speaking and ask permission to share your perspective. This approach helps them feel heard and more receptive to understanding your side.

Remember to seek solutions. Conflicts that result in a solution can strengthen relationships. When managing a conflict, ask, “What do you need from me to improve this situation?” 

It communicates that you want to help the other person and that the relationship is significant to you. The upshot is goodwill and the likelihood of a successful resolution. 

5. Learn Effective Boundary-Setting Techniques 

Doing so can prevent resentment in work and personal life, demonstrating your seriousness and expectation for respect. Unlike threats or ultimatums, boundaries are actions you take in response to others’ behaviors, often to diffuse situations.

For example, suppose a colleague speaks to you disrespectfully. In that case, you may want to pause the conversation and suggest resuming it when both parties can interact calmly. This approach helps you maintain professionalism and model the behavior you expect.

How to Show Your Interpersonal Skills While Job Hunting

Interpersonal skills are often defined as soft skills in the workforce. Here are a few ways to highlight them.

  • Include successful work collaborations on your resume.
  • Ask the hiring manager what soft skills are necessary for the job. 
  • Remind your references to share examples that emphasize your interpersonal skills.

Wize Words

Employees and job seekers who prioritize their interpersonal skills stand out to employers. They’re usually more likely to be promoted and hired and enjoy the benefits of deeply connected networks.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the relationship between interpersonal skills and job satisfaction? 

Research shows that interpersonal skills positively impact job satisfaction by strengthening colleague relationships. Interpersonal skills such as effective communication and strong teamwork result in positive social interactions, which enhances job satisfaction. When interpersonal skills are high, employees feel a sense of belonging, enjoy their company culture, and have higher workplace engagement.

Are interpersonal skills required in all jobs?

Interpersonal skills are required in most jobs. Managers with strong interpersonal skills are better able to motivate their employees. Sales professionals are more likely to build connections with clients. Even people who work in seemingly isolated environments, such as truck drivers and software developers, rely on interpersonal skills to interpret job specifications and incorporate feedback.

Author

  • Jocelyn Baker

    Jocelyn Baker is a freelance writer, an editor, and a former political reporter who specializes in business management. She has written thousands of articles and edited dozens of books about recruitment, leadership, and governance. She focuses on simplifying complex topics into implementable strategies.

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The article was reviewed by Deirdre Sullivan

Jocelyn Baker

Jocelyn Baker is a freelance writer, an editor, and a former political reporter who specializes in business management. She has written thousands of articles and edited dozens of books about recruitment, leadership, and governance. She focuses on simplifying complex topics into implementable strategies.

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