Having good interpersonal skills means you are able to communicate and interact well with other people. Interpersonal skills are part of a range of skills that are sometimes called employability skills. These are skills which employers search for in potential candidates and having evidence to show that you have these skills will make you more likely to get a job.
Interpersonal skills in the workplace
Here are several examples of what are considered to be the most valuable interpersonal skills for an employee to have:
One of the most valued interpersonal skills in the workplace is communication. In almost any job, you will have to communicate with other people to do a job well. Some jobs will need you to present ideas through public speaking, whereas others will require you to express your thoughts clearly with others through oral and written communication.
Listening goes hand in hand with communication. Effective listening is the ability to accurately receive and interpret information. Active listening means that you are more likely to achieve understanding and as a result, you are more likely to work more effectively with others. It will make others feel valued and respected.
As an employee or a manager, you will have to resolve conflict in the workplace. Conflict is a normal part of human interaction. Try to see the other person’s opinion as simply a different perspective that you need to understand. This might include solving a problem between some of your colleagues, or resolving an issue between yourself and a client. Resolving conflict requires active listening, awareness of self and others, compromise, and creativity. Working creatively together to resolve a conflict in a collaborative way can often result in a third solution or outcome that is better than the individual proposals.
Part of being a good team member and employee is being able to show empathy for others. Empathy means being able to understand and feel what other people are going through. If a colleague is having a hard time personally, or if a customer calls up with a complaint, it is important to be able to listen carefully and express compassion for their situation.
Even if you are not a manager or boss of a company now, there are always opportunities to show your leadership skills. Having the ability to guide and motivate a team shows your colleagues that you are capable of being a successful leader, and can set you up for promotions in the future.
Depending on the job, negotiation might involve drawing up contracts between clients, or helping colleagues come up with a solution to a problem. To be a good negotiator, you need to be a good listener and use creative problem solving skills together. It’s not always possible to find something that everybody agrees on, so finding the best alternative or compromise is also a successful negotiation.
Your attitude is contagious – make sure you infect your workplace with a positive one! While you don’t have to be the most sociable person in the office, employers like to employ people who make a workspace a brighter place.
Even if your job is mostly made up of independent work, you will almost always need to collaborate with a colleague at one point or another. Being a good team member means working together towards a shared goal and supporting one another, rather than just doing what’s good for yourself. Teamwork goes hand in hand with other interpersonal skills such as listening, communication, and negotiation.
How to showcase your interpersonal skills
Here are ways in which you can showcase your interpersonal skills:
- Include them as a characteristic in the personal summary at the start of your curriculum vitae (CV)
- Include them in your in the “Skills” section of your CV
- Rather than writing what you did in previous employments, it is helpful to describe what you achieved and credit your achievements to your good interpersonal skills. This gives the employer solid evidence that you have this skill. It will also help you at interview as you will have examples of where you have demonstrated your skills.
- Use similar examples of how you used your interpersonal skills in your previous jobs when writing your cover letter. Again, the trick is to focus on what you accomplished by using these skills.
- Use Skills Summary. Skills Summary is a free, online platform which provides an easy way to track and develop your life skills. Skills Summary helps you explore, test, and develop up to 12 core skills.
In an interview, prepare to answer questions about your interpersonal skills in previous employment. Actions speak louder than words though, so remember to prove this to your employer by the way you interact in the interview. If you talk up your interpersonal skills in your curriculum vitae and cover letter, make an effort to come across as approachable and empathetic in person as well.
Remember that interviewers form an opinion on whether you are right for the job in the first 30 seconds. Be sure that you offer a solid handshake, make good eye contact and smile!
This short video from Skills Summary explains more about what interpersonal skills are and how to showcase them:
How can I develop my interpersonal skills?
Most of us aren’t born with naturally perfect interpersonal skills – it can take some practice. So how should we go about improving them? Here are some tips to help you improve your interpersonal skills:
- Have a positive outlook – know that it takes time to develop these skills but you’ll get there eventually if you keep working at it
- Understand and work through your emotions – you will experience many different emotions in life. The more you reflect on your experiences and get to know yourself, the more you’ll develop your interpersonal skills
- Understand that people’s knowledge lies in different areas – we all have our own strengths. Embrace yours and work on it
- Show an interest in your colleagues – find one good trait in every colleague and interact with them. You can learn a lot from others
- Be assertive – believe that you are capable of success and be confident in your capabilities
- Think about the best and worst managers you have had – mirror the behaviours of the good ones
- Take every experience as a learning lesson – not every experience in work or in life will be a clear ‘success’ but each gives us an opportunity to learn something
- Maintain relationships – your support system can teach you a lot about interpersonal communication
- Be an active listener – be a good friend to others by practicing empathy and learn from them as much as you can
- Participate in extracurricular activities and/or volunteer in your community – networking, presenting, marketing, and engaging with your community will help you develop many important interpersonal skills
- Ask others for feedback on how you come across – be open to what they say and ask questions to understand, rather than being defensive