Top interpersonal communication skills and how to develop them
Whether at home with your family, work with colleagues, out with friends, or running errands in a store full of strangers, you are constantly communicating. Your words, body language, tone of voice, gestures, and even what you write in a text message are all forms of communication, and during these interactions, you’re constantly putting to use interpersonal communication skills.
Developing and perfecting your interpersonal communication skills makes your ability to communicate better, more effective, and positive. Whether you’re communicating face-to-face, over the phone, or through email or another device, improving your interpersonal communication is an important part of these interactions.
Read on to learn more about interpersonal communication, what interpersonal skills are (including examples), and how to improve them.
What is interpersonal communication?
Interpersonal communication is communication between people. This can happen in three ways:
- Verbal communication is when we use spoken words to convey a message, such as during a conversation, speech, or talking on the phone.
- Written communication is communicating via written form, such as through letters, emails, text messages, reports, memos, etc.
- Non-verbal communication is how you communicate through your movements, looks, and reactions, including facial expressions, gestures, body language, and touch.
Interpersonal skills are important because they help you be more effective at communicating your messages, thoughts, and feelings to others, not only in your day-to-day life with friends, family, and strangers, but also at the workplace.
What are interpersonal communication skills
Interpersonal communication skills are the traits you use when communicating with others. Also called people skills or social skills, they help you navigate written, verbal, and non-verbal communication situations with others. Good interpersonal communication and working to improve your interpersonal communication skills can be key in helping with conflict resolution, listening skills, and your overall ability to communicate effectively.
Examples of interpersonal communication skills
Interpersonal communication skills are considered “soft” skills, meaning they are easily transferable across situations. Here are a few examples of the top interpersonal communication skills that are most valuable, especially in the workplace:
Active listening is more than just listening to the words someone says. When actively listening, you’re consciously listening, analyzing, and responding to another person, focusing on the intent and content of their words and providing appropriate feedback. Actively listening to another person shows engagement in a positive way and mutual understanding of the conversation.
A great leader sets direction, inspires others and helps create something new. Leaders are influencers, using their roles to help motivate others to achieve their goals. They also help motivate others to use and improve their skills and rally behind a vision. Being a great leader involves decision-making, as well as many other interpersonal communication skills, and can be embodied by both managers and individual team members.
Also known as empathy, a person’s emotional intelligence is how well they understand the needs, thoughts, and feelings of others. It allows someone to feel what another person is experiencing from their point of view, but it also gives one the ability to place themselves in that person’s shoes. This skill helps you be more understanding, aware, and sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of those around you.
Teamwork is another skill that embodies multiple other skills. The ability to work well as a team is essential, especially in the workplace, and team players are often seen as ones who can handle more critical tasks or even promotions.
Solving problems and resolving conflict can become easier when you put your skills to work. These particular skills could include active listening, negotiation, leadership, and others. Listening carefully, understanding the situation from everyone’s side, and working together to find a solution can create a positive outcome and environment.
Other interpersonal skills you may want to improve include:
- Motivation - the ability to inspire and motivate others
- Negotiation - the ability to help two sides reach a compromise
- Assertiveness - the ability to stand up for yourself or others in a calm, positive way
- Decision making - the ability to gather information, make choices, and assess alternate resolutions
- Responsibility - the ability to be accountable, act independently and make responsible decisions
- Patience - the ability to tolerate and remain calm in frustrating or adverse situations
- Dependability - being trustworthy and reliable, doing what you say you will when you say you will
- Flexibility - willingness to change, compromise or modify
- Positive - being optimistic about situations, interactions, and yourself
- Resourceful - the ability to find quick ways to overcome difficult situations
- Supportive - providing encouragement or emotional assistance
- Collaborative - the ability to work well with others
- Adaptable - the ability to adjust and modify to new conditions
- Awareness - having concern, information, and interest in a particular situation
- Encouraging - the ability to give someone support, confidence, hope, and sharing positivity
- Respectful - showing respect to others regardless of the situation
Why are interpersonal communication skills important?
Interpersonal communication skills are important to help you see others’ points of view, resolve conflict, listen, and communicate effectively. Not only do they play a role in day-to-day life, but they are critical in the workplace.
Improving your interpersonal communication skills can help you be more successful and collaborative and have an overall positive attitude about your interactions with others. These skills can help you solve problems more efficiently and effectively, make sound and informed decisions, and support others around you.
How to improve interpersonal communication skills
Whether you already possess some of the interpersonal communication skills listed above and are looking to improve them, or there are a few you need extra work on, there are ways to improve your skills and become more effective at communicating.
Start with just being more self-aware:
- Whenever you’re communicating with anyone, pay attention to your behavior and words and how others interact with you and react to you.
- Take time to reflect on how you communicate with others in different situations.
- Think about how you could have reacted differently or more effectively, either by saying things differently, adjusting your body language, or more actively listening.
- Try recording yourself when speaking, either with a voice or video recorder, to watch or listen back and note things you’d like to change.
Other things you can do include:
- Attend workshops or take online classes that are tailored to practicing and building interpersonal skills. These classes are tailored to teaching real-work skills, providing examples, and allowing you to practice and apply what you learn.
- Ask a friend or colleague for feedback. Those you communicate with regularly are the best to provide constructive criticism on your skill level and offer examples of how you can improve.
- Find a mentor you trust and respect who can help you improve your skills. Working with someone who already excels at communication can be a great way to learn.
- Observe others, especially during positive communication interactions. Learn from others and how they communicate, and be thoughtful about how the situations could be improved or how you can apply the qualities in your interactions. Note specific details like the words they use, their body language, tone of voice, and how they engage with others.
- Put your phone away and avoid distractions when communicating or interacting with others. By giving them your full attention, you can stay focused and listen more attentively.
- Practice. Give speeches or presentations or lead meetings at work—practice active listening with family, friends, and coworkers. Be more conversational with colleagues or even strangers you meet. Any time you have the opportunity to practice your communication skills, do so.