Career Development

What is Interpersonal Communication and How Can You Use It In The Workplace

April 2, 2021

The ability to share ideas, thoughts and emotions verbally and nonverbally is what we call interpersonal communication. Interpersonal communication allows us to communicate with others personally and professionally. Hiring managers look for candidates who have strong interpersonal skills because they work well with other colleagues, clients and customers. In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about interpersonal communication and how it relates to your job.

What are interpersonal skills?

Interpersonal skills are known as a soft skill, or a skill you get from somewhere other than formal education or training certification. Interpersonal skills are either inherited or developed over time. They are sometimes called people skills because they allow you to interact and develop relationships with others in the workplace:

  • Active listening
  • Teamwork
  • Responsibility
  • Flexibility
  • Leadership
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Conflict resolution
  • Empathy
  • Patience
  • Negotiation

What you may notice from this list is that most interpersonal skills relate to communication. These skills can be verbal or nonverbal. Verbal communication skills allow you to express your thoughts out loud to those around you. Having excellent verbal communication skills helps others understand your thoughts and ideas. Nonverbal communication skills relate to how people perceive you in the workplace. Active listening is an excellent example of a nonverbal communication skill. Active listening means understanding and responding to the other person's thoughts and feelings.

Why are interpersonal skills important?

Strong interpersonal skills allow you to build meaningful relationships both at work and in your personal life. Many positions require employees to work in teams or at least work with other colleagues. Strong interpersonal skills help you complete your tasks in a conflict-free and easy manner. Additionally, people enjoy working with colleagues who have strong interpersonal skills because that means they can have better conversations and get their ideas across more easily.

Generally, hiring managers rely heavily on good or well-developed interpersonal skills for jobs such as sales, customer service, leadership roles or positions where you may work with clients regularly. When applying for entry-level jobs, a hiring manager will most likely look at interpersonal skills to determine if you are a good fit for the role. This is especially the case when the employer provides training or additional education after they hire.

When applying for a leadership role, it's important to list your interpersonal skills on your resume because it shows the hiring manager that you work well with others. As a leader, it's important to have strong interpersonal skills because you work with employees daily, and they need to understand the directions you give them.

Another benefit of having good interpersonal skills is the ability to solve problems and make difficult decisions in the workplace. Using interpersonal skills, you can listen to suggestions or solutions from others and make the best decision for your team. Ultimately these interpersonal skills will help you to achieve your workplace goals and objectives.

Important interpersonal skills in the workplace

On your resume, it's important to list the interpersonal skills that are most relevant to the role you're applying for. If the job description lacks a description of the interpersonal skills a candidate should have for the job, search online for the typical skills for the job. Only list the interpersonal skills you already have on your resume. Here are the top interpersonal skills most employers or hiring managers look for in resumes:

1. Active listening

Being a good listener is one of the most important interpersonal skills an employee can have in the workplace. Active listening helps you follow given instructions, ensure your colleagues have their thoughts or ideas heard and helps you learn and grow. As a leader, it's important to be an active listener because employees want to feel valued. By listening and understanding their problems or ideas you help build loyalty.

Active listening in the workplace also helps avoid conflicts or problems. It is also important to be a good listener in meetings or when speaking with customers. Being able to understand the problems of others helps your business grow.

Read more: The Importance of Good Listening and How to Listen Effectively

2. Non-verbal communication

Excellent knowledge of non-verbal communication cues in the workplace is incredibly important. An example of non-verbal communication is body language. Identifying others' body language and keeping your own body language positive also helps avoid conflict or misunderstandings in the workplace. Positive body language such as looking others in the eye, nodding while someone is speaking and smiling helps other colleagues feel relaxed and heard. Displaying negative or distracted body language, such as not making eye contact, being restless in a conversation or crossed arms can make you look like you are uninterested in what the other person has to say.

Read more: Types of Nonverbal Communication

3. Problem-solving

Being able to solve problems of any kind in the workplace is important in most jobs. Whether this is an issue between other colleagues, a difficult customer or a challenging project, problem-solving helps any business move forward productively. Being able to listen closely to the problem, consider all the facts and discuss solutions with other employees is an important skill that any hiring manager will look for.

Read more:** Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples**

4. Verbal communication

Verbal communication, the ability to voice your thoughts and feelings, is just as important as non-verbal communication. A good communicator gets their ideas across to a group in an effective and impactful manner. Leaders should also be excellent communicators because they need to articulate plans or responsibilities to other employees.

Being a good verbal communicator is also incredibly beneficial for roles in sales or in positions where customer service is a major responsibility. Effective verbal communication is sometimes mistaken for being the loudest person in the room, but it simply means you voice your ideas in a way others can easily understand.

Read more: 10 Ways To Improve Verbal Communication Skills

5. Empathy

Being a good leader means showing empathy, or understanding another person's point of view. This is especially true in the workplace because employees come from many backgrounds and cultures.

Read more: Empathy at Work

6. Leadership

Being a good leader is important even outside of managerial roles. It can also mean motivating other employees, helping to encourage those that need it, being a mentor to other colleagues and providing positive reinforcement. These qualities are great when working in a team.

7. Negotiation skills

Having strong negotiation skills can be beneficial for a wide range of situations and scenarios such as resolving conflict, creating a contract or completing a project. Strong negotiation skills help you to gain the trust of your customers, colleagues and clients because they know you have everyone's best interest at heart.

Read more: Negotiation Skills: Definitions and Examples

8. Positive attitude

Another key interpersonal communication skill that hiring managers look for in a job applicant is a positive attitude. Someone that has a pleasant demeanour makes them easier to work and get along with. It is helpful to have a positive outlook on projects, deadlines or when in difficult situations.

Read more: 7 Tips for Thinking Positively at Work

9. Teamwork

Being able to work well in a team is a key attribute for many positions in a company. This can mean working cross-departmentally to get projects finished on time or within your own team to produce creative content. Whatever the role, the ability to work with a variety of different personalities is a key attribute.

Read more: 6 Tips for Effective Teamwork

How to improve interpersonal skills

Since interpersonal skills are soft skills, you don't need to go back to school or seek traditional certification. Here are the best ways to work on and improve interpersonal skills:

  1. Determine what you need to improve. This will take some self-reflection and self-awareness so you can truly understand what you need to perfect or work on. Another way to determine what skill you should work on is by asking colleagues or former managers for their honest opinions.
  2. Observe others. The best way to see a skill being used is to watch others who have it. You can watch other colleagues, leaders or people you admire. Consider writing in a notebook what kind of language they use, their body language, tone of voice or other subtleties.
  3. Learn how to control your emotions. It is best to communicate with colleagues or clients in a calm and patient manner. If you find yourself worked up or angry, take a few deep breaths, keep in mind your professionalism and the values of your company
  4. Reflect. Take some time after a particular conflict or conversation to review how you reacted and what you could have done differently or better. You should also review positive interactions to determine what you did well so you can repeat them.
  5. Practise. Practice makes perfect, so keep working on the skill you are developing. Research some activities or situations you can take part in that will help improve this skill. For example, if you want to become a better team player, try joining a team sport outside of the office or a group hobby.
  6. Ask for feedback. Ask others for feedback so you can get a realistic opinion about how you acted or reacted to a certain situation. This will help you improve.


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