Most jobs involve working with others to some degree. And your ability to effectively cooperate, manage conflict and contribute to a collegial workplace oftentimes plays a large role in whether you will be successful in the role. For this reason, employers highly value a certain set of professional skills known as interpersonal skills.
This article covers what interpersonal skills are, the top 10 interpersonal skills, and how you can best showcase these. This way, you can develop the skills needed to help you succeed in your career.
What are interpersonal skills?
Interpersonal skills, which are sometimes referred to as “soft skills,” or “employability skills,” are a set of skills that enable you to work well with others. For certain roles that involve high social interaction, such as sales or customer service, interpersonal skills will be a requirement for the job. However, even for jobs that have minimal social interaction, such as data entry or copywriting, you will still oftentimes work with others to some degree and will need to include some of these skills in your skills section.
Most employers value a mix of both technical and interpersonal skills. And although interpersonal skills can sometimes be more difficult to measure, they are no less valuable than technical skills. In fact, since interpersonal skills are so valuable, many employers even require candidates to take an interpersonal skills assessment as part of their application.
Types of interpersonal skills
Since interpersonal skills denote a person’s ability to work well with others, the basis of these skills is communication. Therefore, all interpersonal skills can be categorized into four types of communication, which are further outlined below:
1. Verbal communication
Since verbal communication has such an omnipresent role in many jobs and career paths, it’s one of the key types of interpersonal skills. This is also a skill that employers assess during interviews, as the exchange is typically conducted verbally.
Some specific examples of interpersonal skills that would fall under the category of verbal communication are public speaking, conflict management, persuasion, negotiation and collaboration.
2. Written communication
In the age of emails and instant messenger, written communication is a hugely important skill in the workplace. With the average worker spending 28% of their day reading and answering emails, written communication skills are a necessity for most professional jobs.
Written communication skills include being able to convey a message effectively through writing, adapting your tone of voice, and thinking about the audience. Therefore, persuasion, empathy, and collaboration are three specific types of interpersonal skills that fall under written communication.
3. Non-verbal communication
With studies showing that around 70–80% of communication is non-verbal, learning how to communicate through tone of voice, body language, mannerisms and expressions are key to being an effective communicator and getting your message across accurately.
Non-verbal communication is also key to ensuring you make a good first impression. As people make first impressions on average in as little as 1/10th of a second, nonverbal communication skills, such as confidence, body language, behavior skills, attitude and tone of voice will help you develop a strong foundation in your interpersonal interactions with others.
4. Active listening
A sign of exceptional interpersonal skills isn’t only being adept at sending your message across clearly, but also accurately receiving messages from others. And for this reason, active listening is a key interpersonal skill.
Active listening enables you to take in the full message of what your speaking partner is saying and to process it on a deeper level. This way, you can respond and act accordingly based on the actual message. Some examples of specific interpersonal skills that require active listening are collaboration, persuasion, conflict management and customer service.
Top 10 interpersonal skills
There are numerous different types of interpersonal skills, and depending on the specific job, there may be more emphasis on certain skills than others. However, some interpersonal skills have proven to be highly transferable and valued across a range of different roles. We’ve compiled a list of ten of those skills below.
Effective collaboration involves harnessing the ideas, knowledge, opinions and skills of multiple individuals to solve a problem or achieve a goal. And with innovation being key to business success, collaboration is a vital interpersonal skill. Collaborating effectively involves establishing goals and a way of working, active listening and getting everyone on the same page.
Even if you are not in a position that includes managing people, leadership is an important interpersonal skill to have in any work environment. Leadership skills involve being proactive, asking for help when needed, and exuding confidence. Therefore, whether you are a director or intern, leadership skills will most likely help you to be more successful in your career.
Although there is some crossover between collaboration skills and teamwork skills, they vary in some key ways. While collaboration includes more brainstorming and problem solving, teamwork involves cooperating effectively with others to achieve a shared goal. People who are team players are reliable, supportive, flexible, open-minded and respectful of others.
4. Relationship management
Maintaining good relationships with clients, vendors and business partners is key to any successful business. And for this reason, employers value relationship management skills. In contrast to customer service skills, relationship management is about building long-lasting, trusting professional relationships that are viewed as a partnership, more than as transactional.
5. Problem solving
In the workplace, problem solving is oftentimes not done in isolation. Although one individual may first recognize the problem, the process of generating a solution usually requires obtaining resources, knowledge and input from others to solve. As problems inevitably arise, problem solving is a key interpersonal skill.
For certain fields, such as law or sales, persuasion and a positive attitude is vital in order to be successful. However, regardless of your job, persuasion can be a valuable skill. For example, you may need to persuade a coworker to take your idea on board, or persuade your boss to give you more responsibility. And for this reason, persuasion is a useful skill across many roles.
7. Customer service
If a role requires any interaction at all with customers, then customer service skills will usually be a requirement. After all, businesses wouldn’t exist with their customers. So, employers want to know that their employees have the skills required to retain customers, and not lose them.
Empathy is one of the five dimensions that make up emotional intelligence. And with emotional intelligence expected to be one of the most in-demand skills according to the Future of Work study (PDF), empathy is hugely important. You can develop empathy skills through active listening, asking questions and making an effort to understand the perspective of the other person.
Although patience is in some ways a character trait, it is also a skill that can be developed. And in order to work well with others and develop effective working relationships, patience is key. Since everyone works at a different pace and in different ways, it’s vital to keep your cool and not get quickly irritated with others.
10. Conflict management
Conflict is an inevitable aspect of working with other people. It is often caused by difference of opinion or miscommunication. And since conflict is so common, employers value workers who are skilled at managing conflict in a healthy and productive manner that restores harmony.
Showcasing your interpersonal skills
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with what interpersonal skills are and which 10 are the most important, you can now work on developing and applying them in your career. Below are three ways you can showcase your interpersonal skills.
1. Demonstrate interpersonal skills at work
The most effective way to develop your interpersonal skills is by using them. One way to track your usage and development of these skills is to make a list of your interpersonal strengths and weaknesses. You can then seek out opportunities to enhance your strengths and develop your weaknesses.
2. Add interpersonal skills to your résumé
While interpersonal skills are often referred to as “soft skills,” they are anything but. Interpersonal skills can sometimes be more challenging to develop and more valuable than technical skills. Therefore, don’t hesitate to show off these skills when writing your résumé and cover letter.
3. Provide examples during interviews
Since interviews are a chance to demonstrate verbal communication, non-verbal communication and listening skills, they are a prime opportunity for candidates to showcase their interpersonal skills. However, even though employers may be able to recognize your interpersonal skills, being prepared to provide concrete examples of them can really help you stand out as a candidate.
When it comes to being successful in your career, interpersonal skills are not a nice-to-have, they’re essential. To help you develop these skills, below is a recap of three of the most important interpersonal skills:
- Collaboration: Since most professional jobs require innovation and the generation of new ideas, collaboration is key.
- Problem solving: Since it is unavoidable that problems will arise in the workplace, employers value people with problem-solving skills.
- Empathy: In order to collaborate and maintain professional relationships, being able to empathize with others is vital.
Since interpersonal skills are so important, you’ll want to make sure you’re continuously developing them — particularly if you’re on the search for a new job. This way, you can build a professional reputation as someone who is effective, communicative and, overall, a great colleague to work with.
Are you working on improving your interpersonal skills? Which do you find the hardest to master? Let us know in the comments!