This is the fourteenth installment in our 25-week series exploring the 25 competencies, or soft skills, that our assessments measure. Each week we’ll give you the definition of that competency, explain its value, and give you tips on how to develop it.
This week: Interpersonal Skills.
Most people have a general idea of what Interpersonal Skills are, but to be specific, the definition we’re using is the ability to effectively communicate, build rapport, and relate well to all kinds of people. It means that you’re able to get along with anyone and everyone you meet.
No matter how hard you work or how many brilliant ideas you may have, if you can’t connect with the people who work around you, your professional life will suffer. How your manager and coworkers perceive you plays a large role in things as minor as your day-to-day happiness at the office and as major as the future of your career.
Increasing your sociability and being relaxed and available for others will take you a long way in being accepted as a valuable, approachable resource. In order to have good Interpersonal Skills, you must learn how to present yourself as polite, knowledgeable, and assertive.
Having strong Interpersonal Skills increases productivity in the organization. In informal situations, it allows communication to be easy and comfortable. People with good Interpersonal Skills can generally control the feelings that emerge in difficult situations. And then can respond appropriately, instead of getting overwhelmed by emotion. This capacity involves having strong gut intuition. And success in using it without prejudice or bias.
A person who doesn’t have intuitive Interpersonal Skills can still make good judgments concerning others. But more data and time to make these decisions is usually required. Without this supportive data, decisions may feel rushed.
Poor Interpersonal Skills can lead to overestimating or underestimating others. Or misunderstanding what you hear from others. And even perceiving yourself as a bad judge of character.
Those with strong Interpersonal Skills are well-liked.
This is mostly due to the fact that they demonstrate a sincere interest in others. They don’t just fake an interest in order to get what they want. They are truly interested in getting to know the uniqueness of each human being. To them, strangers are just friends they haven’t met yet.
And those strangers become their friends because they make sure to treat all people with civility, courtesy, and consideration. Even their newest friends. They might not know much about a person except for the fact that they are a fellow human being. Which automatically makes them deserving of kindness and respect.
So they strive to respect others in all areas of life. Even when they have differences. They still listen to and engage calmly with those differing attitudes and perspectives. Just because someone has a different background or a different ideology than you, doesn’t mean they aren’t worth getting to know.
Instead of continually arguing their point of view in order to change others’ minds, those skilled in Interpersonal Skills listen. And they observe. And they strive to gain an understanding of others. They make it their mission to find out why someone thinks and acts the way that they do. It’s almost like a puzzle. They’re trying to solve what makes this person who they are.
Interpersonal Skills are critical in today’s ever more connected, ever more globalized world.
People are no longer working just with people from their own communities. A person truly adept in Interpersonal Skills is able to connect with and relate to people from many different backgrounds. They are able to easily maintain conversations with those they’ve never met by finding common ground. They know that we have more in common with others than not.
People who have good Interpersonal Skills are sensitive to other people. They don’t prejudge others either positively or negatively. Rather, they get to know each person individually. And then base their opinions and assessments of that individual on sensitive, realistic observations and instincts about that person.
Results in business come from interacting and developing relationships with others. People only want to work with, buy from, and/or support those that they can trust. If you cannot build rapport and, consequently, trust, success will be more difficult. That’s why it’s so important to develop your Interpersonal Skills.
An easy way to start doing that is to listen more.
For those of us that are extroverts (read: talkative) this can be easier said than done. We may appear to be listening, but we’re really just holding on to a story that we want to tell as soon as you stop talking. If this describes you, a good mantra to use is: Two ears, one mouth. You should be listening twice as much as you are talking.
When you can start to truly listen, and not just wait for your turn to talk, you’ll do a much better job at actually comprehending and retaining information. You’ll be able to remember facts about people and their lives that help you better connect with them. You’ll be able to stay in the moment and ask much more pertinent follow-up questions. And offer much better advice.
And you’ll be amazed at what you hear. Often when we’re not truly listening, we miss a lot of the clues people are sending us. By listening better you’ll hear what people are actually saying. And you’ll better understand their points of view. Listening is at the core of any good relationship, so start practicing now!
Interpersonal Skills make the world go round.
You might try to argue that interpersonal Skills are not as important in our current age of technology. And though we’ve learned that many companies can survive while working completely remotely, that has not stopped the need to interact with others. If anything it made Interpersonal Skills even more important.
Building rapport gets a lot more complicated when it’s happening over Zoom. Or worse, just email. We lose so much of the connection to others when we only communicate through screens. It makes it harder to read people and easy to check out of a conversation.
Strong Interpersonal Skills can counteract that though. Because you’ll be focused on more than just the words in the interactions. And more than just the products someone is creating. Interpersonal Skills help you connect to the individual. And that is true whether you’re just in different cubicles or if you’re on different continents.
If you’d like to learn more ways to develop your Interpersonal Skills, download our Interpersonal Skills Rx PDF here.