"The challenge that many people face when interacting with others is that they lack the necessary interpersonal skills needed to be effective." Robert W Lucas

When you arrive for a job interview, the employee will try to ascertain whether you have the necessary communication skills to be able to tackle the job. Interpersonal skills and the way you react to and around other people can determine whether you get the job or not. In fact, your academic qualification carries no weight if you cannot communicate your achievements and discuss what you know about a certain career field with your boss.

When you study for a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree, one of the main subjects is communication. So clearly if there is a whole module dedicated to the study of communication, it must be an essential personal skill that will help you thrive in the field of art.

Close your eyes. Try to think of one career that requires you to silently sit at your desk and trudge through a pile of work without asking for clarification or communicating with anyone along the way. Can you think of any career that expects you to work aloof and quietly?

Probably not. From Zoom meetings to face-to-face meetings, working life nowadays is all about communicating effectively with others. Counsellors, life coaches, and psychologists need to continuously work at developing their interpersonal skills so that they can empathetically communicate well with others. Doctors need to communicate clearly with their patients in order to get patients to understand their diagnosis. Teachers constantly communicate with students, parents and other teachers to ensure that learning is effective.

There is more to communicating than just being able to say a few words. Having interpersonal skills means that you talk whilst using the correct body language, you are able to adequately adapt to any situation and you can tolerate opinions that are different to yours by using conflict resolution strategies.

We are here to guide you on your journey by starting off with defining interpersonal skills for you. We will also make note of the interpersonal skills necessary for relationship building. Furthermore, we will guide you on how to formulate effective interpersonal relationships.

There are different forms of communication
To communicate effectively online, interpersonal skills are needed too. Source: Unsplash

Coffee and Chat is How We Define Interpersonal Skills

"Communication-the human connection- is the key to personal and career success." Paul J Meyer

From a very basic point of view when we think of interpersonal skills, we think of being able to talk to other people and have effective conversations with them. From a very young age, we are taught how to socialize with other people and in time work on developing the tactics necessary to interact with all types of people that we encounter. The coffee and chat analogy comes to the fore here.  Chatting over a cup of coffee always means having a meaningful conversation in which problems are discussed and solutions are mutually found. You enjoy the conversation and the coffee and it feels like the interaction has led to a meaningful outcome.

If we bring the coffee and chat analogy into the workplace, debriefing an organization's goals and vision over a cup of piping hot coffee is how we would define interpersonal skills. In order to debrief or visualize anything, many people from different backgrounds need to come together and discuss issues. Each person has their own ideas and visuals yet they need to work collaboratively with others and employ conflict resolutions techniques should problems arise. In other words, having interpersonal skills means that you are able to get along with work colleagues and thus work well with them.

We are all born with the skills that help us to interact but we all require some practise to better our interpersonal skills. Having said that you might be thinking, "Okay, so where can I find a textbook to study all about developing my interpersonal skills?"

Well, interpersonal skills can be learnt by constantly interacting with other people and it is not a skill solely picked up from reading a textbook.

coffee and a chat
Interpersonal skills can be defined as enjoying a cup of coffee and a chat with others. Source: Unsplash |Joshua Ness

How to Go About Developing Your Interpersonal Relationship Skills

"If the way you've been treating me is a mark of fondness, maybe you'd better take a fresh look at your interpersonal communication skills." Susan Elizabeth Phillips

If you are the type of person who is often seen as an introvert or perhaps even too cold, then surely it is time to work on developing your interpersonal skills more. Developing better interpersonal communication skills means developing your social intelligence. This involves really understanding what others have said and interpreting other signals (like body language) correctly. You have to become more mindful of what other people are saying as well as mindful about how you are reacting to what others are saying.

Developing Emotional Intelligence

Part of developing your social intelligence is developing your emotional intelligence. You need to be aware of how what others are saying is making you feel. You also need to carefully study the body language of the person that you are communicating with to ascertain how they are feeling because of what you are saying. You need to be intelligent enough to manage your emotions irrespective of the situation. Staying in control of your emotions at all times is an effective skill to have especially when you are trying to gain a leadership role.

Show That You are Empathetically and Actively Listening

If you want to show care and consideration for another human being, your relationship must be powerfully empathetic. Empathy, like interpersonal skills, is something that you learn along the way. Being empathetic means being able to understand the viewpoint of someone else by thinking from their perspective. Empathy is the idea of being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes and tackling the discussion thereafter.

Now in order to show empathy whilst interacting with someone, you actually have to be attentively and actively listening to them. Active listening is being able to restate what the person said in your response to that person which verbally shows that you are listening. Certain non-verbal cues like nodding your head, or maintaining eye contact are other ways to show the person that you are actually listening and considering what the person is saying.

Developing interpersonal skills
Developing emphatic listening skills is important for effective communication. Source: Unsplash | Miami Thian

Be Approachable and Positive

This is an especially important interpersonal skill to showcase at the workplace. You need to show your team members and your employer that you are approachable and willing to get involved in discussions. If you strut around the office with your arms folded neatly across your chest, you give off the idea that you are closed off and less approachable. Show your positive attitude and your willingness to engage in conversations through your body language. Respond positively if you are asked for your take on a new idea. You need to show an approachable front if you want people to communicate with you.

Read Up on Social and Emotional Intelligence

While interpersonal skills can be learnt, it does require a fair amount of practise to be mastered. However, reading articles that deal with leadership skills and interpersonal skills can inspire you to rise up to the occasion and be a better leader and a better person. One such inspirational site is Stories from Africa.

How to Formulate Effective Interpersonal Relations

So why is such a strong emphasis placed on formulating effective interpersonal relationships going forward? Well, if we happily interact with other people, we naturally feel more content and by feeling content, we have a more fulfilled life.

Some interpersonal relationships will fizzle away almost as quickly as the relationship started, however, we wish to strongly foster and upkeep other relationships. Once you have worked on developing a personal relationship or a professional relationship, it is important that you work on maintaining that relationship. You can do so by:

Availing Yourself for Communication

To be seen as having good interpersonal skills, you had to showcase your approachable persona, however, to build an effective interpersonal relationship, you must make time for further discussions on certain matters and ways forward. When you give a little bit of your time to someone else, it shows that you value the relationship. Showing your employer that you have time to spare to discuss strategy is always excellent to make a good impression and be considered for a leadership role.

There are ways to establish interpersonal relationships
Availing yourself, setting boundaries, and being respectful are necessary for maintaining interpersonal relationships. Source: Unsplash

Respecting the Person and Relationship

Respect is a vital ingredient for maintaining relationships. You must always be respectful of the other person's views, opinions, beliefs and their time. The best way to achieve the ideal teamwork situation is to show respect for each member of the team.

Maintain Your Boundaries

One of the biggest strains on any relationship is going over and above for someone else without having clear cut boundaries. If someone demands too much of time that you may not have, it will make you feel miserable. If you are feeling awful, it may be impossible to catch a hold of your emotions and speaking to someone when your emotions have taken over is never ideal. Set boundaries for every relationship: personal and work. Make sure you stick to these boundaries.

The internet is full of strategies that you could employ to build interpersonal your relationship skills and there are several strategies offered on how to work at keeping these relationships strong. There is so much knowledge at your disposal so feel free to surf the web. If all else fails, you could consult a leadership tutor who can help you work on your interpersonal skills. Some people benefit far more from getting guidance and listening to someone else tell them how to go about developing their interpersonal skills.

Remember, "Communication works for those who work at it." John Powell

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Laila is an enthusiastic English educator and a fun-filled freelance writer. She has accomplished her dream of getting her first book published and has managed to write over 1 000 000 words since beginning her freelance career. In her free time, she is a travel blogger who explores all South Africa has to offer.