Interpersonal Skills that Give You a Career Advantage
What are Interpersonal Skills?
Interpersonal skills are used everyday, by everyone, to communicate and interact with other individuals and groups of people. These skills include communication in all of its forms with others, confidence and perhaps most importantly, the ability to listen and understand others. Problem solving decision making and personal stress management also qualify as interpersonal skills. These soft-skills or people skills as they are often referred to are universally sought out by employers. Beyond the specific job-related skills including education level and 'tools of the trade' related skills, interpersonal skills are valuable in any job or business requiring an interaction with people on any level. Working with other people is a requirement for virtually any job!
Specific Interpersonal Skills
Most interpersonal skills can be grouped under one of four main forms of communication: verbal, listening, written and non-verbal communication. Some skills such as recognition of stress and attitude are important to all forms of interpersonal communication. In order for communication to be effective, a person's verbal and written communications must match the non-verbal cues either consciously or unconsciously given otherwise miscommunication is inevitable.
Listening skills (possibly the most important of all communication skills) and verbal skills include:
- Relaxation - a calm self-confident manner allows for more coherent verbal expression and gives the impression of an active listener.
- Positive attitude - all people prefer communicating with the happy, accepting person
- Empathy - by seeing, understanding and respecting another's point of view, a person gain's respect and the trust of others as a speaker and is seen as an attentive listener
- Understanding stress in yourself and others - allows for self-monitoring of your own verbal communication and a greater understanding of a speaker's motivations; you realize when your tone of voice or word choice is affected by internal feelings of stress and as well understand when you are listening to someone who's speech is affected by stress; it allows you to compensate accordingly
- Assertiveness - this quality is essential and fundamental to negotiation in that the participants express beliefs in a way others can understand but also respect the thoughts and feelings of all involved
- Teamwork - includes adaptability and flexibility in dealing with differing personalities and differing interpersonal skill levels
Written skills include:
- Analysis - strong analytical and research skills are key in expressing new ideas and getting them accepted by co-workers and senior management
- Computer and technical literacy - these skills are essential in the business world as most written communication and all analysis of data occurs on the computer
- Professionalism - this quality is important in all forms of interpersonal communication including written communication; standard formats for business correspondence are common and spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are unacceptable eroding a workers value in the firm
Non-verbal Interpersonal skills include:
- Body language
All of the above can reinforce the honesty, integrity and morality of personal interaction with co-workers and clients. In verbal exchanges, a person lacking eye-contact is seen as dishonest and/ or lacking confidence in their words. Reliability and responsibility are also conveyed by positive gestures and body language that match the tone and content of the speakers voice. Excessive hand gestures and invasion of another's personal space is intimidating and detracts from the value of the conversation. Leaders and management personnel with poor non-verbal communication skills are not viewed as efficient, competent managers leading to poor office productivity and poor office moral.
The Contribution of Interpersonal Skills to Success in your Career
Listening skills are probably the most important in terms of business success and 'rising up the ladder' as they impact most other interpersonal skills. There is no more of a connection one can make to another than by listening carefully.1 No one individual has all the answers. Listening carefully, getting input, putting your ideas aside when others have better ones (co-operation) is an absolute necessity for a healthy organization. Active listeners can incorporate the team's discussion into coherent written documents that assimilate these discussions into productive problem solving. As well, all members of the team feel their contributions are valued, increasing not only productivity but office moral. The ability to listen at all levels is the primary characteristic separating productive companies from unproductive, unhealthy ones.
Many individuals are too eager to advance their own opinion. Few actually ask questions, or paraphrase the other person to make sure the points made by everyone involved are understood. To truly improve your skills in this area, ask more questions in order to listen and understand better:
- "So are you really saying that......."
- Why do you think this is the better outcome...."
- Just to make sure I am understanding you correctly, I think I am hearing you say......
- Could you repeat that last point about......
If you are not finding the task of listening mentally taxing and thought provoking work, then you are probably not listening well enough and your interpersonal skills, in general, require some serious improvement.
1 "Interpersonal Skills are Over-rated." Executive Source Partners. http://executivesource.ca/blog/interpersonal-skills-are-over-rated/ April 11, 2012.
Resources Regarding the Value of Interpersonal Skills
- Top Skills and Values Employers Seek from Job-Seekers
What do employers really want? Read about the importance of the top employability skills and personal values employers seek from all job-seekers.
- What are Interpersonal Skills?
Interpersonal Skills are vital for communicating and interacting with others. Learn about and develop your Interpersonal Skills with our free easy-to-follow articles.