Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal Skills or Soft Skills?

– “Soft Skills” is a term that has replaced the synonymous term “people skills”. It refers to the set of social and communication skills that help people effectively interact with others. According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence comprises half of one’s success in life.

– The list of soft skills that can be learned without high school includes: active listening, conflict management, decision making and problem solving, organizational ability, self-motivation and time management. These key activities are not associated with the formal education system but rather with on-the-job learning and social interactions: interpersonal skills at work.

What are “soft” skills?

– Soft skills are mostly acquired informally through social interactions, which makes them somewhat more difficult to define or measure. They tend to be personal qualities, such as “judgment” or “initiative,” rather than specific technical abilities.

– They enhance your value in the work place and make you a more confident employee. In this regard, soft skills are an asset for both business and career development.

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Soft skills include:

– Active listening: The basic level of listening, but with a good tone and facial expressions. Getting the message across to the other person that they have been heard is key to effective communication. Sometimes it’s not what you say but whether or not people have understood your message.

– Cooperation: This means being able to work closely with others to achieve a common goal. You’ll develop better working relationships by learning to build trust through cooperation.

– Teamwork: The skills required for effective teamwork include good communication, persuasion, negotiation, trust and compromise capabilities.

– Initiative & entrepreneurship: This is about being able to take the lead when action needs to be taken. It’s also about risk taking and creativity.

– Leadership: The ability to influence people, facilitating teamwork and inspiring others. Leaders motivate their team to keep going when the going gets tough. They’re good at building trust and having a positive impact on their followers.

– Self-confidence: This is about believing in yourself, your abilities and assets. It’s essentially about self-assurance, which is the ability to be comfortable with who you are.

– Stress management: The ability to understand your own stress triggers and having strategies in place for when things get tough. It’s also about being able to use positive thinking as a coping mechanism.

– Negotiation skills: This is one of the key soft skills needed for customer service. It means being able to communicate clearly in a friendly but firm manner, which results in reaching mutually beneficial agreements.

– Problem solving: The ability to find the best possible solution in the shortest amount of time. By thinking differently, you can often find unorthodox solutions to difficult problems by applying creative thinking skills.

What are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills are the social skills that allow us to effectively communicate, work, and learn with others. Strong interpersonal skills are necessary to succeed in any field, but they are particularly important to people in customer facing roles.

Interpersonal Communication Skills: These skills allow us to communicate more effectively with others, whether that’s through oral or written conversation. This also includes the ability to look at an issue from different angles and understand where someone else is coming from.

Interpersonal Problem Solving Skills: Interpersonal problem solving skills are focused on working with others to achieve a common goal. They allow us to communicate effectively with others and work together to find effective solutions.

Why are Interpersonal Skills Important?

Successful interactions with other people are essential for nearly all of your daily activities. How you communicate with your family members, friends, teachers or co-workers can make or break these relationships. And the better you are at communicating with others, the more likely your interactions will be positive experiences.

Interpersonal Skills are Rewarded

When it comes time for promotions or new employment opportunities, interpersonal skills are often of high value to employers. Jobs that require frequent communication with clients or customers, teamwork or collaboration with other departments or coworkers, and good time management skills are all great opportunities for those with strong interpersonal skills to shine.

How can you Improve your Interpersonal Skills?

There are many ways that you can work on improving your interpersonal skills. First, select the area(s) of interpersonal skill weakness that you would like to focus on improving. For example, if you have trouble maintaining a conversation, start conversations with others more often. If you have a hard time patiently listening to other people’s opinions without interrupting, try not to interject your own thoughts until the speaker has finished what they are saying.

What are 20 interpersonal competencies?

1. Communication:

a. Assertiveness : Express your opinions, thoughts, and feelings honestly and confidently, without being hostile or aggressive.

b. Non-verbal communication: Use facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice to communicate with others appropriately.

2. Social skills:

a. Affiliations : Make friends easily and engage in a variety of different social activities.

b. Self-disclosure : Reveal intimate information about yourself to others on a regular basis.

c. Assertiveness : Express your opinions, thoughts, and feelings honestly and confidently, without being hostile or aggressive.

d. Situational awareness: Be aware of what is going on around you at all times.

e. Empathy : Be able to put yourself in other peoples’ shoes and understand their perspectives, feelings, and point of view.

f. Co-operation: Work well with others as part of a group or team.

3. Adaptability:

Quickly adapt to changing situations at work or in your personal life.

4. Teamwork:

Be able to work well with others as part of a group or team.

5. Stress tolerance:

Handle stressful work and personal situations effectively, without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down.

6. Flexibility:

Adjust quickly to changes in plans at work or at home so you can go with the flow and remain productive.

7. Initiative:

Take charge of your responsibilities and actively seek out new opportunities to contribute.

8. Achievement drive:

Have a strong desire to achieve goals and be successful in life, even when the going gets tough.

9. Stress management:

Handle stressful work and personal situations effectively, without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down.

10. Emotional self-control:

Remain calm and in control of your emotions, even when those around you are stressed.

11. Independence:

Operate independently to complete projects and meet goals without excessive hand-holding from others.

12. Cognitive Self-control:

Keep negative or unhelpful thoughts and impulses under control so they don’t sabotage your success or relationships.

13. Time management:

Plan and manage your time effectively to accomplish important tasks on time while avoiding procrastination.

14. Perseverance :

Work steadily toward long-term goals despite challenges, distractions, or discouragement along the way.

15. Achievement/Effort:

Have a strong desire to achieve goals and be successful in life, even when the going gets tough.

16. Courage :

Tackle difficult tasks or decisions despite fear, uncertainty, or doubt.

17. Learning orientation:

Be open to new ideas and learning opportunities at work and at home; develop yourself through your experiences.

18. Optimism:

Find the silver lining in every work and personal situation; focus on solutions rather than problems.

19. Determination:

See projects through to the end, despite obstacles or setbacks; remain focused and committed to your goals.

20. Initiative:

Take charge of your responsibilities and actively seek out new opportunities to contribute.

10 Tips for Improving Your Interpersonal Skills:

1. Assert yourself by being confident, yet not aggressive or passive-aggressive.

2. Use open body language, maintain good eye contact, and stand tall with your shoulders back to communicate confidence.

3. Smile when you greet others; it’s an easy way to put people at ease around you.

4. Be positive! Refuse to engage in negative self-talk.

5. Listen actively to the speaker, asking questions for clarification if necessary.

6. Repeat key information back to the speaker to demonstrate your understanding of what was shared with you.

7. When listening to others, try not doodle or fidget as it can be distracting and may give the wrong impression about your interest.

8. Keep in mind that others may not be as confident or experienced as you, so provide them with encouragement and opportunities to learn and grow when possible.

9. Respect other’s opinions even if they are different from yours; express your feelings in a constructive manner without being argumentative.

10. Keep your word and take responsibility for your actions.

Interpersonal skills for managers: Knowing when to say nothing

Truly great managers are rare—they’re the ones who motivate their staffs, keep information flowing freely throughout the organization and receive accolades from their superiors and deep affection from their direct reports.

A new article in the Harvard Business Review, “The Right (and Wrong) Stuff: Six Strategies for Building Your Team,” offers tips on how to hone these crucial abilities and become a truly great manager.

Author David Bradford, an organizational psychologist who studies managerial behavior at Northeastern University, offers the following as a crucial first step for aspiring managers:

Really listening.

Most people know that one of the easiest ways to piss off a subordinate is by withholding information—by not returning phone calls or emails promptly, for example—because it communicates a lack of interest or regard. Equally annoying to staff is a manager who interrupts or “talks over” subordinates when they’re trying to explain a problem.

Asserting yourself.

Among the most annoying activities for staff is what Bradford calls “one-upmanship,” such as managers bragging about how busy or important they are, or interrupting and steamrolling their direct reports’ presentations in order to show off some new piece of information. Managers should also know when to shut up and avoid offering unnecessary advice, such as during a subordinate’s presentation, because it suggests the manager knows more about the problem than does his or her staff, which of course undermines the underling’s confidence.

Being approachable.

Whether it’s an office worker who wants to ask for a raise or a project manager with a question about meeting a deadline, they need to know that their managers are willing and able to consult on any topic. There’s no better way for employees to lose respect for an executive than by discovering he or she is inaccessible because of his or her position.

Being flexible.

Managers should be willing and able to change their schedules, cancel meetings and rearrange work priorities to accommodate those above them. Otherwise, as Bradford puts it: “Managers who don’t make time for others confirm the impression that they’d rather be sitting at a desk somewhere than working with their direct reports.”

Holding employees accountable.

Managers should always ask themselves whose interests are being served when a subordinate does something “right” — the manager’s or the company’s? One of Bradford’s favorite examples is of an IT worker at a financial firm who ran unnecessary errands on his way back to the office after buying lunch for himself (he would pick up supplies, drop off dry cleaning and so forth). The problem was solved when the manager made it clear to his underling that he wasn’t doing this for the company, but for himself.

Such things may seem like common sense now, but too often managers can become blind to behaviors that undermine staff morale and productivity. “It takes self-discipline not to act inconsistently with your values,” Bradford concludes at the end of his article. “But it’s up to you to maintain the right stuff.”

I particularly like “being approachable” and “holding employees accountable”. Although I guess they go hand in hand, as the latter is about making sure that what you’re doing is really for the company’s benefit and not just your own.

I also like how he brings up “being flexible” as a manager, something that I’ve found to be really important for managers who want their team members to love working with them. When you quickly rearrange meetings and fight through traffic just so you can see your employees and lend some advice, it shows them that you care about their problems and not just the company’s bottom line.


The best way to develop interpersonal skills is through practice, both in your personal life and on the job. Practice helps you understand why certain interactions go well while other interactions fall flat. The more that you can learn about other people’s perspectives, the better you will be able to work with them. This can also help you achieve your own goals, since it’s important to understand the needs of others in order to get what you want.

If you are in an entry-level job or internship, look for opportunities where interpersonal skills are key. For example, if customer service is part of your job description, look for ways to improve your interpersonal skills with customers. If a project requires a lot of teamwork, try to work better with your teammates.

If you are in a different type of role, find ways that interpersonal skills can benefit you. For example, if you need to negotiate with another department or company, focus on improving these skills to get what you want. Or, if you are in a leadership role, work on your interpersonal skills so that you can lead your team effectively.

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  • eSoft Skills Team

    The eSoft Editorial Team, a blend of experienced professionals, leaders, and academics, specializes in soft skills, leadership, management, and personal and professional development. Committed to delivering thoroughly researched, high-quality, and reliable content, they abide by strict editorial guidelines ensuring accuracy and currency. Each article crafted is not merely informative but serves as a catalyst for growth, empowering individuals and organizations. As enablers, their trusted insights shape the leaders and organizations of tomorrow.

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