What Are Interpersonal Skills? + 5 Ways to Develop Them

To succeed at our jobs, we often ended a wide range of skills, from simply communicating to in-depth product knowledge.

Soft skills, like communication, fall into the category of interpersonal skills, and they are typically expected of everyone, regardless of the position you apply for. In this post, learn what interpersonal skills are, examples of what they look like in action, and how to develop them and display them on your resume to stand out against other applicants.

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Interpersonal skills relate to all aspects of life, from close relationships to business partnerships.

Interpersonal Skills in Organization

In the business world, interpersonal skills dictate how we get along with our team members. For example, suppose you sense tension at work. You may pick up on this and use active listening to get to the root of the problem and then use effective communication to come to a resolution.

Why are interpersonal skills important?

Many career paths come with consistent interaction with people, whether coworkers or teammates, so it’s crucial to know how to interact with everyone. Without them, it would be challenging to perform as expected.

Given this, employers look for people with strong interpersonal skills because it means they can work well with others and communicate in a way that drives business success. In some jobs, like customer service, strong interpersonal skills are critical.

Most critically, interpersonal skills help us interact with others in a respectable manner. Even if you’re a software engineer who spends most of your time on the computer, you still need to interact with your teammates and sometimes explain technical details to those who may not have the same know-how, which requires good communication.

There tends to be some confusion about interpersonal skills vs intrapersonal skills, so we’ll explain the difference below.

Intrapersonal vs. Interpersonal Skills

A few letters make up the difference between intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, but they are different. Specifically, interpersonal skills are how you speak to yourself in your mind, and interpersonal skills are involved in conversations with other people.

However, both relate to each other through emotional intelligence. Having strong self-awareness (intrapersonal) can help you become better with interpersonal skills, as you’ll be able to manage your emotions, regardless of the situation, and respond accordingly.  

Types of Interpersonal Skills

There are various types of interpersonal skills, and many complement each other. Below we’ll list common interpersonal skills and give examples of what they look like in action.

  • Communication — The way you communicate clearly and effectively with others.
  • Conflict management — How you deal with troubling business situations as they arise, whether mediating an issue between colleagues or seeking solutions for a personal matter. Regardless of your level of seniority, conflict management is an essential skill.
  • Empathy — Empathy is the most important interpersonal skill, as you need to have empathy, understanding, and care for those around you and that you work with daily.
  • Leadership — Involves being able to motivate and encourage others, regardless of whether you’re in a leadership role, and being able to step up to the plate in scenarios where a leader is needed.
  • Listening — Strongly relates to communication and empathy; you need to listen to your coworkers, so they feel comfortable, listened to, and valued.
  • Collaboration — As an employee, it is crucial to be able to get along with others and work as a team to get the job done.

Examples of Interpersonal Skills

Type of interpersonal skill

Example of interpersonal skill in action

Communication

Non-verbal communication and body language, public speaking, verbal communication, written communication, ability to develop rapport

Conflict management

 Problem-solving, active listening, mediating

Empathy

Being caring, compassionate, diplomatic, kind, practicing active listening, being understanding, developing rapport

Leadership

Encouragement, management, mentoring, motivation, dependability, consulting, constructive criticism, diplomacy, flexibility

Listening

Active-listening, curiosity, ability to focus and show that you’re focused, and listening to those who are speaking

Collaborate

Ability to see both sides, make people feel respected and valued, work in teams, and understand team dynamics

How to Develop Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills are essential, regardless of the role you’re in. Here are some tips for developing your interpersonal skills and improving upon the ones you already have.

1. Leverage available resources.

Look for online courses or books from experts that explain the importance of interpersonal skills and give tips on developing them based on their own experiences.

2. Identify areas for improvement.

Identifying areas for improvement can help develop your skills.

You can ask for feedback from people who work with you daily and hear about areas that they think could use improvement. If you work in customer-facing roles, you can monitor your NPS scores or customer feedback surveys to get a sense of where they feel you fall short.

3. Ask for feedback, and learn from it.

One of the best ways to get a sense of your skill level is to ask for feedback on your current performance from people that interact with you every day, like colleagues, mentors, or bosses.

For example, maybe you work in teams on a day-to-day basis, and one of your colleagues says that sometimes they don’t feel heard by you. You can learn from their assessment and make an effort to practice active listening.

4. Practice your skills.

As with most skills, one of the best ways to develop them is by practicing them. Put yourself in situations where these skills will be required of you, like stepping up during team meetings and assuming leadership roles. As mentioned above, you can then ask for feedback from peers and learn what went right and what needs more work.

5. Recognize that there is no “end” to developing your skills.

Although your desire may be to be perfect, there is no way to be perfect. Everyone is always learning on the go and developing their skills, especially since role requirements can vary.

For example, working in customer service may require you to focus more on problem-solving and empathy, while assuming a role as a manager may require you to spend more time collaborating and conflict management. Recognize that there is always room for growth and development and, as long as you are aware of this, you’ll develop the skills you need to succeed.

Interpersonal Skills on a Resume

It’s important to emphasize your interpersonal skills on a resume, as many employers look for them. Sometimes interpersonal skills are referred to as soft skills instead of technical skills like having product knowledge.

The most important thing to do is to identify the skills you have that match the job description of the new role, so you can explicitly demonstrate how they’ll help you succeed.

Once you’ve identified these skills, you have three options for displaying them:

  • A simple bulleted list of skills,
  • A bulleted list of your job accomplishments and the interpersonal skills you have that have helped you achieve this success,
  • In a summary of your experience at the top of your resume.

As mentioned above, there is no finish line for developing your interpersonal skills. Those you need for each job will likely change depending on your industry, and it is always important to continuously be learning. However, leverage the tips on this list, put yourself in situations where you’ll need to practice your skills, and you’ll find yourself succeeding in your roles, regardless of whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned executive.

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