14 Ways To Improve Your Interpersonal Skills at Work
Updated February 3, 2023
A person uses headphones to listen to audio while working on a project at their computer workstation.
Communication is an important part of most industries, especially those in which you work with a team or the public. Known as interpersonal skills, the ability to do so successfully might help you get a job or succeed in the one you have. Developing good interpersonal skills might even help to support your career satisfaction.
In this article, we’ll go over the importance of interpersonal skills in the workplace and review 14 steps you can take to hone and improve your own interpersonal abilities to help you succeed in your career.
What are interpersonal skills?
Interpersonal skills refer to your ability to interact and communicate with others successfully. In the workplace, this often applies to interactions with supervisors, colleagues and members of the public, like customers and clients.
People frequently use their interpersonal skills when communicating their thoughts and ideas—for instance, brainstorming a solution to a challenge at work—and their feelings and emotions, like when a team member might praise a colleague or engage in conflict resolution.
Interpersonal skills in the workplace
Many employers value interpersonal skills because they can help teams operate more efficiently and effectively. This, in turn, can lead to a number of positive outcomes, such as a more enjoyable workplace environment, higher sales and even increased revenues and profits
Strong interpersonal skills may be a part of your personality, and they can also be learned through mindful attention and practice.
How to improve your interpersonal skills
If you want to improve your own interpersonal skills, here are some steps you can use:
1. Establish your goals
Setting meaningful goals is an important first step for improving your interpersonal skills. Consider your strengths and specifically what elements of your interactions you'd like to develop.
For instance, you might notice that you are adept at initiating conversations with new people but that you find following up to be challenging. Try using the SMART goal framework, meaning you develop goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.
Related: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples
2. Observe successful interactions
Try to observe other people successfully interacting with team members, supervisors and customers or clients. Notice specifically what makes those interactions so successful.
For instance, you might notice their tone, gestures or word choice in a particular situation. Consider sharing your goals with a team member and asking questions to clarify their choices in the interactions you observe.
Related: How To Improve Your Listening Skills
3. Identify ways to practice
Next, brainstorm ways to practice your own skills and abilities. You might seek out a mentor for developing your interpersonal skills, for example, and ask that person to engage in exercises such as role-play scenarios. If you find a mentor, you might also ask them to provide feedback on your interpersonal skills.
You might also consider attending formal training sessions focused on interpersonal skills. Consider asking your employer if they provide opportunities for this kind of development, or use your professional network or relevant organizations to independently find the courses you're looking for.
4. Solicit feedback
Whether you are working with a mentor or in a group training environment, try asking for feedback on your interpersonal skills if it makes sense to do so. Try asking specific questions about scenarios and interactions to help you progress as effectively as possible.
5. Reflect and modify
Periodically pause to reflect on the growth and development of your interpersonal skills. Consider setting a reminder or adding a note on your calendar to intentionally perform a self-evaluation or assessment, perhaps.
Be sure to think about what skills have improved as well as things that you may continue working on. Modify your strategies if it will support your progress. You might even consider adjusting your goals as your abilities progress.
6. Keep interactions focused
Try to keep your interactions with others as focused as possible in the workplace, whether you are communicating with a colleague, a supervisor or customers and clients. Often, this means omitting the potential distraction of devices such as smart phones and other screens. This may also be a beneficial practice because many employers prefer team members refrain from personal media consumption while at work.
7. Leverage recording technology
Sometimes, it's possible for a person's perception of their interpersonal communication style to differ from what others observe. Try recording yourself in mock communication situations and reviewing the recording to notice any traits or habits you'd like to continue or change. Be sure to follow all relevant rules and regulations regarding video recording if you wish to include others in this strategy.
8. Stay positive
A positive outlook can help boost your interpersonal skills by setting a pleasant tone for your interactions. Staying positive can also be a good way to support a growth mindset when you are working on improving your interpersonal skills.
9. Choose your language carefully
Be mindful of the language you choose when interacting with different audiences. The way you communicate with a supervisor, for instance, may be different than the way you communicate with a friend. Think about factors like tone and use of slang when reflecting on your use of language as an interpersonal skill.
Being mindful and in charge of your own emotions can be a powerful interpersonal skill in the workplace. Remaining calm when helping a frustrated customer, for example, might help the other individual feel calm as well and engage more productively in dialogue. Try exploring mindfulness strategies to become more aware of your own thoughts and feelings, if that strategy appeals to you.
11. Know your values
Understanding your own values can be another important part of interpersonal communication. This can help you stay consistent in your interactions with others, which can in turn help bolster your credibility and trustworthiness.
Read more: 6 Steps to Discover Your Core Values
12. Offer empathy
Showing compassion and understanding is another good way to improve your interpersonal skills. Try gracefully mirroring others' ideas to show you’re interested in them and that you understand their perspective. This can help support more pleasant and productive interactions.
13. Negotiate effectively
Understanding how to negotiate differences between individuals can be an important way to improve your interpersonal skills. You may be able to use this personally and resolve potential disagreements with others using carefully chosen language.
You might also be able to help others resolve conflict using negotiation strategies, and by doing so become even more aware of your own abilities and challenges as a communicator.
14. Practice active listening
Sometimes, people will plan their next comment when their conversation partner is speaking which might cause them to miss information they are trying to convey. Try to practice active listening as an interpersonal skill.
This means seeking to understand the other person before responding to their thoughts with your own, and showing that you are listening by using visual cues such as facial expressions and well-timed nods.
Team members gathered in a common area of their office hold a huddle.
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