Interpersonal Communication and Its Importance at Work

Updated September 28, 2023

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Team members gathered in a common area of their office hold a huddle.

Interpersonal communication is the process of sharing both ideas and emotions verbally and nonverbally with another person. It allows us to interact with and understand others in our personal and professional lives. In the workplace, hiring managers often look for employees with strong interpersonal skills who will collaborate and communicate well with their colleagues.

In this article, we will describe the importance of interpersonal skills in your career.

What are interpersonal skills?

Interpersonal skills—also known as people skills—are the soft skills you use to communicate with and understand others. You use these skills daily when interacting with people face-to-face. Examples of interpersonal skills include:

  • Active listening

  • Teamwork

  • Responsibility

  • Dependability

  • Leadership

  • Motivation

  • Flexibility

  • Patience

  • Empathy

  • Conflict resolution

  • Negotiation

Many interpersonal skills involve communication. That communication can be verbal—such as persuasion or tone of voice—or nonverbal—such as listening, gestures and expressions.

Read more: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

Why interpersonal skills are important

Interpersonal skills are important for communicating and working with groups and individuals in your personal and professional life. People with strong interpersonal skills tend to build good relationships and can work well with others. They understand family, friends, coworkers and clients well. People often enjoy working with colleagues who have good interpersonal skills.

Other benefits of interpersonal skills include the ability to solve problems and make good decisions. You can use interpersonal communication skills and the ability to understand others to come to the best solution or make the best decision for everyone involved.

Many employers try to hire staff with strong interpersonal skills because these individuals often work well on teams and collaborate with their colleagues effectively. People with interpersonal skills also tend to make good leaders because of their ability to communicate with and motivate those around them.

Related: 11 Ways To Improve Your Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills that are important at work

While all interpersonal skills can benefit people in the workplace, interpersonal communication is key to working as a team and reaching shared goals. Here are six interpersonal communication skills that are particularly significant at work.

Verbal communication

Your ability to speak clearly, confidently and appropriately for the situation can help you communicate effectively with others. Choose the correct tone and vocabulary for your audience.

For instance, speak formally and professionally during meetings and presentations. Avoid using complex or technical language when trying to explain things or when talking to customers. Ask questions when you need to clarify information.

Related: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

Active listening

Active listening is the ability to pay full attention to someone when they speak and to truly understand what they are saying. You are engaged with the speaker and show that by giving verbal and nonverbal responses, including eye contact, nodding and smiling. Active listening also involves paying attention not just to what someone is saying but also to their nonverbal cues. Ask and answer questions to show that you are listening and interested.

Active listening is important for communicating effectively and preventing misunderstandings at work. It allows you to understand the information or instructions your coworkers or manager give you. It can also encourage colleagues to share their ideas and collaborate.

Related: Active Listening Skills: Definition and Examples

Nonverbal communication

Your posture, expression and gestures can say just as much as your words. When communicating with coworkers and managers, be aware of your nonverbal cues as much as what you say. Gestures like nodding, smiling and being relaxed are all signs that you’re listening to someone and are engaged in the conversation. This said, avoid other gestures, expressions and posture such as crossed arms, restless behavior and shifting your eyes.

Related: Nonverbal Communication Skills: Definition and Examples


Empathy, also known as emotional intelligence, is the ability to understand others' emotions, needs and ideas from their point of view. People who are empathetic have awareness and compassion when communicating. Empathy in the workplace can be good for morale and productivity and can help prevent misunderstandings between employees. By showing empathy, you are more likely to gain your colleagues' trust and respect.

Related: How To Be Empathetic in the Workplace

Conflict resolution

You can use your interpersonal communication skills to help resolve issues and disagreements in the workplace, whether they involve you and a colleague or other parties. This might involve skills such as negotiation, persuasion and understanding both sides of the argument. Listen closely to everyone involved and try to find a solution that benefits all of you. Good conflict resolution skills can lead to a more positive and collaborative work environment. They can also earn you respect and trust from your colleagues.


Groups of employees who can communicate and work well together have a better chance of success and achieving common goals. Being a team player can help you avoid conflict and improve productivity. Do so by offering to help your coworkers when needed and asking them for their feedback and ideas. When team members do give their opinions or advice, listen and react positively. Be encouraging and optimistic when working on projects or in meetings.

Related: Teamwork vs. Individual Work: Definitions and 8 Key Differences

How to improve interpersonal skills

You can develop your interpersonal skills by practicing good communication and setting goals for improvement. To improve your interpersonal skills, consider the following tips:

  • Figure out what you need to improve. Identify areas of interpersonal communication you can strengthen by asking for feedback from colleagues, managers, family or friends.

  • Watch others. Learn good interpersonal skills by observing coworkers, company leaders and professionals you admire and respect. Watch and listen to how they communicate and what nonverbal cues they use. Note details such as their tone of voice, speed of speaking and how they engage with others. Apply those traits to your own interactions and relationships.

  • Learn to control your emotions. Wait until you are calm to have conversations with colleagues. You are more likely to communicate confidently and effectively if you have a positive attitude and are not stressed or upset.

  • Reflect on your interactions. Keep notes or a journal about your conversations and interactions at work so you can learn how to handle or communicate things better. Consider whether you could have reacted differently or used certain words, posture or expressions more effectively. Note positive interactions, as well, so you can understand why they were successful.

  • Practice your skills: Put yourself in positions where you can build relationships and use your interpersonal skills. For example, you might join a group that has organized meetings or social events. This could be an industry-specific group you found through a professional organization or a shared interest or hobby group. Attend events to learn and observe how to communicate and behave with others.

  • Acknowledge others. Pay attention to your friends and colleagues and make efforts to interact with them. Compliment coworkers on their hard work or good ideas. Bring your colleague a cup of coffee. Ask team members how their week was or what their interests are to get to know them better. Offer to help someone who is having a bad day or a difficult time. These steps can help you build stronger, more positive working relationships.

  • Avoid distractions. Put away your phone or mobile device when interacting or communicating with others. Give them your full attention and avoid the temptation to check your email or look at a text message. By staying focused, you can listen and understand more effectively.

  • Take classes. Sign up for workshops or courses that can help you improve your interpersonal skills. Tools such as basic online videos might be free, while you might have to pay for more advanced or in-person training. If you want to develop your verbal communication skills, for instance, you might take a public speaking course.

  • Get a mentor. Ask an individual you respect or admire to help you improve your interpersonal skills. Your mentor could be a trusted colleague, a current or former employer or professor, a family member or anyone else you think highly of. You might even hire a professional career or communication coach.

  • Record yourself. Use a video or voice recorder to tape yourself speaking, then watch or listen to it to identify where you can improve your communication skills. Note things you would like to change or develop, such as your tone of voice, speed of talking, expression, word choice or use of gestures. Take recordings periodically so you can assess your progress.

Interpersonal communication skills can help you be productive in the workplace, build strong and positive relationships with your colleagues and complete team projects smoothly and effectively. The benefits of good interpersonal skills can affect the morale and productivity of your entire team or department.

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