Interpersonal Intelligence: Meaning and Why It's Important

Updated February 3, 2023

Interpersonal intelligence refers to a person’s ability to bond and connect with other people and manage relationships. Improving your interpersonal intelligence skills can help you to more quickly understand other people's emotions and determine how best to interact with them—based on those emotions.

In this article, we will discuss what interpersonal intelligence is, explain its importance and explore seven ways to help you develop your interpersonal intelligence skills.

What is interpersonal intelligence?

Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to understand how people feel and then interact with them in a way that is appropriate for the situation. It involves having self-awareness, which means being conscious of your own emotions and behaviors and then adjusting them to better communicate with those around you.

There are many professions that use interpersonal intelligence to communicate with others in a way that is relatable and helpful, like teachers, actors, counselors and politicians. People with high interpersonal intelligence usually possess qualities that allow them to:

Related: 6 Interpersonal Skills Interview Questions and Sample Answers

1. Communicate verbally

Someone with interpersonal intelligence is usually skilled at verbally communicating with others. Verbal communication skills often allow someone to speak clearly and confidently to others. It's a skill that can make it easier to express your thoughts and feelings in a way that can make others more receptive to what you're saying.

The effectiveness of verbal communication can sometimes depend on the variations of your voice, such as the tone, volume and speed at which you speak and the words you choose to use.

Related: What Is a Communication Strategy? (With Definition and Template)

2. Communicate nonverbally

Nonverbal communication is a characteristic of interpersonal intelligence that refers to the way someone expresses their emotions without words. You can do this by paying attention to your nonverbal cues like hand gestures and facial expressions when both talking and listening.

Read more: Complete Guide to Nonverbal Communication in the Workplace

3. Be aware of different perspectives

As you develop interpersonal intelligence, you may discover that it becomes easier to consider a situation from another person's perspective. This can allow you to understand viewpoints that may differ from your own as you work to become more empathetic, compassionate and sincere.

This is an important characteristic of interpersonal intelligence because it helps you to connect with others and better understand their experiences.

Related: Work Groups: What They Are and Tips for Managing Them

4. Form meaningful relationships

People with interpersonal intelligence may have an easier time forming meaningful relationships with others. These relationships are generally positive and often involve the ability to have heartfelt conversations with one another.

People in a meaningful relationship may admire and respect one another and are usually receptive to each other's opinions, advice and suggestions. In a meaningful relationship, people are honest with each other, which can help to build trust as well.

Read more: Relationship-Building Skills: Definitions and Examples

5. Resolve conflicts

An important aspect of interpersonal intelligence is conflict resolution, the ability to resolve issues and problems between two or more people. Effective conflict resolution can be useful in finding solutions that benefit everyone involved

A person with conflict resolution skills may know how to identify the source of a conflict and be sensitive to everyone's point of view. The goal of conflict resolution is to find a common agreement between all parties involved in a conflict, so developing your interpersonal intelligence might help you do that more efficiently.

Read more: Dealing With Interpersonal Conflict at Work

Why interpersonal intelligence is important

Interpersonal intelligence is important because it can improve how you communicate with others. It may help you develop more genuine friendships or become someone that people can rely on for emotional support and stability.

It can also help make you more suitable for a variety of professions that involve interacting with people. Increasing your interpersonal intelligence may allow you to:

Be more emotionally intelligent

Interpersonal intelligence may improve your emotional intelligence, which measures how consciously aware you are of your emotions. You can then use that self-awareness to control your emotions and express them within your interpersonal relationships rationally and compassionately.

Emotional intelligence is an aspect of interpersonal intelligence because they often occur at the same time during interactions in a variety of settings, such as work or social events. Emotional intelligence can usually help you identify your current feelings, what caused them and how you may work through those emotions in a positive and healthy way.

Related: Interpersonal Communication and Its Importance at Work

Establish rapport

When you possess a high level of interpersonal intelligence, it may help you form connections quickly with other people, including strangers. Because you may have an awareness of someone's personality after meeting them, you may be able to better adapt to the social situation, which can allow you to connect with them in a way that makes them feel comfortable. Public speakers are often skilled at establishing rapport with their audience because they know how to use the right language and emotion to make themselves seem relatable.

Related: 20 Ways To Build Rapport

Feel more comfortable and confident

Improving your interpersonal intelligence skills over time may help you gradually become more comfortable and confident during social situations and events. Social gatherings may involve having to interact with many people, and with high interpersonal intelligence, you might be able to maintain a natural conversation with others longer.

This can sometimes help you have more confidence to introduce yourself to new people, and you may also find that you enjoy social interactions more when your interpersonal intelligence improves.

Related: What To Do When You Are Feeling Incompetent at Work

Influence others

When you have a better understanding of how people feel and behave, you may use that knowledge to offer opinions and advice that people are more likely to consider.

Because of this, people might gravitate to you more naturally and want to involve themselves in your social circle. By improving your interpersonal intelligence, you may find that it's easier to form strong bonds with others and develop a loyal group of friends.

Develop leadership skills

When your interpersonal intelligence improves, your leadership skills may improve as well. This is because you often need interpersonal intelligence skills to be a successful leader, which involves portraying a positive attitude, having a willingness to encourage others and displaying humility.

A skilled leader can typically form meaningful connections with people and be able to understand how they feel while also considering their opinions when making decisions. The more you can bond with the people you lead, the more likely they are to rely on you as someone trustworthy and deserving of authority.

Read more: How To Improve Your Leadership Skills: Steps and Tips

Ways to develop interpersonal intelligence

Here are seven tips that may help you develop your interpersonal intelligence skills:

  • Teach and tutor others: Learning how to discuss a topic in a manner that's easier for someone else to understand can often make that person more receptive to your teaching style and tutoring efforts.

  • Participate in community service: Participating in community service not only puts you in an environment to help others in need but also serves as an opportunity to help you develop your communication skills and compassion.

  • Listen actively: Active listening is an essential component of interpersonal intelligence and refers to someone's ability to listen to the perspectives, thoughts and opinions of others and then acknowledge what they said.

  • Practice empathy: It can become easier to communicate and develop your interpersonal skills with others when you're able to feel what they feel. This can often help you gain a new perspective you would not have understood otherwise.

  • Be an active team member: Consider being an active team member in your daily life, which means being involved in your team and helping other team members more often. You can become more active as a team member by acknowledging people's efforts, offering your help or fulfilling a leadership role when needed.

  • Display social sensitivity: Try to display a greater sense of social sensitivity, which means having an awareness of people's sensitivities and modifying your speech to avoid offending them. It's important to be aware of what topics may be offensive or what jokes people don't find humorous.

  • Express yourself thoughtfully: Consider how you express yourself nonverbally and make an effort to show more instances of positivity, which can make people feel more at ease around you and want to connect with you. This also involves using gestures and actions that are custom in someone else's culture.


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