Want a quick way to boost your career without expensive courses or more hours at the office? Start learning about these 10 simple interpersonal skills. While applying them at the office day-to-day takes practice and discipline, it’s time and effort well spent. Think of it as an investment.
When you look at job postings, the phrase “strong interpersonal skills” keeps popping up. Yet many see soft skills as “extras” that have little to do with the core functions of your job. If so, you’re making a big mistake. Using these abilities to gain trust and build a rapport gives you a huge advantage in your career.
While the social aspects of the workplace come easier to some than others, anyone can improve in this area. And it all starts here.
What Are Interpersonal Skills?
Also referred to as “people skills,” interpersonal skills can make or break nearly every stage of your career. After all, your career starts with getting that first person to hire you in the first place. When your manager sees you as someone adaptable who’ll get the job done, you’ll get the plum assignments. When your staff sees you as caring and competent, they’ll go the extra mile for you.
Meanwhile, people who project enthusiasm are more likely to win over skeptical clients, higher-ups, and colleagues. Tending to your personal, professional, and in-office networks can bear fruit in many ways. You’ll always be the first to hear about that next opportunity, time-saving process, or potential new hire.
So what makes people see you as a go-getter, and a leader as well as a good team player? The 10 most important ones are:
- Good at Active listening
- Able to collaborate effectively
- Willing to give and receive constructive criticism
- A knack for conflict management
- Strong written and verbal communication
- Creative thinking and problem solving
- Understands and provides great customer service
- Skilled in establishing a rapport
- Uses diplomacy in dealing with others
- Flexible and able to adapt to new situations
Now, we’ll talk about these 10 most sought-after interpersonal skills in greater detail.
1. Good at Active Listening
Let’s start with active listening. This soft skill rarely appears in job listings, but it’s highly valued by employers. Listening is always a good idea, but the “active” part comes from your follow up questions. Those questions help you to draw out more details while making your colleagues and clients feel valued.
When you listen carefully and ask questions based on what you heard, people know you’re paying attention. Also, the more you draw people out, the more invested they feel in working with you. By using active listening in the workplace, you can work more effectively and help resolve any underlying issues. Even better, active listening shows you’re a team player and a careful listener who cares.
2. Able to Collaborate Effectively
Collaboration is key for just about any job you have or project you work on. That’s why the top brass value this so highly in the workplace. Even in as more of an individual contributor role, it’s bound to come up sometimes. When working on projects with others, you don’t need to be a stellar social animal. You just need to get a feel for your teammates’ motivations, what’s expected of them, and the pressures they’re under. Not only do you want to meet expectations on your end, you also want to make others’ lives easier.
For example, let’s say you write software. When you comment or document your code, it helps the project managers and front-end designers see how it works. This helps them do their jobs better. You can also get your colleagues to return the favor by asking them for things you need to provide a better product.
Mutual respect and a desire to cooperate with others are key to being a good collaborator. When you see your projects as part of a larger whole it gives you a whole new perspective on your company.
Here’s a helpful TedX video from Ken Blanchard, a best-selling author, and management expert.
3. Willing to Give and Accept Constructive Criticism
Seeking and giving feedback is something that many people avoid. Most of us find it highly awkward to give it to others and receive it ourselves. But guess what? You’ll need to get over this if you want to move forward in your career. You need good feedback in order to get better at your job. And you need to know how to give it to others in a helpful way if you want to manage them.
Constructive criticism does not have to be uncomfortable. Instead, it should let people know what they’ve done well and what they could do even better. When giving feedback, it is vital that you get your points across while showing you appreciate their efforts. Be empathetic and fair while giving them actionable items they can apply moving forward. You may also need to schedule a follow-up to provide support and make sure they’re doing what you’ve asked.
Being able to accept feedback from others should also be in your toolbox of interpersonal skills. When you’re on the other side, don’t see it as a dressing down. Instead, approach it as a problem-solving session and a chance to improve. If your boss sounds vague, adopt a can-do attitude and ask for more specific items that you can fix. Make the process as easy as possible for them. Always remember that it’s likely that they don’t enjoy this either.
Here’s a video on learning how to take constructive criticism with good grace.
And here’s a video on how a manager can improve morale and performance through good feedback.
4. A Knack for Conflict Management
When you work with others, you can bet your bottom dollar a conflict will arise at some point. Conflict can be a good thing and we can learn from it when handled well. That’s why knowing how to manage conflict is among the most sought-after of interpersonal skills.
Showing respect for all sides while taking a calm, even-handed approach is critical. Let all parties involved feel like they’ve been heard and always seek the win-win. Others will soon take note of how well you handle these situations. Issues can arise in even the most friendly workplace. But poorly-handled conflicts can cause all sorts of problems. These an include project delays, wasted time and effort, and low morale. The person who can head these issues off at the pass is worth their weight in gold.
This presentation talks about how to manage conflicts.
5. Strong Written and In-Person Communication
Another one of the most highly-prized interpersonal skills is being able to communicate. When you provide transparent, timely, and concise communications, that’s a skill that managers will appreciate. Also, getting your point across in both verbal and written form is a bonus many employers are eager to see.
To improve your oral communication, you’ll need to practice. For face-to-face chats, practice in front of a mirror or record yourself and watch. You can also see if there’s a Toastmasters group near you to hone your public speaking skills. And of course, there’s also a wealth of material online. Take a look at some samples posted online and figure out ways to adapt those concepts to your writing style.
6. Creative Thinking and Problem Solving
When it comes to interpersonal skills, creative thinking makes the short list. It’s not just about writing, design, and marketing. Creative thinkers and problem solvers also think quickly on their feet. In many jobs, you’ll need to solve unique problems that arise on a frequent basis. Even if your job functions are roughly the same day-to-day, creative thinking can save the company time and money.
The need for this critical skills can often pop up without warning. And it can make the difference between the show going on or all things screeching to a halt. If you can think outside of the box and find a fix before things get messy, you’ll be a hero. You’ll also save your co-workers and yourself a lot of time and stress. And who knows? You may very well invent the next Big Thing.
Here’s Stanford’s Tina Seelig’s Ted Talk on how to unlock creativity and innovation.
7. A Commitment to Great Customer Service
Customer service can mean many things depending on the workplace and what you do. But most jobs require customer service skills even if you don’t have a public-facing job. When you think about customer service, retail, tech support, or your local restaurant likely come to mind. But there also what experts call “internal customers.” These are the people throughout your company who rely on the things you and your team do each day.
Those who treat colleagues who rely on their work like customers have the kind of interpersonal skills bosses want.
When you have a customer service mindset, your first thought is always, “how can I help you.” And you treat people inside your company with the same care and helpful, can-do attitude as you would a client. Not only should you respond to their emails and phone calls promptly, you should be proactive.
Subject matter guru David Brownlee talks about the seven essentials of great customer service.
8. Skilled in Establishing a Rapport
Being able to quickly establish a rapport with others among the interpersonal skills that stand out during an interview. It will also serve you well in your workplace. This kind of relationship building is highly desired across many industries Many employers will hire someone they feel a rapport with over someone they don’t.
In many cases, you have the chance to do this with someone in person. But there will always be times where you’ll need to do it over email or the phone. When this happens you need to rely on what you know about the person you are speaking with at the time. While you may know little about them, you likely know where they’re from. A quick search on their home city can yield news or team info you can use as an ice-breaker.
When you have a rapport with someone, they’re more likely to help you or be more patient when issues arise. This can be vital for getting a project done or to quickly resolve a trouble ticket.
Watch personal development coach and trainer Joe Urbanski discuss how to build rapport and trust in five minutes.
9. Uses diplomacy in dealing with others
One of the most overlooked interpersonal skills is diplomacy in dealing with others. Are you tactful? Do people think you care about them and take them seriously? How do you handle things when you need to relay bad news? Do you treat others with kindness and respect? Do you make people feel listened to and cared about?
Are your friends and family members teasing you about your rampant foot-in-mouth disease? If the answer’s yes, you’ve got some work to do. If you know people who always handle things gracefully, watch them closely. You can also keep an eye on public figures you admire and see as kind and gracious. Also, take note of when people say the right things but don’t seem sincere. You don’t ever want to come across that way.
An excellent way to get a jumpstart on diplomacy is to work with others often and take note of how others interact on sensitive or tricky topics. There are many videos and websites online that can offer helpful tips and scripts, but ultimately, you’ll need to mold these to fit your communication style.
Tayo Rockson runs a consulting firm that provides advice on leadership. Here he is doing his TEDx talk about the art of diplomacy in daily life.
10. Flexible and able to adapt to changes and new situations
Flexibility is another interpersonal skill that you frequently see asked for in job postings. But it rarely comes up during the interview. When “flexible” means “tons of unpaid overtime” you may want to run for the hills. But when a client slams your (normally decent) boss with last minute changes, you should step in and help.
Being flexible about changes to the timing, schedule, or scope of your work can win points. This often can mean shifting things around and putting some things on the back burner. The more creative and able to adapt to changes you are, the better.
Here’s a video with six tips on how to adapt to change in your workplace.