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What Are Interpersonal Skills and Why Are They So Important?

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Summary: Here's why interpersonal skills are the building blocks of communication and success, and how you can use them to drastically improve your life.

What are interpersonal skills? How crucial are they for your success?

Interpersonal skills are essential to navigating your life unless you live as a hermit without any communication with the external world.

They allow you to build healthy and harmonious relationships. And as we know, opportunities don’t come through doors — they come through people.

So, what are interpersonal skills, and how can you use them to succeed? Here’s what you need to know:

Even if you don’t have a natural talent for interpersonal skills, you can acquire them. Let’s find out how.

interpersonal skills

What Is Meant by Interpersonal Skills?

Simply put — interpersonal skills are people skills. They’re the skills we use when communicating and collaborating with others.

More and more often, employers base their hiring decisions on whether they feel a candidate exemplifies strong interpersonal skills.

Think about it: the more personable you are, the better you’re able to contribute as a cohesive member of a team. And the more honest and dedicated you are, the less likely you are to give up on a project halfway through its completion.

What are examples of good interpersonal skills?

Interpersonal skills are traits we learn throughout our lives. Unfortunately, there’s no elementary school course on patience or college program on empathy.

These skills are both inherent and external to us. They are abilities we acquire through our experiences.

Some people have a natural talent for interpersonal skills. They implicitly understand what’s needed to get along with others, perhaps without ever knowing what interpersonal skills are!

And that is the true beauty of interpersonal skills. With or without knowing how to define them, you can possess and cultivate these life-changing abilities to sculpt and define your future for the better.

Good interpersonal skills include the following:

  • Active listening
  • Collaboration
  • Problem-solving
  • Conflict resolution
  • Empathy
  • Diplomacy
  • Adaptability
  • Leadership
  • Mediation
  • Patience
  • Analytical thinking

So, ask yourself: do any of the above interpersonal skills come naturally to you? Which would you like to improve and develop?


Why Are Interpersonal Skills Important?

It turns out interpersonal skills are of increasing importance in the workplace.  Aside from helping you get a job, what else can interpersonal skills do to help you succeed?

Well, this is where the true and innate value of interpersonal skills comes into play.

Interpersonal skills are abilities that can transmute and transpose across every spectrum of our lives. There isn’t a single facet of our experience that these skills won’t be of use!

Interpersonal skills aren’t just people skills. They’re life skills. And they help us communicate and relate to others.

Where once, we may have lost our patience and initiated an argument, we reach instead for understanding and tolerance. Where once, we may have brushed someone else’s troubles off with callousness, we reach instead for empathy and compassion.

We build the bridges with others that make our lives, and the lives of those we interact with, easier, simpler — and better.

Interpersonal Communication Skills for Success

Interpersonal Communication Skills for Success

Now that we have a better understanding of what interpersonal skills are, we can further examine a special facet of these abilities: interpersonal communication.

Most of the trouble we run into with others is due to a miscommunication of some form or another. And there are many types of miscommunications.

By developing and increasing our interpersonal communication skills, we help smooth and simplify our interactions with others.

So, here are two of the most important interpersonal communication skills and how they can assist you:

1. Active listening

Active listening is an invaluable tool for facilitating effective communication. The importance of this interpersonal skill can’t be understated.

Active listening is a communication technique that involves the full and active application of the listener to what is being said. The full attention of the listener is given to the person speaking. Often, visual cues are provided to the speaker to let the speaker know the listener has given them their full attention.

Active listening cues include:

  • Eye contact
  • Nodding the head
  • Smiling
  • Verbal affirmations, such as “yes,” or “ah,” or “mhmm”

These cues let the speaker know the listener isn’t simply hearing them but is actively listening.

After all, hearing is something that happens in the ears. But listening is something that happens with the whole body.

Being an active listener affirms your ability to give to others. It displays your interest in the ideas and perceptions of those around you. And it encourages the people you interact with to communicate and to provide you with a forum for communication in return.

2. Body language

There’s been some argument over the quantity of our communication that is made up of and interpreted entirely by body language. But most psychology experts agree that at least half of our communication with others is done without words.

So, that means your body, posture, and facial expression play a huge role in how others interpret what you say.

Without realizing it, we’re sending subconscious signals to everyone around us with our bodies, pretty much all of the time. Does that mean you need to be more aware of your body language?


The interpersonal communication skill of body language is centrally focused on the stories we tell with our faces, our hands, our eyes, and our posture.

If our bodies communicate disinterest or apathy as we’re trying to effectively communicate, our message is not likely to be received well.

Common examples of body language that communicates disinterest:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Folded arms or legs
  • Glancing at clock, watch, or phone
  • Yawning
  • Fidgeting

Instead, use non-verbal communication to your advantage, and try the following:

  • Relaxed, open posture
  • Engaged eye contact
  • Nodding the head
  • Smiling

Mastering awareness of your physical space and your place within it will help you understand how others interpret your presence.

Open body language welcomes others in. It lets them know you are safe and trustworthy and encourages them to connect with you on deeper and more intimate levels.

Here is a video of the amazing Jefferey Allen giving a bit more advice on interpersonal communication skills and connection:

How Do You Show Good Interpersonal Skills?

Working to improve your interpersonal skills is a worthwhile endeavor; it’s something you can work at each and every day for lasting, influential results.

So, here are a few on how to improve your interpersonal skills to better connect with those around you:

1. Acknowledge others

When someone speaks, listen. When someone offers feedback, be gracious. And when someone lends you a hand, thank them.

Most of the time, people simply want to be recognized and acknowledged for what they do. So, give someone a compliment! Let them know you’ve noticed their hard work. Tell them you appreciate their ideas.

2. Practice compassion

Concern for the well-being of others is an important trait we must all work to further nurture, both in ourselves and in others.

So, if you see that someone is having a hard time, a bad day, or a difficult experience, reach out to them. Ask them how you can help. Listen to them compassionately. Bring them a coffee. Draw them a funny doodle and leave it on their desk.

After all, caring for others is all about the small, intimate acts of kindness we extend on a daily basis.

3. Take an interest in others

We’re often too concerned with our own problems and difficulties to pay much mind to others.

So, the next time you open your mouth to complain or vent, instead, try asking the person you’re interacting with how they’re doing.

Ask them about their hobbies, their passions, their interests. Get to know people on a deeper and more fulfilling level.

If you want to connect with others, you’ll need to make the effort to express an interest in their lives.

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