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Top 8 Interpersonal Skills for the Workplace

Big Think Edge | May 03, 2018

There are certain skill sets that are crucial for professionals to be able to exercise in their work environment. Regardless of your industry, interpersonal skills (such as being able to effectively communicate) are important because they:

  • Help employees develop and foster strong working relationships with each other and with their clients,
  • Contribute to increasing team and organizational productivity, and
  • Create an overall positive work environment.

One of the best and most basic ways to learn any skill, including various interpersonal skills, is to learn by doing and actively practicing every day.

Here is a list of eight of the must-have interpersonal skills for every professional in the workplace:

1) Exercising Self-Awareness

In general terms, self-awareness means that a person is able to consciously know what they’re feeling and why they’re feeling it. Self-awareness falls within the realm of emotional intelligence, a term coined by author, psychologist, and Big Think expert Daniel Goleman. Emotional intelligence is comprised of four primary components:

  1. Self-awareness,
  2. Emotions,
  3. Empathy, and
  4. Relationship building.

Being aware of your own feelings and emotions can help you be cognizant of the messages you convey to others whether through your words or non-verbal forms of communication. A lack of employee self-awareness can be detrimental to the success and productivity of an organization.

2) Being Cognizant of Nonverbal Communication

Are you conscious about the nonverbal messages you are sending throughout the work day? Nonverbal communication is an often overlooked bridge between yourself and others, including your colleagues, supervisor, partners, and clients.

However, nonverbal cues can either make relationships stronger or damage them depending on how they’re used and the context of the situation.

Some forms of nonverbal communication include:

  • Eye contact,
  • Facial expressions,
  • Body language,
  • Gestures, and
  • Physical contact (such as shaking hands, touching an arm, pushing, etc.).

3) Being Respectful of Others

It’s well known that respect can go a long way in fostering positive relationships and work environments. In fact, a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) listed respectful treatment of all employees as the top factor contributing to employee job satisfaction.

However, not all employers establish work environments that encourage respect. In some cases, managers themselves can be among the biggest offenders in terms of being disrespectful toward others.

Showing respect in the workplace can be done in any number of ways, including:

  • Showing appreciation for employees’ efforts and time;
  • Showing gratitude and courtesy;
  • Listening to what others have to say rather than listening only to respond;
  • Being respectful of others’ ideas and opinions, even when they differ from yours;
  • Not disparaging, insulting, or attacking others; and
  • Not taking credit for others’ work; even if you build or improve upon someone else’s work, be sure to acknowledge their initial contributions.

4) Showing Empathy and Understanding

Having empathy for others is a crucial part of relationship building in the workplace because it helps you take into account the thoughts, feelings, and needs of others. There are different ways that learning and development professionals can encourage employees to develop and grow these skills through empathy-building exercises.

Empathy, along with active listening and strong communication skills, also is useful in terms of negotiation tactics.

5) Being a Clear Communicator

Regardless of where you’re from, communication is an important part of life, as well as a necessary component of any personal or business relationship. Having effective communication skills can be the difference between success and failure.

According to a recent article from The Chronicle:

“For a business to thrive, meet deadlines and exceed goals, solid communication systems and relationships must be in place. When communication breaks down, so does the business. When stress, unmet expectations, relational breakdown, low morale, dissatisfied clients, family problems, health concerns and a smaller bottom line become chronic workplace issues, poor communication could be at the root of the problem.”

When poor communication takes place, it can place businesses at a significant (and costly) disadvantage. According to data cited by an article from the SHRM, ineffective communication to and among employees resulted in an average loss of $62.4 million per year, per company, for the 400 surveyed companies with 100,000 employees.

6) Engaging in Active Listening

Active listening is pretty self-explanatory. It’s all about actively listening to what someone else has to say rather than passively hearing their message. Approach each conversation like you have something to learn — because, in reality, you likely will find yourself doing just that.

Everyone has their own unique insights, experiences, and perspectives on different subjects. By actively listening to other viewpoints in the workplace (as well as in our personal lives), it helps us as humans to learn and grow. We’re able to increase our own understanding by having an open mind and considering new ideas.

7) Behaving Appropriately

Behaving appropriately should go without saying in the workplace. Depending on the culture of your individual organization, what’s considered appropriate can vary. However, there are some universally accepted behaviors that should be exercised by employees, including:

  • Being punctual;
  • Being friendly and respectful of others;
  • Showing courtesy;
  • Being cooperative and easy to work with;
  • Having a positive attitude;
  • Dressing appropriately; and
  • Taking personal responsibility and being accountable.

Be sure to check out National Public Radio’s (NPR) recent list of inappropriate behaviors that should be avoided in the workplace.

8) Being Receptive to Feedback

Feedback is necessary for personal and professional growth. However, no one likes to feel like they’re being criticized. This is why it’s important to recognize the difference between receiving feedback and criticism. Feedback — whether positive or negative in nature — is like criticism in that it involves an evaluation of some kind by another person. However, a significant difference between these two terms is intent.

Feedback, according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, is “the transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event, or process to the original or controlling source.” The same online dictionary defines “criticize” as “to consider the merits and demerits of and judge accordingly.” This would suggest that the goal of feedback is to provide corrective, constructive input based on an evaluation of information, whereas criticism is geared more toward delivering judgment based on that information.

If you are open and receptive to feedback, it will help you to learn and grow from what others — your colleagues, supervisors, and clients — have to say. All of the interpersonal skills that have been addressed in this blog are important not only your employees’ professional futures but also the success of your organization as a whole.

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