Even with the technological revolution constantly unveiling alternatives to face-to-face communication, these skills are essential in the workplace. Until humankind creates a self-motivated robotic workforce, wide-ranging interpersonal skills are still one of the greatest assets you can have.
Interpersonal skills are the skills used by a person to interact with others effectively. However, in the business world the term refers to an employee’s ability to get along with others while succeeding at their job. The importance of interpersonal skills to an employer is immeasurable, after all it’s impossible to get through a job interview without them.
Although you may think you already know the answers, it sometimes helps to be reminded of what they are.
Good interpersonal skills start with the person. That’s right, no one is going to believe you're good at your job if you don’t believe it yourself. While we all suffer from imposter syndrome now and again, you just have to fake it ‘til you make it. To be successful you should demonstrate self-confidence at every stage in your career.
It will improve the way people perceive you, your ideas and your opinions. Being confident will also help with career progression as you’ll have the courage to strive for your goals.
If silence is golden, then verbal communication is platinum. Where would we be without it? It is one of the most important aspects of life, as well as a vital part of any personal or professional relationship. When talking be aware of the words you use and seek feedback to ensure your message has been understood.
Try to speak clearly and eloquently, and be mindful of the professional environment – what is appropriate to say down the pub, may not be at work.
Although speech is essential, experts suggest that 75% of the ‘message’ is conveyed through non-verbal communication such as tone of voice, eye contact and body language. These serve to either reinforce or contradict your choice of words.
While you may think these skills come naturally, be wary if you are working abroad as non-verbal communication can be very culture-specific. For instance if you give someone a thumbs-up gesture in Italy you better be wearing your fastest running shoes…
Positivity is infectious and conducive to a harmonious working environment. Being positive, even when faced with difficult situations, will make tasks easier and you’re more likely to encourage others and boost morale.
Steer clear of negative comments, either about your current work colleagues or previous employers. Gossip travels fast… and if you dish it out too much you may find yourself its subject.
They say you should treat others as you would like to be treated, but in the workplace this is not always the best tactic. Whether you are a manager or a receptionist it is important to understand that everyone has different needs and feelings.
Being empathetic enables us to better assess the impact we are having and adapt accordingly.
In today’s world, crammed with digital distractions, listening can feel like a lost art. That being said, workers that exhibit strong listening skills are at an advantage. For one they are more efficient as they’re better able to utilise and absorb information.
They are also more empathetic and build stronger relationships. Being open to ideas will benefit the entire company, creating a culture where people feel free to share their thoughts. After all, two heads are better than one, three heads are better than two, and so on…
As Confucius once said “If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.” To be better at your job you need to be willing to receive feedback, it enables you to grow. An arrogant or unteachable employee is also an unwanted one, and to be the best at your job you must suppress your ego and concentrate on the objective requirements.
Don’t focus on your response to advice, just listen to it. Feedback is a powerful tool to further enhance your performance and productivity.
There is no faster route to promotion than reliability. No matter how talented, charming or hardworking you are, you can kiss your career-dreams goodbye if you can’t be counted on. A person is only as good as their word, so it is crucial to be punctual, well-prepared and to deliver work when you say you will. This will demonstrate your work ethic and commitment, and in turn you will be rewarded for the stability you bring to the company.
'As Confucius once said: “If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room”'
Respect is the foundation of any good business, and if you are respectful to others it will be reciprocated. Manners go a long way, as does showing your appreciation to colleagues so they know you value their assistance and expertise. Listen to opinions and ideas that differ from your own and refrain from being disparaging.
Again, eye contact and body language are great markers of respect, but so too is physical contact. Some people do not like to be touched so it is important to be mindful of personal space.
Negotiation is a vital skill in any role, whether or not it is directly part of your job description. To negotiate effectively you must seek a win-win outcome that is a solution to all parties involved. This is the way to establish lasting working relationships that are based on mutual respect and trust.
Additionally, being able to persuade and influence others is key to strong interpersonal relations. To be a good negotiator you have to listen and apply creative problem solving to reach a mutually beneficial outcome.
While it is best to avoid conflict altogether, from time to time disputes arise. Negotiation and persuasion are often useful skills in conflict resolution, but sometimes they aren’t enough. You may need to employ mediation skills by listening carefully to both sides and showing that you have done so. Although these skills are typically used by those in managerial roles, a peace-keeper is an asset to any professional environment.
Being assertive means that you effectively express yourself while also respecting the rights and opinions of others. It’s one of the core interpersonal communication skills that can boost your self-esteem and earn you respect.
'Being assertive is about being firm but polite, not aggressive'
Although it may feel intimidating to stand your ground, assertiveness can also decrease your stress-levels, especially if you are a person that naturally finds it hard to say no and takes on too many responsibilities. Being assertive is about being firm but polite, not aggressive.
Being able to work collaboratively, and as part of a team, is another great interpersonal skill to add to your repertoire. Often employers will require you to rely on and support others towards a shared goal. Effective teamwork involves knowing when to stand back and be supportive, and when to show initiative and lead.
As a good team player you should also possess a slew of the aforementioned skills such as empathy, respectfulness, negotiation and communication skills, while always retaining a positive attitude.
Even if you’re not a manager, it’s important to have some leadership ability. Leadership does not just mean barking orders and strategising, but also getting the most out of every employee by motivation and encouragement. To be a good leader you should have vision and self-confidence, as well as excellent intuition and communication skills.
And finally, we spend nearly half our lives at work, so it should at least be enjoyable. A sense of humour can ease even the most difficult situation. But remember, you are at work so be careful not to take it too far…
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