The term “interpersonal skills” is somewhat of a misnomer because it refers to character traits possessed by an individual rather than skills that can be taught in a classroom. Within an organization, employees with good interpersonal skills are likely be more productive than those with poor interpersonal skills because of their propensity to project a positive attitude and look for solutions to problems.
Interpersonal skills are closely related to the knowledge of social expectations and customs, and they take into account others’ reactions to adjust tactics and communication as needed. Some describe interpersonal skills as a type of social intelligence that relies on paying attention to the actions and speech of others and interpreting it correctly as part of forming a response. While they are based in part on an individual’s personality and instincts, these skills also develop as a result of life experiences and knowledge.
Many job seekers cite interpersonal skills on their resumes, knowing their importance in success and productivity in the business world. Among the interpersonal skills often required in business are active listening, or the ability to elicit information from a speaker, and negotiation, a skill that is useful in sales, marketing, law among other fields. Additional interpersonal skills seen as valuable include public speaking, conflict management, team building and collaboration.
While many people believe that interpersonal skills are, to some extent, innate in each person or acquired at an early age, job seekers and those looking for promotions can take steps to improve their interpersonal skills and thereby make themselves more valuable to an organization. Steps individuals can take to hone their interpersonal skills include expressing appreciation for team members and support staff, practicing empathy, moderating disputes quickly so they don’t get out of control, and planning communications rather than saying or writing the first thing that comes to mind. Active listening is also a skill that can be learned through the process of repeating back to a speaker what she has said to make sure true communication is taking place.