Interpersonal communication skills are an essential part of every interaction in your daily life. These are the skills that enable you to convey information in any situation. We’ve gathered the top 15 examples of interpersonal communication skills that you should implement in order to advance your career and improve your chances of success, both in business and in life.
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What is Interpersonal Communication?
Interpersonal communication is defined as “an exchange of information between two or more people.” This is usually broken down into one of the three primary communication categories:
- Verbal communication: the transfer of information using the spoken word.
- Non-verbal communication: The transfer of information using non verbal means. This could include facial expressions, body language, and/or American Sign Language.
- Written communication: The transfer of information using the written word.
You use these skills every single day, whether you realize it or not. Commenting on a Facebook status, making small talk with the cashier at the grocery store, or chatting with a coworker at the water cooler are all examples of the application of interpersonal communication skills.
These become even more important when the information that you need to convey concerns the personal or professional obligations of yourself or your coworkers. Information needs to be delivered in an efficient and effective manner. No one is going to want to work with you if it’s a chore to coax even the most basic information out of you.
Top 15 Interpersonal Communications Skills
Learning to master your interpersonal communication skills is something that will take a lifetime and there may be some skills that you never perfect. Don’t let that potential for negative reactions or failure prevent you from striving to be the most effective and efficient communicator possible. To aid you in this enterprise, we have collected the top 15 interpersonal communication skills that you should be practicing and using on a daily basis.
Specifically active listening, which is defined as “A structured form of listening and responding that focuses the attention the speaker.” This is one of the most effective communication skills you will ever learn. A lot of people blame their poor speaking or communication skills on lack of experience or a poor audience, but in reality, the biggest problem that people experience is a lack of properly honed listening skills.
Interpersonal communication, especially if you are not confident in your skills can be intimidating at worst or downright terrifying. When you’re nervous or scared it’s harder to speak clearly. Nervousness tends to make people talk faster than can be easily understood, or causes them to stumble over their words making their information incomprehensible. If you’re nervous or afraid of communicating, for whatever reason, take a step back and practice a few relaxation techniques. A few deep breaths can work wonders when your heart is racing.
Choosing your words carefully is one of the most overlooked communication skills. This is especially important where written communication is concerned, because things like tone of voice or sarcasm don’t translate easily into the written word. Saying “I’ve got a bunch of stuff to do”, is not nearly as effective as saying “I have two articles to complete and a meeting to attend at 1 pm”. Be as precise as possible with your language to improve the efficiency of your statements.
Be Aware of Failure
We are only human and as such, we are fallible and communication failures are bound to happen. Instead of letting these inevitable failures affect your confidence and discourage you from continuing with your communication, learn from your mistakes. Once you have removed yourself from the situation, go back over the event and determine where the failure happened. Once you’ve figured out where the problem occurred, spend a bit of time figuring out a way to improve your skills for similar situations that you may face in the future.
Be Aware of Body Language
Learning to read facial expressions and body language has long been the staple of television shows like “Lie to Me” and “The Mentalist”. The stars of these shows are able to make fantastic deductions by being observant and watching the way that their targets respond to various stimuli or communication. While you don’t need to be as skilled as Patrick Jane, being aware of your target’s body language and facial expression can be an invaluable tool. From here, you can judge his or her overall emotional state and determine what type of communication they will be most receptive to.
Being able to determine your partner’s state of mind is one thing, but you should also be able to empathize with their current emotional state. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to feel the same thing that they are feeling, but you need to be able to relate to the things that they are experiencing. If the person you are communicating with has just experienced the loss of a loved one, then you should be able to provide sympathy and condolences. If they are angry, relate to them and try to offer a solution to the situation that is causing their anger. This is a multifaceted tool and can be one of the most difficult interpersonal communication skills to learn.
This is another difficult skill to learn because many people confuse assertiveness with always getting their way. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Being assertive means having the ability to take control of a conversation without forcing your viewpoint or opinion on the others involved in the discussion. This is a great skill to learn to improve your leadership skills as well because it will give you the tools that you need to take control of and direct even the most difficult of situations. If you’re dealing with an angry customer or irate client, assertiveness can help keep a bad situation from turning into a truly awful one.
Communication is the primary key to negotiation and in many cases, negotiation is a key to good interpersonal communication skills. Negotiation is defined as “a discussion aimed at reaching an agreement” and something that is not done with terrorists. Anything can be turned into a negotiation, from where to spend the yearly corporate retreat to where to buy lunch from today. In fact, turning these simple events into complex negotiations can help to improve your overall communication skills. Each side has to present their reasoning behind their lunch choice (for example) and then a negotiation can be commenced. Good negotiating skills can help to foster mutual trust and respect between coworkers as well. If you can negotiate and accept the decision of another, then you can also be trusted to make decisions on your own.
Keep this Noise Down
This doesn’t necessarily mean the ambient noise, such as traffic or the normal buzz of office speech. In this context, noise refers to anything that could inhibit the smooth flow of interpersonal communication skills. Slang or jargon, foul or inappropriate body language, or even cultural differences can prevent people from being able to effectively communicate with one another. Many of these can be fixed or mitigated by simply being precise when you speak, but others may require more in-depth mediation before a good noise to speech balance is found.
More than Just Words
The tone of your voice can make an enormous difference in how your message is received. If you are conveying accurate information but your tone makes you seem disinterested or condescending, your message will not be as readily accepted and may, in fact, be completely ignored. This is also very important to consider when you are communicating in a written format. The tone of your voice does not translate well to the written word unless you’re writing a screenplay. Do not add sarcastic remarks that may be misconstrued without the proper tone of voice.
One of the most important aspects of interpersonal communication is feedback and response. Communication is not a one-sided ordeal. You have to be able to offer a response to the person speaking. If you don’t understand something, make it known. You can practice this simply by striking up a conversation with someone. It could be a friend or a stranger, it makes no difference. Start talking about a random subject and get a dialog going, and you’ll be able to see firsthand how responding to a statement or question can encourage a conversation to continue rather than allowing it to taper off into silence.
Be Mindful of your Speech
Once something has come out of your mouth or left your inbox, there is no taking it back. Don’t say something mean or awful and then expect to apologize it away later. A simple rude comment or misunderstood statement can often be enough to drive a great wedge between once friendly team members or co-workers. Be mindful of the things you say and consider the impact of your words before you speak them. Think twice before you speak once, or so the old saying goes. A little bit of consideration can prevent a world of pain.
Evolution of Language
Don’t be so arrogant to think that the way you were taught to speak as a child is the way that everyone around you will speak. The English language is a living entity that is growing and evolving. New words are added to the collective lexicon, while others that haven’t been used in many years are left to slowly fade from the minds of the common masses. Since language is one of the most important keys to effective interpersonal communication, it is important to pay close attention to the way our language is evolving. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that words like “twerk” and “selfie” need to be added to your own professional lexicon, but these and other commonly used words and phrases are slowly turning the English language into something new.
One of the most neglected communication skills is the talent to persuade people. This becomes vitally important if you are in a sales-heavy career, or in a position of management. The ability to persuade people is used to bring people to your side in an argument or discussion, or to convince a consumer that the product that you’re selling is the exact thing that will help them solve whatever problem they are facing.
The ability to inspire people is tied very closely with your ability to be a strong and effective interpersonal communicator. A strong speaker, for example, can speak to an entire auditorium of people and leave each of them feeling like the speech was for them alone. This is an essential skill, not only for communications but also for leadership and team building in general. You can be a boss and order your employees around, or you can be a leader and inspire them to greatness. The latter is usually more effective, but the choice ultimately belongs to you.
Each of these skills is essential to becoming a superb interpersonal communicator. Don’t expect to master them all overnight though. In fact, you may never master them all. Don’t let that discourage you. Instead, pick a single skill to work on and keep practicing until you reach a level that you are comfortable with. Then put that skill back on the shelf and move on to the next one that needs practice.
All of these skills can be implemented in your daily life as well. Conversations with friends and family provide an excellent opportunity for practicing your speech and honing your skills. Conversations with strangers can actually provide a better proving ground because you will have no prior knowledge of the person’s opinions and typical responses. You don’t need to start debating the meaning of the universe, just talking about the weather or the latest sports scores can be a great way to practice.
Make no mistake though; each of these skills will be essential to your continued success in your career field. Don’t neglect them just because you think you’ve practiced enough. You may see your personal and professional life suffer as a result.