What Are Interpersonal Skills? [Definition & Examples]
Interpersonal skills. You’ve heard it before, right? But maybe you’re not sure about what they actually are.
Imagine you’re writing your resume (since you’re here I’m guessing the chances of that are pretty high). You want to add your skills, both hard and soft, but how? And what are the most sought after skills among employers?
This and much more we will answer in the following article.
Read on to learn more about
- What are interpersonal skills? Interpersonal skills definition and meaning
- Interpersonal skills list and examples
- How to add interpersonal skills to your resume
Ready? Then let’s go.
What are interpersonal skills? Interpersonal skills definition and meaning
If you look up “interpersonal skills definition” in a dictionary, this is what comes up: plural noun; “skills that contribute to dealing successfully with other people”. So basically, interpersonal skills are the skills you use when you interact with other people. They are the skills that let you get along with people. As such, they are obviously not only practical to have in your work life but in all aspects of life. They are an essential part of who you are and we all have different sets of interpersonal skills. The essence of the term is your ability to listen, to communicate, and to form relationships.
Why are interpersonal skills so important? Because without them, you simply wouldn’t be able to function within a society. When it comes to your professional life, and specifically a job search, interpersonal skills may determine whether you get the job or not. Often, and especially if there are two candidates with the same qualifications, an employer will look for certain personality traits during an interview to assess whether or not a candidate will fit in with the company culture. These are not skills that can be learned.
Among other things interpersonal skills are essential to understand other people’s needs, to make your own needs understood, to make a decision, or to create and maintain personal and professional relations.
Interpersonal skills list and examples
Below we have listed the most essential of interpersonal skills related to your work life. Now remember, no one expects you to possess all of these. Understand what they mean and then make sure to show the recruiter and your potential employer how you put these skills to use.
- Verbal communication
- Non-verbal communication
- Listening skills
To illustrate the interpersonal skills on our list and give you some hands-on examples we’ve created our persona, Jane, who has just started her new job as Content Marketing Manager at Company XYZ.
Let’s dive right in.
As you may have guessed, verbal communication covers your ability to communicate efficiently. The definition of verbal communication is how and what words you use when you communicate with individuals.
Jane has to present the new marketing strategy to her team. She makes sure to speak clearly and to use a lot of examples of how to obtain their goals. She chooses her words carefully and makes sure they are easily understood by all team members. This is not the time to use too many complicated and long words. As a result, everyone in Jane’s team feels confident about the new strategy.
Examples of verbal communication skills also include:
- Asking for clarification
- Asking open-ended questions to gain insights
- Recognizing and responding to non-verbal cues
- Speaking clearly and concisely
- Using humor to engage audiences
Verbal communication skills are important to possess because they help you succeed in a variety of work situations such as presentations, projects, negotiations, and even job interviews.
Non-verbal communication involves all other aspects than the mere words you’re saying. Non-verbal communication includes your body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice.
Everybody uses non-verbal communication all the time whether they are aware of it or not. For example when you’re smiling, when you’re making eye contact, if you’re crossing your arms.
During Jane’s presentation she makes sure to use positive body language. This means she does not cross her arms protectively in front of her. She’s smiling. She keeps eye contact with her audience. She makes sure to speak in a slow and measured manner and includes natural pauses in between sentences. This makes it easier for her team to understand and process the changes that are coming.
Paying attention to people's non-verbal communication will tell you a lot about them. Are they angry? Happy? How is the person in front of you receiving the information you’re giving them? Non-verbal communication is an interpersonal skill that you can leverage through all stages of your career.
Sometimes also known as active listening, this interpersonal skill is vital in almost any job position but perhaps especially in positions where you’re dealing directly with other people. Having good listening skills means you’re able to focus on what’s being said to you - in other words you’re good at paying attention. For instance this enables you to understand instructions and then completing the task that you’ve been handed. It makes you able to come up with appropriate solutions.
After Jane’s presentation of the company’s new marketing strategy one of her colleagues goes to her with some issues. He’s concerned that the new way of working will make him obsolete and thus soon out of a job. Jane listens to him carefully and proposes he starts an online class to update his skills.
As we see in the example, active listening skills is the ability to focus on the speaker and understand their message. This way you are able to comprehend the information you’re getting and respond thoughtfully.
There are a few techniques you can try to become good at active listening.
- Give the speaker your undivided attention and ignore all else around you
- Show that you’re listening by nodding and provide feedback
- Ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand the message
Strong negotiation skills are important for your work life and not only in relation to your salary. If you’re dealing with other people you’ll always see the same project from different points of view. This means that during discussions you’ll need to negotiate with your colleagues in order to eventually reach a common ground. This involves both critical thinking, empathy, and problem solving abilities - all valued interpersonal skills.
Jane is having a group discussion with her team regarding the new marketing strategy. Peter from the graphics department is unsure about the sense in utilizing social media as a channel to get their messages out. After listening to his arguments, Jane presents her own arguments and explains why it would be a mistake not to use such large channels. Jane manages to convince Peter of her point of view and they come to an agreement.
In a workplace it’s impossible not to come across both minor and major problems and conflicts. If you’re good at problem-solving you’re a catch for any employer. This is a skill that is very sought after. There are often several overlapping skills involved in problem-solving like for instance active listening, negotiation, leadership, and good communication skills. The key factors for good problem-solving skills are to be able to first identify the problem and second to decide on the best solution. Excel at this and you’ll have employers fight over who gets you.
One of the campaigns Jane is responsible for is not converting any customers. Instead they are spending money without getting revenue. Jane immediately starts to identify the problem by collecting data. Once the problem is identified Jane decides on an appropriate course of action. In the end the problem is solved and the campaign starts making money again.
If you’re hired as a manager for a team, decision-making will be an essential part of your job. But even if you’re hired without managerial tasks, being able to make decisions efficiently will most likely be more than helpful to your career. An employee who can make a decision, stick with, and even defend it if need be, is an employee worth keeping. Decision-making involves underlying interpersonal skills such as the ability to view a situation from more than one perspective, teamwork, leadership, and the right communication skills.
Jane needs to make a decision about their new strategy. Some of the elements that were implemented are not working out. Jane is aware that her decision will inevitably affect some of her team members, but she is also aware that the decision is necessary. She decides to cut out the under-performing elements and now has to convey the decision to the rest of the team. It is not popular but with her strong communication skills she is able to communicate the decision in a way so that the whole team can see it from her point of view.
Last, but definitely not least, is the interpersonal skill assertiveness. Being assertive means being forthright. It means standing up for your own rights, and others’ as well, and to be able to express yourself in honest, direct and appropriate ways. Being an assertive person can help you quite a deal when you’re interacting with other people. This skill will help you express yourself in a clear, open, and reasonable way without undermining your own rights or others’. However, often there is a very fine line going from assertiveness to aggressiveness, and often the two are confused.
For some time Jane has felt harassed by one of her colleagues who has been acting aggressive towards her. He has been undermining her decisions, lastly in front of other colleagues. She decides to confront him and tells him that his behavior and hostility is not acceptable. It turns out he is having trouble at home and has been letting it out on his colleagues. Together, they agree he will find a therapist to help him deal with his emotions. Jane met him in a respectful manner and the result is an improved work environment.
How to add interpersonal skills to your resume
One thing to remember when it comes to adding interpersonal skills to your resume is to always keep it relevant. That means tailor your skills to the skills listed in the job ad.
Now, you have two main ways of adding your interpersonal skills to your resume: 1) directly by adding them to your skills section and 2) indirectly by showing them in your work experience section.
Let’s take a look at each.
1. Adding interpersonal skills to your skills section
Simply adding your interpersonal skills in your skills section might prove difficult. Let’s take a look at some of the skills Jane would add to her resume. Imagine seeing this as a recruiter:
- Verbal and non-verbal communication
- Listening skills
- Negotiation skills
It just doesn’t seem very convincing, does it? You need to add a little more context to the story. This could be managed like so:
- Highly experienced in making public presentations
- Very adept in active listening and finding solutions to team members’ issues
- Expert at negotiating to reach best possible outcome
The bullet points above provide a bit more context for the recruiter to work with. This helps her to better understand your actual abilities.
However, to really make an impact with your amazing interpersonal skills you need to also showcase exactly how you’ve used them in past jobs.
2. Adding interpersonal skills to your work history section
Your work history section is the best place to add your interpersonal skills. Why? Because you get to show with actions how you’ve used them in your past jobs instead of just listing them.
Let’s continue with Jane’s examples from above. She wants to show a recruiter what she’s capable of.
- Introduced, implemented and coordinated a new content marketing strategy resulting in increased revenue of 17%
- Managed and led a marketing team of 10 people in the development of a new content marketing strategy
- Communicated important knowledge and results to both team members and to top 3 executives thus ensuring smooth business operations
The interpersonal skills Jane is showcasing here are:
- Verbal and non-verbal communication
- Leadership which is essential for problem-solving and negotiation
Make a note that Jane not only communicates her skills in the example above. She also shows exactly how she put those skills into action with some great results to showcase for them. This creates a more compelling resume that is sure to win over most recruiters and hiring managers.
Here’s how you copy the procedure:
- Note down which of the mentioned interpersonal skills you’ve used during your career and how you’ve put them to use
- Look through the job ad for the job you’re tailoring your resume for and highlight the skills the employer is looking for in their candidate
- Combine them in your resume to create strong and compelling bullet points for your work experience section
And voila! You will have a very convincing resume that shows exactly how you will bring value to your future workplace.
List of interpersonal skills
Below we’ve collected a list of the most sought after interpersonal skills. See if you recognize yourself in any of them.
- Active listening
- Conflict resolution
- Mediation skills
- Decision making
- Problem identification
- Problem solving
- Group processes
- Persuasion skills
- Emotional intelligence