How to Improve Interpersonal Skills: 11 Tips
Is your goal to improve as a professional? If so, you should consider improving your interpersonal skills. No matter what industry you work in, it’s about 99.9% likely that you interact with other people on a daily basis. It could be getting a team project done or selling a service to a prospect. No matter the situation, you need to have great interpersonal skills. Otherwise, it will be much more difficult to reach the success that you want. Why? Because human interaction makes and breaks careers.
Great interpersonal skills will assist you in forming alliances and maintaining healthy relationships. Over time, both your boss and colleagues will recognize your efforts. As a result, you will gain trust and respect. Next thing you know, you will be advancing in your career. Follow the tips in this article to sharpen your interpersonal skills.
1) Stay positive.
No one wants to be stuck near someone who’s always negative and cynical. A little negativity goes a long way. Sure, there will be moments where you don’t feel positive about something at work. You could feel your boss made the wrong decision. You could be unable to stand the person you share your office with. Regardless of the situation, you should maintain positivity. Why? For the sake of your own mental health. This means you can’t let other people’s problems become your problems.
When experiencing negative thoughts, remind yourself of what you like about your job. Better yet, think about all the things in your life that makes you happy. This will keep your emotions in check. It will also remind you that whatever you’re dealing with isn’t the end of the world. If something in your personal life is bothering you, keep it out of the office. Do all you can to separate your personal life from your work life. If something at work is making you upset, don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Instead of basking in negativity, use logic and reason to find a fast solution to the problem.
2) Recognize the expertise of your colleagues.
Few actions build trust faster than acknowledging another person’s positive attributes. This is why you should let your colleagues know that you’re aware of their skills. This doesn’t mean you need to write each person a ten paragraph email filled with compliments. It could be something as simple as saying this to the IT guy. “Hey, thanks for fixing my laptop. You’re always so efficient whenever there’s a problem. I appreciate your effort.” Genuine compliments such as this go a long way in improving interpersonal relationships. People will feel honored that you respect them. As a result, respect will get redirected toward you.
3) Show interest in people.
Regardless of whether you admire your co-workers, you’re still around them a lot. So, why not learn more about them? There are many benefits to this. One of them is that showing interest in others builds rapport. Most people will feel happy that you’ve taken the time to get to know them. Also, by getting to know your colleagues, you might realize you like them more than you thought you would. Finding common ground will often improve work relationships. All you have to do is ask few basic questions about your co-worker’s lives.
4) Become an active listener.
Sometimes listening won’t cut it. You’ve got to take your listening skills to the next level by being an active listener. This isn’t rocket science. It means doing the little things. This includes maintaining eye contact while someone’s talking. Nodding your head in agreement. And addressing all the points that the other person has said. This will make the person talking feel as though he or she is being respected. But it doesn’t only benefit the speaker. You will be more likely to remember the details of the conversation at a later point.
Active listening involves more than conveying great body language. It means that you don’t only listen to words. You listen and understand the message that’s getting communicated. During a conversation, it’s human nature for the listener to be thinking about how he or she will respond. That’s fine to an extent. But you’ve got to keep it in check and not overdo it. Concentrating on what someone’s saying is crucial to having a positive interpersonal relationship. Making an effort to listen in an active manner will help you come up with more thoughtful responses. Active listening can become summarized into a four-step process:
5) Never interrupt people.
Always do your best to let everyone’s point of view get heard. Even if you think someone’s opinion is idiotic, it’s best that you still show them some respect. What’s the easiest way to do this? By listening to what the person has to say. Regardless of the topic or problem, the person will hold you in high esteem. Why? Because you were polite and let another point of view get heard.
Let’s turn the tables for a second. Say you find yourself always getting interrupted by colleagues or a superior. This is a sign that you might be taking too long to get points across. Consider finding new strategies to package information to other people. This may mean having to sit at the computer and type out what you want to say before you go talk to someone. Consider what you can do to tighten up what you’re communicating.
6) Be respectful when you provide responses.
This doesn’t mean you have to lie or be insincere. For example, say a subordinate tells you that she has a new plan for making cold calls. And say you know that plan will waste hours of her work week. Don’t lie and say, “That sounds awesome. I like that idea.” Be respectful and tell her why you believe that plan is ineffective. Do so with a calm demeanor. Making someone feel bad will get you nowhere in the workplace. You can state your opinions without any malice or hostile behavior.
Also, you should strive to be respectful even when others are hostile toward you. Though this is easier said than done, try to remember the following statement. “When they go low, you go high.” This will give you a positive reputation in the workplace. You’ll have a reputation as someone who doesn’t get entangled in drama and unnecessary arguments.
7) Make an effort to assert yourself.
You should strive to have confidence in every action that you take. Without asserting your opinions and abilities, people will view you as being weak. The last thing you want is to have the reputation of being too hesitant or spineless. People will respect you for having the courage to stand up for what you believe in. Are you going to be right 100% of the time? Of course not. Part of being assertive is admitting when you’re wrong.
8) Show empathy and compassion.
Put yourself in people’s shoes. It’s as simple as that. This will help you hold a well-rounded view of problems and situations. You’ll have a deeper understanding of why certain things are happening or not happening. The more empathy you have, the easier it will be to find solutions to problems. This doesn’t mean that no one is ever wrong or out of line. But the only way to right someone’s wrongs is to understand the root cause(s).
9) Cut out distractions.
Interpersonal relationships are harder to maintain when you’re often distracted. You want to convey to others that you have their full attention. This is why you’ve got to do the simple things. Here’s an easy example of an action you can take. Put your phone away when talking to others. A simple action like this will make it obvious that you’re being respectful.
10) Think before communicating.
Words are powerful. And they can hurt. That’s why you’ve first got to take a step back and consider what you want to say and how you want to say it. Again, this doesn’t mean you can’t be honest. But there are ways to be blunt and truthful without offending others. Are you noticing a pattern? Respect is one of the keys of great interpersonal communication.
Reading about improving your interpersonal skills can only do so much. Sure, “practice makes perfect” is an over-used cliche. But there’s a reason it’s over-used. Practicing your skills is the only way to make them better. This means you should be mindful of your interpersonal skills. When? Any time you engage with another person. No exceptions. And this doesn’t have to only be at work. You can sharpen your skills when you’re talking to the cashier at the grocery store!
There’s no situation on the planet that isn’t ideal for you to improve your skills. Keep the tips of this article in mind on a daily basis. Whether it’s your body language or eye contact, be mindful of what you’re doing right and wrong. You may not see improvement overnight. But be consistent. In time, your interpersonal skills will do more than make you a better worker. They’ll make you a better human being.