9 tips for improving your interpersonal skills
Do you know how to draw out that super-shy colleague you’re partnering with on a project? Or how to remove the sting from your words when you’re annoyed with a colleague? Or how to show a co-worker who’s going through a stressful time that you’re there for support?
If you’ve answered, “Yes” to all of these questions, then congratulations: you’re a real people person with great social skills. If, however, you’ve answered, “No” to one or more of them, then like most, you could benefit from the following nine tips for improving your interpersonal skills.
- Cultivate a positive outlook. People gravitate naturally towards a colleague who’s upbeat and optimistic. Additionally, they’re more likely to respond in a positive manner to him or her than to someone who’s negative. Teach yourself to be positive by reminding yourself every day of the good things about your life and your job. If you’re upset about a personal matter, set those feelings aside until after work. And if you’re stressed about a work issue, look for the positive in the situation and try to build on that.
- Control your emotions. Work isn’t the place to be overly emotional. Whether you’re extremely irritated, severely depressed, or ecstatically happy, take a deep breath and tone your emotions down. Always express yourself in a calm, patient manner.
- Acknowledge others’ expertise. One of the best ways to build trust at work is to let your co-workers know you appreciate their expertise. Ask for their help on projects, and give credit where credit is due.
- Show a real interest in your colleagues. You work side-by-side with your colleagues for eight hours every day, so it’s only logical that you’ll learn something about their lives. For example, someone might be planning to get married while another colleague is earning an advanced degree after work. Make a point of getting to know what’s important to your co-workers. It will help solidify your relationships with them.
- Find one good trait in every co-worker. Not all of us like every single person we work with. However, you can’t let personal preference get in the way of peak performance. If a colleague’s personality clashes completely with your own, the best way to handle the situation is by finding at least one good trait in that person—preferably something professional. For example, you might not like Kim, the social media manager, but if you remind yourself that she’s an expert at designing and executing an effective social media campaign, it can become much easier to interact with her professionally.
- Practice active listening. In the all Business article “Ten Ways to Improve Your Interpersonal Skills,” the editors advise practicing active listening. You can do this by maintaining eye contact with the speaker, nodding your head, and repeating what he says in your own words. The speaker will feel respected, and you’re likely to be able to recall the conversation more easily afterwards.
- Be assertive. According to the HelpGuide.org article “Effective Communication: Improving Communication Skills in Your Work and Personal Relationships,” it’s important to be assertive. Be confident in your ability and opinions, and don’t be afraid to express your needs, as well as your limits.
- Practice empathy. Gain a well-rounded view of things by putting yourself in other people’s shoes. This will help you develop empathy for others, which in turn goes a long way in finding solutions that work for all involved.
- Maintain your relationships. Don’t let “out of sight, out of mind” ruin the relationships you’ve carefully built up over the years. Connect with college friends and former colleagues on social media; send them emails; and try to set up face-to-face meetings now and then. This shows your connections that you still value the relationship—and that can go a long way in helping you advance your career.
Even if you don’t work in customer service, sales, or PR, interpersonal skills form an integral part of your professional toolbox. From collaborating on a project with an insecure colleague to liaising with an important external stakeholder, you need the confidence, empathy, and communication skills to make the most of every interaction. By doing so, you’ll gain allies and simultaneously demonstrate to your supervisor that you’re capable of bringing out the best in others. And that’s a key aspect of career advancement.