We all have interpersonal interactions on a regular basis, but being able to communicate and work with others with confidence and competence is a learned skill. Unfortunately, today’s virtual communication environments can complicate human communications, requiring the development of specific skills to pick up important non-verbal information. Research has shown that active users of technology-mediated communication may be negatively impacted in their “ability to read and respond to others in face-to-face communication.”
That’s a big problem for every business as hybrid work environments become more commonplace and there’s a greater need for virtual communication. Developing good interpersonal skills is important not only for the personal development of your employees, it’s essential for the health and success of the entire organization.
Let’s take a closer look at the need for interpersonal skills and then how training can benefit your employees and company productivity.
What Are Interpersonal Skills?
Interpersonal skills are the behaviors, traits and tactics that we use every day to interact with others — both verbally and nonverbally.
Verbal interpersonal skills are effective speaking and listening traits, which include active listening, speaking clearly and concisely, asking open-ended questions, and managing your pitch, tone and volume.
Non-verbal interpersonal skills involve things like eye contact, facial expressions, posture, open body language and paying attention.
In the workplace, interpersonal skills development covers important areas like conflict management, mentoring, relationship management and being receptive to feedback. It is the culture of constant and open communication — not only should communication and outreach be welcomed, it should be encouraged and promoted.
Who Needs Interpersonal Development?
Everyone can benefit from interpersonal development. Working with teammates, managing others, building trust and communicating with clients and stakeholders is necessary for success in every position in every industry.
A failure to engage with others is harmful for both individuals and to the company as a whole. Think of the new hire who’s unsure about procedures and is afraid of looking “dumb” to their peers, while their co-workers aren’t able to pick up on their distress and uncertainty. The employee continues with a process that’s inefficient or worse — incorrect. That’s not a failure of the employee or their coworkers, but rather a result of a lack of training.
Similarly, consider a manager who implements new procedures with the intent of increasing efficiency. They feel they’ve outlined the process well, set clearly defined goals and created helpful resources. But not everything was accounted for and there are still some lingering questions among the team. However, no one speaks up as everyone assumes that everything should already be accounted for and the manager believes that everything is moving along — even as frustrations start to build among the team. Managers and supervisors not only need to be able to master their own interactions, they need to be proactive in managing the relationships of others, providing guidance and support where necessary and finding ways to resolve conflict.
Good, effective communication in the workplace consists of more than just scheduled check-ins and team meetings. It needs to encompass the entire organization, top to bottom. Here’s one example of how a company came to realize the importance of outreach and communication in the workplace and why they needed to develop their employees’ interpersonal skills.
The Importance of Company-Wide Communication — A Case Study
When the head of the U.S. team of a global manufacturing company heard about the success of our Total Customer Focus (TCF) program with clients like ASML, he invited us to run a two-day workshop and follow-up webinars for his own sales and service team. What drew his attention was the empowering element of TCF to take any relationship — personal or business — and improve it, making it more fulfilling and enjoyable by changing the way you act with that other person. And that, in turn, would positively change how those people would react to you and build stronger relationships.
At the time, the President/CEO of the company happened to be in the region and attended the training. Upon hearing the positive response from the program participants, he asked that we conduct TCF training for all of his 450 employees across his factories in the U.S., Canada and Sweden for his global sales operations. His goal was to further the interpersonal development of his entire company so they could be total customer focused.
This was the first time we really brought the TCF approach not just to sales and service but to all areas of a company. Over a period of six months, we trained all personnel, including bilingual service for the factories in other countries and for workers who were ESL. The core element of our TCF training was — and continues to be — that internal customers are just as important as any external customer. Everyone has to be aware of the interpersonal relationships they have with other people and be mindful of their interactions to change those relationships for the better, no matter how challenging or difficult.
One of the most important aspects of the training was instructing participants how to be accountable to customers and to each other. It was essential for participants to develop a culture of accountability — if they could not fulfill a commitment, then they had to proactively communicate and follow up. Because the factories themselves were, in some cases, customers of each other, making accountability a priority helped to foster improved communication and forged stronger relationships between all the personnel.
This concept was an eye-opener for all participants. It was the first time they thought of others — besides the external customers who “paid the bills”— as their customers. By considering everyone who relied on them as a customer, all the employees were able to apply a TCF approach for all of their interpersonal interactions. Months after the training, the president of the U.S. team came back to share stories about the incredibly positive and productive discussions that their employees were having with all of their customers, which was a big shift away from the more surface-level and transactional interactions that had previously limited their customer relationships.
Benefits of Interpersonal Skills Training
Good interpersonal skills are good business. However, these skills aren’t inherent — they need to be learned and reinforced. The benefits of interpersonal skills training resonate throughout the company and for individual employee development. Here are the major benefits:
- Greater employee retention. Based on its 50 years of employee engagement research, Gallup has found that personal development and forming relationships are two of the top drivers of workplace engagement. When your employees are better able to connect with management and with each other, then they’re more likely engaged with their work, which means better work performance and better employee retention for the company.
- More welcoming workplace environments. Creating a culture of interpersonal connections allows employees to pick up on different social cues of discomfort, frustration, anger and anxiety. Encouraging open communication can encourage employees to take action and discuss developing issues with their peers. This can greatly help to reduce levels of employee conflict, stress and disruption.
- Greater diversity and greater performance. Inclusion and diversity matter. McKinsey has repeatedly found that the companies that have higher levels of gender, ethnic and cultural diversity consistently outperform their less diverse competition. However, it takes effort to develop work environments that are open and inclusive for all employees — no matter their gender identification or cultural background.
- Better customer relationships. Better employee interpersonal skills help to cultivate a client rapport, which is the ability to develop, nurture and sustain a long-lasting customer relationship. When all customer-facing employees are better able to “build a bridge” with key decision makers, the company as a whole can transform transactional client relationships into win-win partnerships. Driving effective results for customers and is how training programs like “Engaging Up” achieve higher customer lifetime values.
One of the most important skills for building interpersonal skills is knowing how to deescalate tense situations. Aid your team members in more effectively resolving a customer’s issue by downloading and sharing our TAUC De-Escalation Strategy Checklist.
- Greater self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Also referred to as emotional quotient, emotional intelligence is the measure of how we recognize and process our own emotions and the emotions of others. Recognized as an essential interpersonal skill for leaders, a high emotional intelligence is important for managing our own stress, forming better relationships and improving our communication skills.
- Increased confidence and assertiveness. Understanding a situation and our own emotional reaction to it allows us the confidence to take action. As leaders and managers, there’s a responsibility to take the first step in recognizing potential issues and broaching the conversation in a manner that’s respectful and productive. As we progress in our careers and take on more responsibilities, there’s an increasing need to foster those same skills within your team, helping them move from being reactive to proactive.
- Improved communications and negotiation skills. Effective communication needs to go beyond the immediate issues to identify what’s really driving customers and clients. We use the “iceberg” metaphor — an understanding that resolving an issue requires an in-depth understanding of the matters that are sometimes hidden “below the water line.” Only after identifying and addressing these matters that are driving a customer’s behavior can we understand what’s being communicated and how we can effectively negotiate.
- Strengthened relationships and collaborations. Whether it’s building confidence and control over our own ability to communicate, forging more open and trusting relationships with co-workers, or developing the ability to quickly gain a customer’s support and understanding — good interpersonal skills are necessary for collaboration. Without the assistance and support of others, personal success will always fall short of what it could be.
If you’re looking for an interpersonal communication course or other people skills training resources, please talk to Global Partners Training about our Total Customer Focus™ suite. This experiential customer relationship training program is a powerful way to engage, develop and retain your valuable talent. If you’d like to learn more about programs appropriate for any role(s) in your company, contact us today to start a conversation.
Interpersonal Skills Training FAQs
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are traits, behaviors and habits that we use in our daily interactions with others. They’re considered to be different from technical or practical skills because they’re not specific to a particular industry or career, but are core elements of how we socialize. Sample soft skills include:
- Direct and clear communication and interpersonal skills
- Being comfortable collaborating with others
- Being flexible and adaptable to change
- Having good time management
How can I assess my own interpersonal skills?
Assessing your own interpersonal skills starts with self-awareness and continues with your personal interactions. Pay close attention to yourself when you interact with a coworker or customer and ask yourself:
- Am I making consistent eye contact?
- Am I asking open-ended questions?
- Am I actively listening to their concerns and answers?
- Ask others that you trust for honest feedback on ways that you can improve your interpersonal skills. Finally, take an interpersonal communications training course in areas where you feel you need more work or development.
How can I showcase my interpersonal skills?
In person you’ll want to be proactive — show by doing. The more you’re able to model good interpersonal behavior, the more others will recognize your skills. Rather than just list out your soft skills as bullets as you might do for your resume, think of stories that highlight your different interpersonal skills. This can help you understand and demonstrate how different traits work together organically and show they’re an essential part of your approach to collaboration.
How can I improve my interpersonal skills?
You can’t do it alone. By its very nature, developing interpersonal skills requires practicing, collaborating and working with others. You need to be open to feedback and criticism and commit to personal improvement. Everyone’s needs are different, and so the best step forward would be to participate in relevant courses, such as conflict resolution, diversity and inclusion, negotiation and leadership training.
Helpful Reference Links
Interested in reading more about how you can help your team develop the interpersonal skills they need for today’s work environment? Consider these following articles and offers:
- Why Human Skills Are More Essential than Ever in a Virtual World
- Three Culture Hacks to Improve Wasteful Online Meetings
- The New Normal for Service Leaders: Retaining and building customer relationships in an increasingly virtual world
- Engaging Up Sales Training
Frontiers in Psychology, “Is Technology Enhancing or Hindering Interpersonal Communication? A Framework and Preliminary Results to Examine the Relationship Between Technology Use and Decoding Skill,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7843959/
Sage Journals, “Change Leadership: The Role of Emotional Intelligence,” https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2158244018800910