A guide to interpersonal skills (with examples)

A guide to interpersonal skills (with examples)
Jobstreet content teamupdated on 28 July, 2023

In today's interconnected world, interpersonal skills are not just nice to have. They're a must-have!

Interpersonal skills are the traits we use every day to interact with two or more people. They're also called soft skills, social skills, and people skills. Hiring managers may refer to them as interpersonal abilities, behaviors, or strategies.

Interpersonal abilities are the building blocks of effective communication. They're essential to successful careers, teamwork, and relationships.

Interpersonal skills in personal development and career advancement

In Malaysia, interpersonal skills in the workplace are among the most in-demand soft skills. A survey by the Cengage/Morning Consult in 2019 says that 65% of employers prefer job seekers with relevant interpersonal skills. Employers value such abilities because artificial intelligence (AI) can't perform them. Only humans can.

Good people skills can give you a significant advantage over other job seekers. Employers witness these skills during job interviews. Here, job seekers show their ability to negotiate salary, answer tough questions, and interact with others.

Interpersonal communication skills are also essential when making a case for a raise, extra responsibilities, or ways to increase sales revenue.

You should then prioritise developing your interpersonal skills. They will greatly enhance your employability and career prospects. You can highlight your interpersonal skills in your resume. In your job interview, you will have a chance to talk about more than one interpersonal skill. Take advantage of that opportunity to leave a positive impression on your interviewer.

The building blocks of interpersonal skills

Foundational interpersonal skills include:

  • Effective communication
  • Active listening
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Conflict resolution

So, why are these interpersonal skills important? How can you cultivate them for maximum impact? Let's explore.

1. Enhance communication skills

Effective communication is the foundation of all relationships. Without it, misunderstandings and conflicts can arise, causing disruption and hindering progress. Build your verbal and nonverbal communication skills and active listening. Then, you'll be amazed at how easy it can be to express yourself clearly and articulately.

Verbal communication

The most precise manner of communication is verbal discourse. It allows the speaker to express ideas and emotions to the receiver. Because spoken words are clear and direct, there's immediate feedback. And so, communication continues or stops. Verbal communication also minimises ambiguity.

In the workplace, you have your personal talks, staff meetings, presentations, and speeches. You engage in formal and informal conversations. Even outside work, you communicate to arrange face-to-face sessions. You also have your video calls, and you catch up with family and friends.

Non-verbal communication

Need to relay an emotional message? Have to work with a subordinate who feels intimidated by you? Meeting with a new employee from a different culture? Your body language and facial expressions can help set the conversation mood. Even vocal characteristics can contribute to the mood. Environmental factors and silence can also communicate messages.

Non-verbal cues account for at least 70% of communication. Being mindful of non-verbal communication will help you avoid sending the wrong message.

Unlike verbal communication, which can be manipulated, non-verbal communication usually reveals our thoughts and feelings. Non-verbal cues are, also, often more trusted than spoken words. It's not enough to be “all talk and no substance.” Appropriate body language can enhance the impact of verbal messages.

Types of non-verbal communication

The nine types of nonverbal cues play a vital role in communication efficacy:

  1. Body language
  2. Gestures
  3. Facial expressions
  4. Eye contact
  5. Tone of voice
  6. Personal space
  7. Touch
  8. Appearance
  9. Objects

In the workplace, recognising non-verbal signals can help identify discomfort or unease. It also enhances confidence, self-awareness, and better communication. Maintaining eye contact and good posture during a presentation can convey credibility.

Active listening

A man explaining a project

Active listening means paying full attention to the speaker. It means showing eye contact, nodding, and smiling. During the conversation, you assess what others say and their non-verbal actions. By asking and answering questions, you can show high interest. You will find some tips to improve active listening later in this article.

2. Develop emotional intelligence

Enhancing emotional intelligence, or EQ, fosters your connections. It helps your responses to the needs and emotions of others. If you have high EQ, you can better comprehend and manage your feelings in the workplace. Let's say you're tasked to lead a team. You can do this better when you understand the emotional needs of your members.

Emotional intelligence strengthens your relationships. It also boosts academic and professional success and helps you achieve your goals. On a personal level, EQ also lets you connect with your feelings, act on your intentions, and make informed decisions.


Part of emotional intelligence is self-awareness. By being self-aware, you can discern your impact on others. You can understand how they perceive you. In turn, you can also manage your responses to make them an important part of the conversation.

Some things you can do to help you communicate your thoughts and emotions are:

  • Using “I” statements
  • Being specific and non-judgmental
  • Describing how something made you feel

Mixed verbal and non-verbal messages can confuse people around you and decrease trust.


How well do you understand yourself? Can you explain your actions and behaviours? Do you process your emotions well?

Self-regulation involves recognising your feelings and managing them to respond to situations decently. Practising this will positively impact your interpersonal relationships as you become more reliable, empathetic, and considerate towards others.


When you put yourself in other people's shoes, you understand their needs better. Having empathy lets you create meaningful conversations. It also allows you to have deeper connections with others. If a colleague struggles with a task, you can show empathy by offering support or praising them.

3. Engaging in conflict resolution

Two women engaged in a discussion

You can't avoid conflict. Differences can lead to disagreements and misunderstandings. So you must equip yourself with conflict-resolution strategies. By addressing issues together, you can have the opportunity to unite and foster a sense of “us” rather than “me”.

Understanding the nature of conflicts

Conflict can emerge when two or more individuals hold differing opinions. It can develop when people have clashing interests, values, beliefs, and needs.

Conflicts can be:

  • Verbal
  • Religious
  • Emotional
  • Social
  • Personal
  • Organisational
  • Community-based

Techniques for resolving conflicts

Most conflicts stem from ineffective communication. Various conflict resolution methods depend on personalities and preferences. The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Instrument offers five key styles for managing conflict:


You ignore the problem to calm your emotions. You don't confront the issue directly. Instead, you resort to changing the subject, putting off the discussion, or simply backing down from the argument.


You become uncooperative, pushing your opinion without listening to the other party.


You yield to the other party's concerns, neglecting your opinions and beliefs.


You try to meet halfway with the other party. However, both of you acknowledge that you are not completely satisfied with the resolution.


You come to a mutual agreement by working together to address all concerns.

Effective negotiation strategies

You can use these communication tactics to resolve conflict:

  • Actively listening
  • Showing empathy
  • Encouraging common ground
  • Understanding others' perspectives
  • Providing constructive discussions
  • Making balanced decisions
  • Considering the interests of others

4. Perform collaboration and teamwork

To achieve unity and cohesion, you must engage in collaboration and teamwork. Practise discussions and written communication. Delegate tasks based on individual talents and interests. Then, you can expect a more productive and satisfied team.

Knowing the importance of collaboration

Collaboration offers many benefits for organisations and team members. These include improved productivity, lower turnover rates, and professional growth. A team that collaborates well is more likely to achieve its goals and deliver successful projects.

In the workplace, partnership helps teams achieve common goals. Collaboration strategies optimise outcomes. They improve productivity, conflict resolution, talent harnessing, feedback, and goal understanding.

Engaging in team dynamics

A diverse group of people collaborating

Every member of a team has unique contributions and relationships within the group. If you want positive team dynamics, you must recognise each person's individuality. See a colleague as they are and encourage collaboration. Then, you can expect productive goal-setting and efficient project completion.

Have a culture where everyone can communicate without fear of repercussions. Feedback should always be welcome. Establish clear channels for communication. You can use email, messaging apps, or regular team meetings. With good communication, team members can work together towards common goals.

Building trust within teams

Building trust within a team yields many benefits. It fosters cooperation, promotes creativity, and enables constructive conflict resolution. To cultivate trust, consider these strategies:

  • Set clear boundaries
  • Show transparency
  • Communicate frequently
  • Admit mistakes
  • Appreciate contributions
  • Celebrate milestones
  • Inspire excellence

5. Possess adaptability

Try aligning your communication style to another person's preference. Adapting to their preferences doesn’t mean compromising your identity or building weak connections. You can still maintain your unique perspectives and characteristics.

Showing flexibility in interpersonal relationships

Here's one sure way to minimise stress: be more flexible. So, be mindful of your daily interactions. Recognise all points of view. When you're flexible, you can adjust to most situations and your co-worker's limitations. You can adapt to changes in the workplace with greater ease. Plus, your communication with others will improve.

Embracing change

Welcoming change unveils your inner fortitude. Your response to life's fluctuations reveals the essence of your character, unearthing latent strengths previously undiscovered or doubted. By embracing change, you embark on a journey of learning and growth, allowing for both triumphs and setbacks.

Cultivating resilience

Every employee needs the ability to bounce back and flourish in the face of adversity. This is what resilience means.

You cultivate resilience when you manage stress, and combat challenging situations. Maintaining a positive outlook makes you confident and motivated. It can also help you adapt to any unpleasant situation.

Strengthening your interpersonal skills

So, you've achieved the basics of interpersonal skills. Now, master the art of assertiveness! Join rapport-building through mirroring techniques and humour. Hone your active listening skills. You can do this by overcoming barriers and embracing feedback. Observe and exercise non-verbal communication cues in formal and informal settings.

6. Engage in assertiveness training

Do you sometimes feel like a puppet when you lack autonomy? If you do, you must embrace your confidence and practice assertiveness training.

Embracing your confidence and reducing anxiety is necessary for self-identity and mental well-being. Assertiveness training empowers you to recognise the importance of setting boundaries.

Acquiring assertive techniques

To significantly improve assertive behaviour, consider doing the following:

  • Boost your self-worth
  • Practise clear communication
  • Decide based on your priorities
  • Realign with your goals
  • Respect others' opinions
  • Maintain a positive attitude

Balancing assertiveness and diplomacy

How can you balance assertiveness and diplomacy? It's challenging but it can help you develop strong interpersonal skills. Review these ways to boost your skills in this area. You'll be an excellent communicator in no time!

  • Balance communication styles
  • Adapt to others
  • Clarify your purpose
  • Match your tone and body language
  • Seek feedback

7. Build rapport

Building rapport with colleagues is the next step when comfort is in your work zone. This harmonious bond is built on mutual trust. It arises from meaningful conversations. It also comes from embracing diverse perspectives. Through rapport, you can establish connections and shared feelings plus a two-way communication.

Identifying common ground

So, how do you establish rapport? Building rapport requires remembering names and faces, showing attentiveness, and fostering trust.

Showcase empathy. You can do this by finding common ground and listening actively to others. Pay attention to your body language, eye contact, and facial expressions.

Using mirroring techniques

Mirroring is a natural behaviour likely rooted in evolution. It involves copying someone's body language or tone of voice during a conversation. It helps build trust and deepen interpersonal bonds, even when used consciously in negotiations. Here are some ways to use mirroring techniques:

  • Mirror the speaker's actions and conversations
  • Actively listen to foster trust
  • Repeat words and mimic actions

Showing the role of humour in rapport-building

Three women sharing a joyful moment

You use humour to soften conversations and ease tensions. Humour fosters rapport, bridges gaps, and diffuses tension. A well-timed joke can even turn adversaries into friends. It humanises those involved and provides common ground. But, humour requires skilful handling and knowing when to use it.

8. Develop empathy

When you show compassion, you resonate with others from their perspective. Empathy enhances your interpersonal relationships as it helps you embrace diversity. It also lets you build trust and keep an open mind.

Empathy differs from sympathy (having a sense of concern without sharing emotions). An empath experiences deeper connections and feelings than the average person.

Different types of empathy

There are different kinds of empathy.

Cognitive empathy

You are aware of emotions and have rational focus.

Emotional empathy

You share others' feelings.

Compassionate empathy

You feel what others feel and act to help.

Strategies for enhancing empathy

By employing these strategies, you can develop your empathy skills, enhance your relationships, and improve your communication with others by:

  1. Broadening your perspective
  2. Examining your biases
  3. Performing active listening
  4. Asking insightful questions

9. Improve active listening

When you listen, you don't just hear words; you deeply understand the meaning and purpose of those words. As an engaged participant in the communication process, you must overcome the barriers to active listening. These include distractions and preconceived notions. Use effective techniques to become a better listener. You can benefit from techniques like these:

  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Paraphrasing
  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Showing verbal affirmations

Barriers to active listening

When you hear noises and distractions, your communication skills are affected. Knowing communication barriers is important as you converse with people. Overcome them by exercising self-discipline, cultivating a collaborative culture, and managing your stress.

The role of feedback in active listening

As an active listener, you must be alert and look for signals that you are at par and in the conversation loop with your speaker. You reiterate the speaker's message to confirm your understanding. Your feedback may address the content, feelings, or a blend of both. Positive feedback inspires you and your team by expressing gratitude and acknowledging the speaker's efforts.

Interpersonal skills in professional settings

10. Network

Collaboration in the workplace involves more than exchanging business cards. Attending industry events and joining professional organisations can help you establish a network. Staying informed about industry trends through your network can lead to new opportunities.

Strategies for effective networking

How does your ability to create interpersonal networks impact the success of your organisation? Have you engaged in the following strategies? Look at this list if you have joined these networking undertakings:

  • Join groups and social media
  • Have database of contacts
  • Attend industry-specific events
  • Email and join informational interviews

Maintaining professional relationships

Networking is a crucial skill to master, regardless of your industry or experience level. It allows you to forge relationships with other professionals and discover available positions.

If you want to advance your career, you must understand how to network well. Did you build relationships? Discover opportunities? Strengthen your presence in the industry?

Make sure to keep in touch with notable connections. You never know when you'll cross paths with them again.

11. Develop leadership skills

When you are empowered to take the lead in your team, you cultivate a positive work atmosphere. Good leadership enhances communication and decision-making. It improves team performance and favourable organisational outcomes. But where do interpersonal skills fit into this picture?

Leaders with good interpersonal skills set clear expectations. They know how to provide beneficial feedback. They can also encourage team members until they see the success of their projects.

Effective leaders who manage daily routines and crises are highly valuable. They inspire and create harmony, efficiency, and job completion. Improve your leadership by focusing on three key components:

  • Self-leadership
  • Team motivation
  • Business guidance

12. Perform problem-solving

Problem-solving abilities allow you to steer challenging workplace situations. Organisations depend on problem solvers who can evaluate such scenarios and devise solutions.

Your problem-solving skills appeal to employers. More than that, it proves beneficial in various aspects of life. You can use these in relationship-building and everyday decision-making.

But how do you improve your problem-solving skills? The key is to identify opportunities to solve issues in the workplace. Expose yourself to new situations at work. Upskill your technical skills. Volunteer on trailblazing projects.

Collaboration problem-solving

Collaborative problem-solving involves exchanging ideas and perspectives through “yes, and” thinking. It benefits individuals, teams, and companies.

Decision-making in a group context

Group decision-making may be difficult, particularly when cross-functional teams with various requirements and objectives are involved. A decision-making framework can be established to simplify the process and arrive at rational conclusions.

It is important to specify the decision's purpose and category. A small, diverse decision-making group can foster flexibility and a range of viewpoints. Make sure the team members have established roles and responsibilities. Use a chart to ensure everyone knows their responsibilities.

13. Give and receive feedback

Giving and receiving feedback fosters your personal and professional growth. How? By facilitating the improvement of relationships, enhancing mutual understanding, and resolving issues. But, providing feedback can be a delicate process, especially when the recipient is reluctant to accept it.

Techniques for giving constructive feedback

Harsh criticism can be like an arrow hitting someone's chest, but,  with the right process, you can provide mutually beneficial and constructive feedback.

Be clear about your intentions

Before talking to your colleague, remind them that you provide feedback for their growth. Your goal should be to motivate them to improve rather than discourage them from their mistakes or lapses.

Set the mood

Remember what you read about verbal and non-verbal communication? Build an environment of trust before you start the conversation. You can ask your colleague how they have been if they have had any struggles lately, and if they need your support. Avoid being in attack mode: Keep your arms open to relay confidence and sincerity.

Ask for their opinion

You are likely giving feedback because you encountered a problem. Involve your colleague in solving this issue. Refrain from dominating the conversation, especially when speaking with a peer. Ask them: What do you think of this problem? Do you have any actions in mind? What can we do to help you?

Receiving feedback gracefully

Expectedly, you will also receive feedback from your colleagues. Embrace this as something constructive. Feedback helps you identify your blind spots and outline steps during obstacles. By learning how others perceive your work, you can improve yourself.

14. Develop cultural competence

Cultural competency enables you to comprehend, interact, and communicate with different cultures. When you understand diversity, you increase your understanding of people. This can lead to productivity and teamwork efficiency. You also gain more perspectives. Did you know that a diverse workforce encourages innovation, too?

Strategies for effective cross-cultural communication

Cross-cultural communication strategies cover understanding your biases, assumptions, and attitudes. Consider these strategies to become cross-culturally competent:

  • Know yourself
  • Familiarise yourself with different cultures
  • Utilise shared language
  • Show flexibility
  • Enhance active communication
  • Establish common goals
  • Appreciate worldviews

Roles where interpersonal skills are important

How are interpersonal skills being shown across careers? Let us see the difference.


Successful selling requires a deep understanding of clients' needs. It also involves the ability to speak their language. This is to build strong relationships based on trust, respect, and value.

Customer service

Anticipate and address customer needs and desires. By doing so, businesses can improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.


Good leaders listen and encourage discussions. They establish ground rules for communication. They also resolve conflicts by creating an action plan.


Healthcare professionals should develop interpersonal skills to build a positive work environment. Grow your empathy and collaboration skills. You must also learn to communicate relationally.


Educators manage classrooms, learn teaching techniques, and create an engaging environment. With good interpersonal skills, they present concepts and ideas in ways that students can better understand.

Human resources

As organisational intermediaries, HR professionals liaise between employees and management. They resolve conflicts and address customer inquiries with empathy. Active listening, articulate speech, and composure under pressure allow them to handle challenges.

Public relations

Public relations professionals interact with customers and clients. They must establish a cordial and trusting relationship between the company and its market. So, interpersonal skills are a must.

Law enforcement

Strong interpersonal skills help law enforcement professionals manage complex situations. They let them build rapport and promote positive behaviour. With interpersonal skills, they can reduce tension and decrease the risk of lawsuits and complaints.


Interpersonal skills are the abilities you use to interact and communicate with people. They help build rapport, establish relationships, and promote teamwork. These soft skills include communication, collaboration, creativity, adaptability, leadership, and responsibility. All of these help you in social situations.

Some people believe that interpersonal skills are innate. The reality is, they can be learned and developed over time. Even shy individuals can be intuitive and observant, which are great qualities for interacting with others. To further enhance communication skills, you must build self-awareness and be open to constant learning.

By embracing this growth process, you can open the gateway to unfolding success and fulfilment. Remember, employers prefer and value candidates with strong interpersonal skills. They know these are the skills that build and boost teamwork, efficiency, business communications, and company progress. These are skills that no AI can replicate and no organization should be without.

Brushed up on your key interpersonal skills? Update your JobStreet profile and #SEEKBetter jobs today! Visit the Career Advice pag e for more valuable insights like this. You can also download the JobStreet app for iOS or Android.


  1. What are the most important interpersonal skills to develop?
    You enhance interpersonal aptitudes by mastering communication, emotional intelligence, and teamwork. Then, build other interpersonal skills like assertiveness, empathy, and active listening. Upon acquiring these, refine networking, leadership, and problem-solving skills whilst exhibiting cultural competence. Progressing through these stages bolster interpersonal prowess, fostering personal and professional success.
  2. How can I improve my interpersonal skills in a professional setting?
    Network with diverse individuals. Developing leadership, problem-solving, feedback, and cultural competence skills. These foster a positive work environment, trust, and shared vision. They also improve your workplace relationships.
  3. How can I practise my interpersonal skills in everyday life? How can practising mindfulness help enhance my interpersonal skills?
    To get genuine feedback, interact with family, friends, and colleagues. Be sensitive and receptive. Then, you achieve mindfulness to reduce stress, enhance memory, and fortify relationships.
  4. Can introverts be successful in developing strong interpersonal skills?
    Yes, introverts can enhance their interpersonal skills. Capitalising on your inherent strengths and proactively addressing areas for improvement.
  5. What are some resources for further development of interpersonal skills?
    To enhance your interpersonal skills, take advantage of workshops and online classes. Join networking groups and clubs to build relationships. Reflect on your interactions and seek constructive feedback. Observe positive interpersonal interactions and pursue mentorship. Set personal goals to track progress and improve efficiency.
  6. How do interpersonal skills relate to emotional intelligence?
    Developing emotional intelligence and communication skills increases satisfaction and happiness. It also fosters collaboration and advances leadership. Regulating emotions while motivating team members creates a productive team atmosphere.
  7. How can I handle difficult conversations more effectively?
    Maintain composure in difficult work conversations. Start timely discussions with clear objectives in neutral environments. Use active listening, empathy, and problem-solving. Utilise “I” statements, and constructive communication techniques, and confidently express opinions. Ask clarifying questions, manage emotions, and take breaks as necessary. Establish follow-up plans.
  8. Can I improve my interpersonal skills through online courses or training programs?
    Yes, you can improve interpersonal skills through various online means. You can enrol in online courses and training programs that foster verbal or nonverbal communication skills. You can also learn from online masterclasses designed to strengthen these key soft skills.
  9. How do I maintain strong interpersonal skills in a remote or virtual work environment?
    Improve communication as a remote worker by being clear, confident, and timely in responses. Build rapport. Check in with colleagues, learn their communication preferences, and utilise team software. Sharpening these skills can build trust, increase reliability, and promote success in remote work.

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