5 tips to improve your interpersonal communication skills

5 tips to improve your interpersonal communication skills

As important as good interpersonal communication skills are, there is no one way to measure them. There are, however, some telltale signs that you might need some improvement. If you are struggling to gain understanding with others, maintain interpersonal relationships, or get your point across, then you might need to rethink your approach to communication.

You can improve your interpersonal skills by practicing and setting goals. Here are some tips to help you get good interpersonal communication skills:

Get rid of distractions.

There are many distractions that influence the way you interact with others. One good example of this is the increase in smartphone use. When we are distracted by our phones, we don’t maintain eye contact, pay full attention or listen actively. Getting rid of distractions and showing others that they have your undivided attention signals to other participants that they have your respect and interest.

Maintain eye contact.

Maintaining eye contact is a big part of having meaningful, purposeful conversations. It gives the speaker the necessary validation that you are also engaged and interested in the conversation. If you keep breaking eye contact to look around,  it might give others the impression that you are not interested or that you are bored. Eye contact also builds trust and mutual respect. It is, however, okay to break contact at appropriate times, as staring may also cause discomfort. This is a delicate balancing act that can be perfected with practice.

Let the person speak uninterrupted.

In most interactions, there will be clear turns for participants to respond. It is important to listen intently while someone else is speaking and wait your turn before responding. If you interrupt someone else, it might give them the impression that you do not care about what they are saying. You should also try your best not to jump in and finish someone else’s sentence for them. You may just want to show that you are engaged in the conversation, but they might feel like you are undermining them and that you think you know more than them. Another example of behaviour that can interrupt a conversation is the occurrence of distracting facial expressions. When someone is making many distracting facial expressions, we tend to focus more on the behaviour rather than on the speaker.

Be aware of your gestures and posture.

Body language, something that usually comes naturally. We don’t often think about the non-verbal messages we are conveying, but these can be just as important as the words we speak. When we want to show genuine interest in a conversation, our body language must also be open and receptive. Some open body language includes nodding, smiling, and leaning forward. Some closed body language includes looking away, crossing your arms, and lazy posture.

Be sincere.

People who seem sincere have an easier time forging bonds with people around them. To be sincere, you must be aware of your own tone of voice, thoughts, and feelings to be more genuine in your interactions. Use active listening skills, empathy, and sincere body language. Take the time to understand someone else’s point of view and absorb what they are saying and respond from a place of genuine interest.

There are many benefits to having strong interpersonal skills. These skills can help you build excellent personal relationships, excel in your professional career, and manage interactions in everyday life. Without these skills, simple things like problem-solving and conflict resolution can become hard to navigate. 

How to assess your own interpersonal communication skills

How to assess your own interpersonal communication skills

Good interpersonal skills are a fundamental part of any successful relationship, whether at home, your workplace, or school. If you want to be a good communicator, you must be skilled in all the aspects of interpersonal communication. Even though soft skills like communication can be hard to measure, understanding these skills will help you identify areas in which you might improve.

How to assess your interpersonal communication skill

To assess your interpersonal communication skills, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How well can I anticipate and predict possible causes for confusion and miscommunication, and how good am I at dealing with them upfront?
  2. How often do recipients fully understand my messages, emails, or other documents? Do I give enough information and detail?
  3. Do I ask questions when I don’t understand something, or do I keep it to myself?
  4. Do people often misunderstand my messages? Am I often surprised that they don’t understand what I am saying?
  5. Is it easy for me to understand someone else’s point of view during a conversation?
  6. Do I think about how my responses will be perceived by others, or do I speak without thinking? 
  7. Can I use communication platforms such as email to quickly and efficiently communicate complex issues?
  8. Do I find it difficult to see and read people’s body language?
  9. Do I struggle to find the right words to convey my message?

If you find it difficult to answer any of these questions, it might be something to think about. You might want to write down the areas in which you are struggling and reconsider your approach to communication and receiving information. That being said, even someone who has answered these questions with the utmost confidence might still have room for improvement. Even if you think you are the world’s mos skilled communicator, there is no downside to learning new skills and improving on the ones you have.

Why Improve Interpersonal Skills?

Communication is essential if you want to advance your career. This skill will help you to get customers, maintain relationships, negotiate, and conflict resolution. Here are some interpersonal skills that are particularly important to look at:

  • Verbal communication skills

This includes your ability to speak clearly and concisely, and appropriately. You should be able to choose the correct tone of voice and vocabulary for the given situation. For example, you might speak differently when giving a eulogy at a funeral than you would presenting a new idea to your manager.

  • Active listening

How good are you at giving someone your undivided attention during a conversation? It is important that you genuinely listen to what others are saying and show engagement with verbal and non-verbal responses ( such as nodding, eye contact, facial expressions, and posture). You must also pay attention to the other person’s non-verbal cues and body language.

  • Body language

Non-verbal communication, like your body language, can say just as much as your words, if not more. Examples of open body language include nodding, eye contact, smiling, and a relaxed posture. Crossed arms, restless behavior, and shifting eyes are examples of closed body language.

Here are some steps to help you get started:

  1. Figure out what you need to improve.
  2. Observe others.
  3. Learn control over your emotions.
  4. Think back on previous social interactions.
  5. Practice your skills.
  6. Get constructive feedback from others.

Assessing and improving your interpersonal communication skills can have a wealth of benefits for you. It can help you to build strong relationships, have efficient teamwork, build good morale, etc.

Active listening – A successful communication skill

Active listening - A successful communication skill

Listening should be an active process with which to gain information,  understand, and learn.  How well you listen will have a significant impact on your ability to understand and have relationships with others. When trying to be an effective communicator, you must give your undivided attention while listening; this is a skill that must actively be improved to better your interpersonal communication skills.

What is Active Listening?

Different people have varying listening abilities, but we can improve our active listening skills by practising active listening. Active listening happens when you consciously concentrate on what others are saying instead of just using passive listening. When you listen actively, it can act as a reflection of interest through both verbal and non-verbal messages, e.g. nods, saying yes, making eye contact, etc. When you show interest, it helps to keep a conversation engaging, causing participants to be more open and honest.

Why is active listening important in the workplace?

For an organization to be successful, employees need to maintain effective communication. There are many advantages of active listening, such as:

  • Build trust. When your words match your actions and you have mastered effective listening, it builds a feeling of mutual trust between professionals. Employees can better convey information, assign tasks and report back frequently. Without trust, communication will fall behind, and work performance will suffer.
  • Increase productivity. Being able to communicate will reduce misunderstandings, and work will be completed more effectively. Proper feedback while considering the views of others will also make them feel heard and respected, making for a healthy workplace.
  • Resolve conflict. Misunderstandings can lead to conflict, but this can be resolved using good communication and critical listening. To do this, you must be able to keep an open mind and use communication and active listening techniques to see things from others’ perspectives.
  • Promote self-empowerment. When individuals feel heard, it encourages them to speak their minds, listen and be open-minded towards colleagues—having this added confidence, your company can build awareness and respect.
  • Improves acceptance of employees. Each company has its own unique culture, and for a business to be successful, all employees must be accepted within this culture and feel accepted.  When all employees can listen actively and show respect, it fosters acceptance and belonging under employees.

Signs of Active Listening

There are multiple verbal and non-verbal cues that someone is actively listening to what others are saying. When you are engaging in a conversation, you can tell if someone is listening by paying attention to these signs (or a lack thereof):

Verbal Cues of Active Listening

  • Positively reinforcing the message of the speaker with words of encouragement or understanding.
  • Remembering, paraphrasing, and repeating details or focus points of the conversation and expanding on them with their own ideas and perspectives.
  • Asking for clarification by asking specific questions or making sure that the correct message was received.
  • Summarising the main points of the speaker’s message and repeating them to ensure mutual understanding.

Non-verbal Cues of Active Listening

  • Body language like smiling in agreement, often giving nods of the head as a way of confirmation, etc.
  • Making and maintaining eye contact in combination with other non-verbal behaviors.
  • Posture leaning forward, sideways, a slight tilt of their head etc.
  • Focus, a skilful listener will not get distracted, fidget or look around.
  • Mirroring the speaker’s actions or facial expressions to show sympathy and empathy.

Active listening is a beneficial (if not necessary) skill for everyday life, in and out of the workplace. Although acquiring this skill and picking up on verbal and non-verbal signals can be more challenging for some individuals and may require lots of patience, it can be achievable for anyone willing to put in the conscious effort.