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.

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.

feedback

Last week we introduced Deloitte’s latest report that encapsulates results from its global survey on human capital trends. The report is very clear; in the future “feedback” will increasingly replace the more traditional employee appraisals.

Today, these feedback reports are often 360-assessments. At CCI, we frequently conduct these reports for corporate candidates. The process includes debriefing and coaching sessions with each individual.

Also known as multi-source feedback, anonymous comments from an employee’s direct reports, colleagues and boss, along with the person’s self-evaluation make-up the feedback. The objective is to bring to light top attributes for professional development purposes. The debriefing/coaching segment is critical to help the individual read between the lines.

Case study: Tony’s actions were at odds with his goals

One of the surest signs of true candidates for high-level advancement is their acceptance of less than positive feedback. In CCI’s recently published White Paper, we describe a situation with challenging circumstances that involved unfavorable feedback.

When we first met “Tony” at a workshop, he absolutely dazzled us with his effortless, graceful ability to engage people and his profoundly professional presentation skills. During a preliminary review of his 360-assessment, with feedback from across Tony’s organization, we were stunned by the discrepancy between what we had witnessed and the reported behavior. Colleagues and senior leaders found him prickly and short-tempered, especially during group meetings. We were baffled.

Shortly after reading the feedback, we were scheduled for more extensive training sessions at his firm’s HQ. Immediately, we connected with Tony to informally chat about the disparity between our experience and the comments about his imperious “performances” in the boardroom. We did not mince words, but told him straight out about his unrestrained conduct.

Tony got it immediately. He explained that he became impatient; he was trying to move things forward. Tony also revealed his personal ambitions to advance to a very specific role within the C-Suite. Our role was to help him understand that his actions were at odds with his goals.

Feedback timelines

Typically, there is an 18-month hiatus between the first series of feedback and coaching sessions, and the follow-up series. This allows participants time to evolve. With a narrower window of only three to six months, there really isn’t sufficient time to see significant development. An interesting sidebar to the opening initiative is how participants respond to feedback. Many are surprised by the comments and perceptions. “I didn’t know people saw me as a leader,” is a frequent admission. Obviously, this positive information spurs the person to welcome L&D opportunities and reinforces a maturity of action and behavior.

The other side of the coin, often apparent among corporate stars, occurs when the feedback reports arrogance. As more and more frequently today, leadership roles go to people with highly advanced “people skills,” in this case, the organization is giving the person a heads-up!

By drawing attention to address this potentially career-limiting flaw and providing sufficient time within the 18-month time frame, there is a better chance for awakened empathy.

If you would like to read details about our Assessment process and its application for your organization… Learn more >

If you missed last week’s blog about Deloitte’s latest report…Learn more >

unsolicited feedback

What happens when we receive unsolicited feedback, feedback we weren’t prepared for, feedback that hurts the ego?
One of the best ways to grow as a professional – whether a seasoned employee or someone just entering the job market – is by applying feedback from friends, family, colleagues and superiors. We often receive feedback only when we ask for it, as people may be weary of offering it unsolicited.
There are, however, the brave souls who go out of their way to offer unsolicited feedback to a colleague or a friend, in order to help them improve and grow. What happens when we receive feedback we didn’t ask for, and didn’t know we needed?

Avoiding a shutdown

Receiving hard-to-stomach, unsolicited feedback about our performance, appearance or presentation skills, for example, can sometimes cause us to shut down as a mode of self-protection.
“What do you mean I was mumbling during that presentation?? I think you’re wrong.
I was pretty well-spoken!”
Our first reaction is often to counter the feedback in order to protect ourselves, typically by becoming defensive. For instance, if a colleague mentions that he or she noticed your shirt is wrinkled 4 out of 5 days of the week, you may be tempted to say something like: “Well, you know how busy I am and there are no dry cleaners close to me. Plus, it shouldn’t matter what I look like. What should matter is my productivity.”
Following the criticism, we often become defensive, come up with excuses or change the subject. These reactions are misplaced and detrimental to our growth.

How to apply unsolicited feedback

Hearing tough feedback – especially when you least expect it – can be bruising to the ego. It’s critical that the ego be left out as it blocks personal development.
Here are some tips to help you absorb, and apply, feedback that you didn’t ask for (and that you needed):
1. Always be in a “feedback mindset”.
At Corporate Class, we encourage our clients to always be in a “networking mindset”, that is, to be open to networking everywhere they go, like the grocery store, gym or the long line at Starbucks. The same applies to feedback. If people are consistently open and willing to receive feedback from others, they will never (or rarely) be taken off-guard.
2. Isolate and clarify
This sustained “feedback mindset” allows people to process unsolicited feedback when it comes. It is important that, if the feedback is unclear, individuals first isolate the point they don’t understand, and clarify what the person means.
3. Don’t take it personally
When a colleague, superior or friend offers you feedback you didn’t ask for, it means they care about you and want you to succeed. If you take the feedback personally, in a negative way, you’re missing out on a great self-improvement opportunity.
4. Practice, and then confirm
Changing behaviour with the hope of sustainability requires lots of practice. Take the feedback to heart, practice making the necessary changes, and confirm with those around you in a few weeks that they’ve noticed a change.
It’s wonderful when those around us, who care about our happiness and success, are bold enough to offer unsolicited feedback. It takes courage on their part to offer feedback in the first place. We should be courageous and accept the feedback with grace and humility. After all, our colleagues and friends are simply trying to help us get to where we know we belong.