The difference between good employees and great employees is not always something you can put a finger on. If they’re a pleasure to work with, why? If they exceed every expectation, what are their secrets?
The answer is as common as ever: interpersonal skills. But because these are technically “soft skills,” which means the best way to attain them is to be born with them, they are extremely valuable and require unique methods to learn. Following is a list of the most important interpersonal skills an employee can possess. Start developing yours today with these 7 tools to immediately improve your ability to communicate tactfully.
1. Verbal Communication
Yes, as opposed to non-verbal communication, which we’ll address next. Within verbal communication there are a number of other skills that we’ll talk about later, too, such as listening and questioning, but for now we are primarily concerned with effective speaking.
Effective verbal communication begins with clarity. This often requires nothing more than slowing down and speaking more thoughtfully. Many people feel rushed to respond to questions and conversations immediately, but it is better to pause for a moment in consideration, especially if the question merits it. No one expects, or wants, a gun-slinging attitude in important conversations. A thoughtful person is generally taken more seriously.
Rounding off this skill is the ability to stay calm, focused, polite, interested and to match the mood or emotion of the situation. If this sounds like an overwhelming task, check out this communication course that teaches you to speak smoothly, clearly and confidently.
2. Non-Verbal Communication
Non-verbal communication is largely underrated and underestimated. Those who can communicate non-verbally can almost subliminally reinforce what they are saying verbally. They can also exude confidence, or any other emotion they feel, not to mention respond tactfully to a conversation without saying a single word.
Non-verbal communication is something that other people notice whether you are aware of your actions or not. Your body language is constantly speaking. Everything you do or don’t do says something about you and how you are feeling. Your facial expressions (especially eye contact), your posture, your voice, your gestures with your extremities and even the way you position yourself physically in a room or amongst colleagues is constantly revealing your true attitude, for better or for worse.
While controlling body language is no easy task, with this five-star course you can learn how to interpret the body language of others while learning how to perfect your own non-verbal communication skills.
This is the only appropriate way to follow two topics on communication. If non-verbal communication is underrated, then listening isn’t even on the charts. And yet without listening effectively, how can we interpret and respond appropriately?
Even the best communicators can talk their way into a sticky situation. Read this Forbes article on why most leaders need to shut up and listen. It provides explanations on why listening is crucial to success and for tips on becoming a better listener.
Listening is so important that it is a bona fide field of theoretical study (a contradiction of terms, but still). Communication can not be realized unless a listener completes the “loop.” Take a look at this blog post on the elements of communication to learn more about how this works.
Questioning is a lost art that can serve many purposes. Questioning is something that often builds upon listening, but it is not merely a device for obtaining information.
Questioning is a great way to initiate a conversation. It demonstrates interest and can instantaneously draw someone into your desire to listen. Smart questions show that you know how to approach problems and how to get the answers you need. Fortunately, questioning can be learned more easily than other skills on this list. This top-rated course on how to ask powerful, emotionally engaging questions has all the advice you need.
Needless to say, it’s all about the quality of questioning. If you ask what are referred to as “closed” questions, you’re going to get “closed” answers. These are questions that elicit brief responses, e.g. “Did you like your dinner?” Instead, you want to ask “open” questions, which probe deeper, e.g. “Where do you think we can improve our marketing collateral?” Of course, if you’re at a cocktail party, some questions are better saved for the next day.
Good manners tend to make many other interpersonal skills come naturally. With business becoming increasingly more global, even for small businesses, manners are more important than ever. A basic understanding of etiquette translates to other cultures and their expectations.
We are all guilty of assuming people are less intelligent if they have sub-par manners. This same judgement is reflected back on us by the people we interact with. Anyone who has visited other countries knows how sensitive its residents are to visitors’ manners. Business-to-business interactions function in much the same way.
6. Problem Solving
A rare day would be one without problems. What makes this a skill is not necessarily how quickly you can solve a problem, but how you go about doing it. No plan is a guarantee, so there is always an element of risk. Some people can weigh risk better than others.
The key aspects of successful problem solving are being able to identify exactly what the problem is, dissecting the problem so that it is fully understood, examining all options pertaining to solutions, setting up a system of strategies and objectives to solve the problem, and finally putting this plan into effect and monitoring its progress.
If the problem is as simple as replacing printer paper, then obviously different measures can be taken. Learn how best to apply your skills with this creative problem solving for business course.
7. Social Awareness
Being in tune to others’ emotions is an essential interpersonal skill. This dictates how many of your other interpersonal skills should function. When we are concentrated on our own projects and success, it is easy to close ourselves off from others’ problems or concerns.
Social awareness is crucial to identifying opportunities, as well. People will often unconsciously test someone’s ability to respond to a social situation; for example, a person who is struggling professionally will be desperate for help but, naturally, wary on revealing the fact that they need it. Being able to identify something like this demonstrates that you are operating at a higher level of social awareness.
Not all interpersonal skills are extroverted. This article discussing the ideas of acclaimed Emotional Intelligence (EI) expert Daniel Goleman believes self-management to be one of the pillars of EI and absolutely fundamental to leadership success.
Self-management allows us to control our emotions when they are not aligned with what would be considered appropriate behavior for a given situation. This means controlling anger, hiding frustration, exuding calmness, etc. Undoubtedly there are times to show your true colors, but remaining composed is almost always the desired course of action.
9. Responsibility And Accountability
Responsibility and accountability are two reliable indicators of maturity. Saying you are going to do something and then actually doing it is a sign of responsibility. This builds trust between yourself and those they rely on you and it encourages others to seek your counsel and assistance.
Holding yourself accountable for your actions is one of the most difficult things to do, both professionally and personally. This is also a crucial element of conflict management. When conflicts arise between yourself and others, or when you have made a mistake or at fault, that is when accountability becomes difficult. Admitting to your mistakes isn’t enough. You have to understand the situation fully and respond in a way that addresses the issue comprehensively (see “Problem Solving” above).
Holding ourselves accountable tends to go against our instincts; this is definitely when the “flight” instinct kicks in. Learn to take accountability with this class and see how it can change the results you are getting at work.
After all this talk of listening and respecting others, there is no denying the importance of being assertive. However, this is also where you are most likely to offend or come off as too aggressive. Being assertive is the only way to get your ideas onto a competitive table.
It also means standing up for what you believe it, defending your ideas with confidence, instructing others on what needs to be done, etc. etc. etc. I’m sure we are all familiar with the fact that most people who ask for raises receive them; and yet very few of us are assertive enough to make it happen. When used tactfully, assertiveness can gain you a kind of respect that you won’t be able to attain by other means.
A Beautiful Whole
Having a well-balanced repertoire of interpersonal skills will allow you to handle any situation more gracefully. You need listening skills to balance assertiveness, non-verbal communication to balance questioning, etc. Nobody is perfect and learning these skills will forever be a work in progress. Still, you can get there faster with a little help: become a conversational master with these 6 lessons for better communication.