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Workplace Interpersonal Skills

Workplace Interpersonal Skills

By: Holly Sansom

If you are feeling stressed, frustrated, and exhausted at the end of the day, it may be a good time to brush up on your workplace interpersonal skills. Making connections, working in teams, and being invited to lunch with the crowd all require a special set of skills, which can take practice. Follow along to get some ideas on areas you could spend time developing for a happier workplace:

Verbal Communication: When we communicate in the workplace, it is most often by speaking. Even if you think you are well-spoken, everybody has areas they could improve on. For instance, consider your tone when you are in a frustrating meeting. Do you sound bored and apathetic? This will be very clear to your peers and supervisors, even if you are not meaning to. Consider your approach; some co-workers may do very well collaborating and having ongoing discussions. Others may prefer that you set up a time to talk and have a discussion at a set time each week. 

Non-Verbal Communication: Sometimes your actions can speak louder than words. Making eye contact (or not) can make or break a workplace interaction. Looking in to someone’s eyes can feel uncomfortable if you are not used to it, but it shows respect, attention, and can help you connect with the person. Handshakes and overall body posture are also crucial. If you sit slumped over at your desk or give a floppy handshake, you are sending a very clear message that you are not that engaged in your work. Smiles go a long way. It’s okay if you are not a naturally sunny person, but a smile of appreciation or thanks can be incredibly meaningful in a workplace interaction, especially if it has been a challenging or tense discussion.

Listening Skills: There is always pressure to speak up and have your voice heard in the workplace, but sitting back and listening can be just as valuable. It is a skill that may require development, as we are taught to be expressive from a very young age. Making eye contact and providing feedback to the person you are listening to (nodding, “mm hmm”) shows them you are still engaged while allowing them to fully express their ideas. You may find that you learn more by simply listening than you would if you were interjecting.

Negotiation:  There are many situations when opinions and goals do not line up in the workplace. This is the perfect time to develop your negotiation skills. Interactions will go more smoothly if you are willing to make compromises when negotiating. Creating an environment that is “my way or the highway” will only lead to a stifled creative environment where your coworkers or clients are afraid to come to you with new ideas. Always make an offer with a concession you can live with, and do your best to see the problem from the other side. “Okay, how about I bend a little on this if you are willing to give a little on that?” will get you much further than standing your ground; a tree that bends will have a better chance of survival in a storm, while the one that stands stiff will be more likely to fall or snap into two!

Problem Solving:  You will not get along with everyone at work, and problems naturally arise as a result of human nature. The way that you will differentiate yourself in this sense is to focus on finding a mutually agreeable solution. Don’t get bogged down in fault, blame, or anger. Allow yourself to have an initial emotional reaction privately if necessary (scream silently in the bathroom, send a venting text to a friend, or listen to some angry music on your earphones), and then come up with your game plan! You’ve been developing all of your other skills, so this is the perfect place to apply your listening, negotiation, and verbal communication skills in order to come to a place where both parties can agree on an amenable solution.

If you are struggling in the workplace, or simply feeling frustrated, it may be worth taking some time to develop your workplace interpersonal skills. Before you know it, you will have more positive relationships with your co-workers, and maybe even get the promotion you have been working toward!

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