Why did that person get the job over others more qualified? Why are some individuals more successful than others who work just as hard? Why do some people in the workplace get more done than others? Why are some people more pleasurable to be around? What’s the difference between good performers and great performers?
Have you ever asked yourself any of these questions? The answers just might be found in their interpersonal skills. While a person may have a lot of technical abilities and use those skills effectively, it generally takes more than that to be really successful, personally or professionally.
Team Players in the Workplace
The term “interpersonal skills” is somewhat of a misnomer because it refers to various character traits possessed by someone, rather than skills that can be taught in a classroom setting. Some other common terms include “soft skills,” “social skills” and “people skills.”
Even if people excel at the “hard skills,” or technical aspects of their job, their presence is not likely to be well received if they’re a disaster to work with. Those with poor interpersonal skills are generally not considered to be team players.
Not only do coworkers appreciate good interpersonal skills, employers have also noticed their value. While hard skills remain critical, soft skills have become increasingly important criteria used to evaluate and select candidates for job openings. Maybe that’s why some human resource professionals and hiring managers use the term “employability skills” in reference to interpersonal skills.
Employers often seek people with strong interpersonal skills because they want people who can work well in a team environment and be able to communicate effectively with coworkers, clients and customers.
Within the workplace, people with good interpersonal skills are likely to be more productive than those with poor interpersonal skills because they typically project a positive “can do” attitude, look for solutions to problems and help others succeed. People with good interpersonal skills are optimistic, calm, confident, and usually very charismatic. They demonstrate the ability to get along with others, elevate the performance of others, enhance a positive work atmosphere and get the job done. These qualities are magnetic, appealing to their peers as well as management.
Born for Greatness
There are a host of interpersonal skills too numerous to discuss in this space, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll list the ones many believe are among the most important: collaborative, dependable, tactful, friendly, empathetic, sensitivity, respectful, honest, trustful, helpful, communicative (verbal, written, non-verbal, listening), open-minded, positive and considerate. Being effective in these traits will go a long way toward being perceived as someone with good people skills who should be sought to be part of any team.
Many believe that interpersonal skills, to some extent, are innate in each person—that “they are what they are.” It’s very likely that we’re born with a certain predisposition for these traits, and that they may be an early indicator of greatness. I’m reminded of a close childhood friend to whom neighborhood kids gravitated and teachers adored. He always showed kindness and concern to others. As he grew to be an adult, his interpersonal skills also grew. He joined the U.S. Army and retired as a high-ranking officer: a General! Using this one example, it does appear some are born with basic interpersonal skill tendencies, which are then developed and refined over time.
The Transformation Journey
There is also substantial evidence that people can take steps to improve their interpersonal skills and make themselves more valuable to their organizations. Reinventing oneself is possible through an awareness of how one interacts with others, but it does require a high degree of commitment and a lot of practice.
A good starting place is to become more understanding and sensitive to others. Seek out those who are struggling and need a little help. Without expecting anything in return, assist them in accomplishing their goals and silently bask in the knowledge that you may have made a big difference in the outcome.
Plan out your communications, rather than saying or writing the first thing that comes to mind. Thinking about how your communications will be received could make a huge difference in how others perceive your supportiveness to both your peers and your organizational management. Become an active listener so people realize that you’re interested in them and their problems, and that you have a willingness to help.
While developing soft skills isn’t rocket science, it does take effort—and it’s well worth it. Good interpersonal skills can improve many aspects of your professional and personal life. All it takes to get started on your transformation journey is a commitment to developing a well-balanced set of interpersonal skills that will allow you to handle any situation more gracefully. iBi