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Ways to Improve Interpersonal Communication

Find out more about this skill and why it’s important for your professional and personal relationships.






The need for connection and belonging is a fundamental human need, not only as young children but also as adults (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). We want others to like us, and we feel good when we are heard or when others help us problem-solve. Interestingly, we even mimic others in words and gestures, showing them how similar we are (Van Baaren et al., 2004). When we communicate with others, we not only share ideas or solve problems; we also connect and strengthen our bonds.

What Are Interpersonal Communication Skills?

Interpersonal skills are behaviors that help you interact with others effectively, in the workplace, school, or in the larger world. Some examples of interpersonal communication skills include active listening, openness, and empathy. What makes interpersonal communication skills a great asset to have is that they are transferable. For instance, active listening and openness are great skills to have if your kids tell you about their problems but they’re also extremely helpful if you need to mediate a conflict at work. Although these situations require different behavior from you, you can utilize your interpersonal communication skills to help you make the best of any situation.

Here are some examples of interpersonal communication skills:

  • Active listening

  • Body language

  • Openness

  • Negotiation skills

  • Teamwork

  • Empathy

  • Critical thinking

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Assertiveness

  • Responsibility

  • Effective communication

  • Conflict resolution

  • Problem-solving ​

Unfortunately, not all skills come to us as easily as we might like. Sometimes, it might be easier for you to use a skill in a situation where you’re more comfortable while it might be harder to use a skill in a less comfortable situation. For example, it might be easier for you to practice active listening at work when talking to your colleague or supervisor, but when it comes to practicing this skill with your partner, you might struggle with it. Or, you might struggle because of other factors, such as tiredness, the moment of the day, or being distracted. But you can improve—for example, you can learn how to practice active listening or how to be more open.

Why Interpersonal Communication Is Important

We make sense of the world and connect with others by exchanging messages, usually by talking or texting. Strong interpersonal communication can help you strengthen the bond you have with others and be a trusted and dependable friend. In your professional life, these skills can help you climb the corporate ladder, have more opportunities, and reach your personal goals.

How to Build Interpersonal Communication Skills

Considering how essential interpersonal communication skills are for your personal and professional life, it can be helpful to strengthen them. Here are some tips on how to build strong interpersonal communication skills:

  • Practice active listening. When you’re communicating with someone, try not to focus on your phone, interrupt the other person, or constantly look away. When you practice active listening, you can build strong and lasting relationships because everyone needs and wants to be heard and understood. Listen to understand, not to answer and you can strengthen your professional and romantic relationships.

  • Learn emotion regulation. Although emotions are an important part of your life, if they start to get out of control, they can have a negative impact on your communication. Perhaps this is partially why emotion regulation skills are linked to overall well-being, income, and socioeconomic status (Cote, Gyurak & Levenson, 2010). You can learn how to control your emotions by practicing mindfulness and radical acceptance, exercising, or talking to a mental health professional.

  • Practice empathy. To understand another person on a deeper level, try cultivating empathy. Empathy is an essential skill that can lead to more helpful behaviors, effective leadership (Humphrey, 2013), and cooperation in social dilemmas (Rumble, Van Lange & Parks, 2009).

  • Be curious. Sometimes when you’re talking to someone, you might make assumptions about what they’re saying: maybe about how they’re feeling in a certain situation, what they like, or how they view the world. When you make assumptions, even though they are unconscious, it can derail the conversation or make the other person feel misunderstood. Instead, try to be curious and ask open-ended questions.

  • Practice the skills. Now that you figured out what needs improving and learned a few skills to build interpersonal communication, it’s time to practice. You can start small by practicing with a friend or family member, and then consider getting more courageous as you master the skills.

In Sum

Interpersonal communication is a part of our lives and how we connect and bond with others. It plays an essential role in the well-being of our romantic and professional relationships, and it can give us an edge in the workplace. Even if you don’t have strong interpersonal communication skills, remember that you can build them by practicing.

References

  • Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological bulletin, 117(3), 497-529.

  • Côté, S., Gyurak, A., & Levenson, R. W. (2010). The ability to regulate emotion is associated with greater well-being, income, and socioeconomic status. Emotion, 10(6), 923.

  • Humphrey, R. H. (2013). The benefits of emotional intelligence and empathy to entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship Research Journal, 3(3), 287-294.

  • Rumble, A. C., Van Lange, P. A., & Parks, C. D. (2009). The benefits of empathy: When empathy may sustain cooperation in social dilemmas. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(5), 856-866.

  • Van Baaren, R. B., Holland, R. W., Kawakami, K., & Van Knippenberg, A. (2004). Mimicry and prosocial behavior. Psychological science, 15(1)(71-71).

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