What Is Interpersonal Communication and Why Is It Important?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 2 November 2022 | Published 14 October 2021

Updated 2 November 2022

Published 14 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Interpersonal communication is the ability to convey information and actively listen to others. Understanding how body language, meaning and tone affect conversation is an important part of strong interpersonal skills. If you work with others and want to collaborate better, learning more about communication and relevant skills can be beneficial. In this article, we explain what interpersonal communication is, describe interpersonal skills, detail why those skills are important, provide examples and offer helpful tips for improving your discussion and listening abilities.

What is interpersonal communication?

Answering 'what is interpersonal communication' is important for learning the best ways to work effectively in a team. Interpersonal communication is the process of face-to-face exchange of thoughts, ideas, feelings and emotions between two or more people. This includes both verbal and nonverbal elements of personal interaction.

It's vital in many workplace environments where collaboration and teamwork are essential. For example, a team of writers or designers may need to work together to create a product that meets client requirements. Software engineers work together to troubleshoot and refine programmes and software. Both require team members to understand how to articulate information for others and digest what their colleagues discuss with them.

Related: How To Improve Communication Skills (With Definition and Examples)

What are interpersonal skills?

Interpersonal skills are traits you rely on when you interact and communicate with others. They cover a variety of scenarios where communication and cooperation are essential. These skills involve the ability to communicate and build relationships with others. Effective interpersonal skills can help you during the job interview process and can have a positive impact on your career advancement. Maintaining a professional network, leading a team and collaborating effectively in a workplace atmosphere are all dependent on excellent interpersonal abilities.

Related: 15 Ways on How To Communicate Effectively at the Workplace

Why are interpersonal skills important?

Strong interpersonal skills can help you during the job interview process as interviewers look for applicants who can work well with others. They can also help you succeed in almost any job by helping you understand other people and adjusting your approach to work together effectively. Employers may be seeking team members who can perform technical tasks with excellence but also communicate well with colleagues. Here are reasons detailing the importance of interpersonal communication skills in the workplace:

Improves problem-solving

When an issue arises in the workplace, teams with strong interpersonal abilities can work together to assess the cause and propose solutions. For example, a client may be unhappy with a logo design. The team may assess where the problem lies, identify that the colour palette may improve the logo and work together to choose better colours before resubmitting.

Advances business goals

As a leader or member of a team, your interpersonal skills may increase your ability to negotiate with others and reach successful resolutions to various situations. For example, if you're a salesperson, interpersonal skills may help you connect with your clients and show them how the product can improve their lives. The ability to communicate your ideas is vital to attain business goals.

Increases trust between staff

Interpersonal skills allow staff members to communicate honestly and effectively. Their teams may be more likely to trust them when they see evidence of ethical behaviour and open communication. For example, if a team member sees the manager admitting their faults and striving for improvement, they may be more likely to do the same when they make a mistake. This increases trust between team members.

Creates a positive culture

Teams members may often differ in approach and personality, and communication abilities allow them to articulate those differences and find compromises. This helps to create a positive workplace culture. For example, a team member may communicate that they prefer vegetarian options at the quarterly meeting, allowing leaders to meet everyone's needs and improve the work environment.

Facilitates recognition

Communication allows team members and leaders to recognise each other's work and contributions. For example, after being thanked for their contributions to a project, a staff member may recognise their colleagues for their contributions too. This creates a culture such that team members receive recognition for their work from one another.

Allows for effective leadership

Leaders with strong interpersonal skills can recognise issues within their team and act as mediators to resolve them. They can set a good example of communication practices and facilitate improvement for their staff members. When leaders effectively resolve problems, it may result in greater unity and job satisfaction within that department.

Related: What Is Leadership Communication? (Definition and Examples)

Promotes professional relationships

A workplace that promotes interpersonal communication allows team members to create and maintain professional relationships. This can help advance their careers and improve the department as a whole. Team members may be more likely to seek valuable professional relationships when they have excellent interpersonal abilities.

Related: Relationship-Building Skills: Definitions and Examples

Enhances remote work

Working remotely has become commonplace in present times. If some team members within a group or department work remotely, good interpersonal skills are of utmost importance. It allows them to communicate effectively with their team, even when they aren't face-to-face with them.

Related: Q&A: What Is Remote Work?

5 examples of interpersonal skills

Unlike technical skills, interpersonal abilities are easily transferable across industries and positions. For example, you might use your customer service skills from a service position to improve your relationships with important clients as a financial advisor. Employers value interpersonal skills because they contribute to positive work environments and help maintain an efficient workflow. Here's a list of five interpersonal skills that may be valuable to employers:

1. Active listening

Active listening means listening to others with the purpose of gathering information and engaging with the speaker. Active listeners avoid distracting behaviours while in conversation with others. This can mean putting away or closing laptops and phones while listening while asking and answering questions when prompted. Focusing on smiling, maintaining eye contact, having correct posture and providing feedback through nods can improve active listening abilities.

Read more: What Is Active Listening? With Tips for Improvement

2. Dependability

Being dependable means your leaders and colleagues can rely on you to consistently provide contributions and results. This can include being punctual and delivering tasks and products on time. Employers value dependable workers and trust them with important tasks and duties. To improve your dependability, consider implementing a time management system, organising your materials and tasks and asking for more details about a task when you need them.

3. Leadership

Leadership is an important interpersonal skill that involves effective decision-making and communication. Effective leaders incorporate many other interpersonal skills, like empathy and patience, to make decisions and provide guidance to others. Both managers and individual contributors can use leadership skills, and employers value the team members who take ownership to reach common goals. To improve your leadership skills, consider enrolling in leadership courses and reading up on how to be an outstanding leader.

Read more: How To Improve Leadership Skills: Guideline and Tips

4. Empathy

Empathy entails how well you can understand the needs and feelings of others. Employers may prefer to hire those who are compassionate to create a positive, high-functioning workplace. This skill also allows team members to collaborate and solve issues faster, as they're able to understand each other's positions. To improve your empathy, consider communicating more with your colleagues, ask for feedback from others and assess your personal biases.

Related: Empathic Skills: Definition and Examples (With Tips)

5. Teamwork

The ability to work together as a team is extremely valuable in every workplace. Teamwork involves many other interpersonal skills like communication, active listening, flexibility and responsibility. Leaders often assign important tasks to those who are excellent team players in the workplace, and teamwork-oriented staff members may be suitable candidates for promotions. To improve on your ability to collaborate, consider assessing roles and responsibilities for tasks and projects, defining goals and resolving conflict.

Read more: What Is Teamwork? (Plus Skills and Examples of Teamwork)

Tips for improving your interpersonal communication

These are some helpful tips you can use to improve your interpersonal communication abilities:

  • Attend workshops or online classes. There are several workshops, online classes and videos on ways you can practise building interpersonal skills. If you're currently in school, consider speaking to a counsellor or advisor about potential classes to increase your interpersonal abilities.

  • Seek opportunities to build relationships. If you work from home or do not have many opportunities to build interpersonal skills, you might join a group. It may be a professional group, like a networking or industry-specific group, or simply a group that share a similar interest or hobby, like a book club or a cycling group.

  • Reflect on your interactions. Review the interactions you've had and consider ways you can interact more effectively. This might be certain words you said, ways you reacted or body language you used.

  • Ask trusted friends or colleagues for constructive criticism. It's helpful to get a third-party perspective about your skill level and specific ways you can improve. Ask friends or trusted colleagues to provide constructive criticism regarding your interpersonal skills.

  • Observe other positive interpersonal interactions. Choosing an effective leader or mentor to observe can be helpful in improving your interpersonal skills. Watch how they start a conversation, what their body language is like and how they react when the other person is speaking.

Related: 10 Helpful Tips for Communication Skills in the Workplace

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