Interpersonal skills are very important to have and develop in life, they are the foundation to the relationships we make throughout our existence. We are interacting with people on a daily basis, even if for a brief moment in time and, those interpersonal skills are the tools we need to make those interactions as positive and effective as possible. This is especially true with our workplace interactions. Throughout our work experience, we will constantly collaborate and interact with others on all aspects of work in order to get the job done.
There are many different dimensions of interpersonal skills that include verbal and non-verbal communication, effectively delivering feedback and being open to accepting constructive criticism, efficiently dealing with disagreements, and understanding how technology has an effect on theseskills in the workplace. By understanding these types of interpersonal skills we can more positively influence and support each other, create an encouraging work environment and collectively work together to thrive in our employment.
These interpersonal skills will determine our degree of success in the workplace. Furthermore, the absence of these interpersonal skills will hinder our other talents and knowledge and result in a dysfunctional work environment. Interpersonal Skills When thinking of a person we like to be around, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons why we enjoy their company. A common reason is that they are good communicators. It’s easy to talk to them, they relate well to you, they have a positive attitude and are generally pleasant to be around.
Similarly, we all know someone who has difficulty communicating with others. Maybe it’s your coworker, a longtime friend, the clerk at your favorite store or a family member. Everyone is different and interpersonal communication skills vary depending on how well they are in tune with themselves and others. Interpersonal communication is simply the way people communicate with each other (Interpersonal Skills, 2013). Whether interactions are of a social or professional nature, having good interpersonal skills will improve those interactions.
The messages sent to others while communicating are both verbal and nonverbal (Adler, 2010). The words being spoken, the listener’s perception of their meaning, the body language of the communicators involved and the environment where the communication is happening are factors of interpersonal communication (Adler, 2010). With all of these moving parts it’s easy for misunderstandings to occur. Often times there is a disconnection between what a speaker actuslly says, what the speaker intended to say and the meaning the listener applies to what the speaker said (Adler, 2010).
Linguistic theorists C. K. Ogdfen and I. A. Richards are famous for creating the triangle of meaning. This model shows that there is no direct relationship between an idea, process or other referent and the word (or other symbol) used to represent it. Rather, the pathway to understanding – or misunderstanding – passes through the mind of the sender or receiver. (Adler, 2010, p. 92) Speaking with clarity and removing equivocal terms, or terms with two different, but equally acceptable meanings is one way to mitigate inevitable misunderstandings (Adler, 2010).
By eliminating the use of slang in a professional setting and being cognizant of the use of jargon communicators can also help to reduce misunderstandings (Adler, 2010). There is an appropriate place and time for everything and being aware of the audience and how messages will be received can keep verbal messages on a direct path of understanding to the listeners. Nonverbal communication often affects the way information is received more than verbal messages because, as the timeless phrase tells us, it’s not lways what you say, but how you say it that can leave a lasting impression.
Nonverbal communication is anything other than the words coming out of your mouth (Adler, 2010). If your boss has a slouched posture and disinterested expression on their face, this may make an employee feel discouraged about bringing forth important concerns. If a colleague is making poor eye contact and constantly checks their watch, this may a message of disinterest to a coworker. People that often encroach upon others’ personal space can find that this affects the attitudes of others towards them.
Most times you cannot control if your intended verbal message is received properly, but you can control if you are fidgeting and the amount of focus you are portraying to anyone you communicate with. Verbal and nonverbal communication skills go a long way towards improving overall interpersonal skills. One can improve their interpersonal skills and facilitate optimal communication by developing better networking, team work and leadership qualities (Interpersonal Skills, 2013b).
Networking skills are exemplified when an individual is self-confident, communicates effectively and never stops building connections in their personal and professional networks (Interpersonal Skills, 2013b). People with great interpersonal skills can easily act as the ‘go-to’ person in their social circle or professional organization. They can connect the dots for others because they relate well to others and move through various interpersonal environments effortlessly. Collaborating well with others and working towards a common goal illustrates good team work.
Individuals with interpersonal prowess cooperate with others to achieve the group’s goals. They value the ideas and contributions of each team member by actively listening and encouraging each and every team member to participate. Strong leadership skills require highly developed interpersonal skills. A leader with confidence, an open mind and who readily gives due praise can motivate others to work harder and achieve more (Adler, 2010). Using one’s expertise to delegate appropriately and mentor those who need it are natural characteristics of a leader (Interpersonal Skills, 2013b).
Poise, grace and charisma also play a large part in the impression left after any interpersonal interaction. Those with robust interpersonal communication skills understand not only themselves, but also those around them with a fluid flow of cause and effect.. Dealing with Criticism One cause for communication that relies heavily on interpersonal skills in order to attain a successful outcome is criticism. Dealing with criticism from any aspect can be tricky, if not handled in the right way this kind of conversation can quickly go awry very quickly.
While giving and receiving praise is easy and pleasurable to manage, encountering criticism is inevitable. Whether speaking out about a complaint or being the one to receive another’s dissatisfaction, criticism can spread like a wildfire of negative emotion and can result in a workplace climate where people are defensive. With the right tools though, someone can effectively deliver and respond to constructive criticism as well as use that information to develop and grow more.
Offering constructive feedback can be more stressful than receiving it, because we know that we may offend others by telling them something they may not want to hear. Anticipating the confrontational nature of the encounter is unnerving, but can be best minimized by having a good attitude, carefully planning the message and being well prepared in the delivery. A good attitude is imperative to fostering development in others, positively influencing work relationships, and most importantly, will also help make others feel more receptive to the constructive feedback you may have.
The essence of a more positive attitude is respect…that comes from how we construct messages; how we speak and act can be more important that the words themselves, as well as paying close attention not only to what you say but also to your nonverbal behavior, including your vocal tone and facial expression, when expressing yourself. (Adler, 2010) In addition, part of having respect and demonstrating equality for others is showing a genuine concern for them and being honest in communicating, which also gives others a feeling of being valued and appreciated. Planning your constructive feedback content is also essential n making your message most effective, and minimizing a defensive reaction (Adler, 2010). “Organize your thoughts or the sequence of events that you would like to discuss…and might even wish to refer to note card…as it ensures you get the information correct and can offer the impression that you have carefully considered your comments” (Garner, 2006). Your message should define the problem clearly with sufficient detail, stay concise, accurate and on topic. The message should address one topic so as to not overwhelm the receiver and potentially cause the individual to become defensive.
A good idea, would be to include any ways in which the recipient will benefit from heeding your feedback. When receiving criticism, a respondent will be more accepting if their strengths and positive actions are acknowledged. Finally, the delivery of your feedback should be in a way that is most conducive to convincing the receiving individual. The use of descriptive statements, or “I” language, refocuses evaluative statements on the speaker instead of judging the other person because they clearly state the reason for bringing up the matter as well as the speaker’s feelings (Adler, 2010).
Avoid using “you” statements that can very easily make the situation take a turn for the worse by making the individual defensive. Pay close attention to your nonverbal communication, so as to avoid demeaning the other person, such as speaking loudly, sounding condescending or pointing your finger (Adler, 2010). Finally when giving constructive feedback, it’s most important to deliver your criticism privately (Adler, 2010). There is nothing worse than feeling embarrassed and belittled, because you feel like you’re being scolded in front of others.
Reacting in defense is very easy to come by when you’re on the receiving end of constructive criticism. “Receiving criticism can actually trigger the flight-or-fight response…feeling the desire to withdraw (flight) or retaliate (fight)” (Garner, 2006). Luckily, there are many strategies that can be implemented to help in listening non-defensively and might leave you more open to the feedback. Some strategies include recognizing your body’s physical response to criticism-prone situations, keeping an open mind, recognizing there may be truth in the criticism, and viewing it as an opportunity for personal growth. As you realize that you are being criticized you may feel your heart race a bit, your blood pressure rise, your mouth become a bit dry, and your skin temperature may change…however, it may be best to simply realize that these are somewhat instinctual responses and succumbing to them may not best serve your long-term goals” (Garner, 2006).
We learn something new every day from the people around us, especially in the workplace where there are a wide range of skills and knowledge spanning different departments (Adler, 2010). By keeping an open mind and listening thoughtfully, you may learn something useful. While it can be hard to listen sincerely when being criticized, asking for examples or clarification, paraphrasing and even keeping notes of your critic’s comments can give you something to do besides defend yourself…and will show your critic that you take his or her comments seriously” (Adler, 2010). Doing these things, they may allow you to be more open to recognizing there might be some validity in your critic’s feedback, especially if this is an opinion others may share. You must avoid excuses, rationalizations and blaming others so as to deviate from the situation.
Being honest with yourself is most important and taking the opportunity to develop and grow will benefit you in the long run. It is both the critic and the recipient’s responsibility to work together as a team to focus on finding a cooperative solution that meets everyone’s needs. “The goal of critical communication is to ensure that there is a dialogue…important information may be missed that might help better assess the particulars of the situation” (Garner, 2006). Both party’s perspective should be heard with respect and with as much of a non-judgmental attitude as possible.
New information can potentially be uncovered that may influence one’s view of the circumstances, that would otherwise remain undisclosed if the other’s case is not fully heard. Finding someone to place fault on is counterproductive and will not work for satisfying both individuals. A more gainful approach is focusing on finding an effective solution is most beneficial to everyone involved (Adler, 2010). The goal is not to have a winner and loser, but to have a mutual understanding about the topic and how things can change for the better (Garner, 2006).