Having excellent interpersonal communication skills is a vital indicator of working environments. That’s mainly because the benefits include embracing your popularity in your workplace, as well as cooperating with other teammates to solve challenging problems. Possessing interpersonal communication skills is one of the most sought-after soft skills someone can demonstrate.
While some may worry that they don’t possess the best skills, the good news is you can learn and improve upon them. That occurs through interpersonal skills activities you can do independently or at your workplace. Developing your interpersonal skills will help you become a better communicator and listener. In this guide, we’re going to talk about the definition of interpersonal communication skills, improving them, how they relate to interpersonal effectiveness skills, and using interpersonal skills activities.
What are Interpersonal Communication Skills?
Interpersonal communication skills involve face-to-face communications whereby individuals are exchanging feelings, information, and meaning through messages that are either verbal or non-verbal. Interpersonal communication includes more than what these individuals are saying, but also how they’re using body language, expressions, and gestures to get their message across.
How to Develop Your Interpersonal Communication Skills
Everyone must have excellent interpersonal communication skills, but there’s always room for improvement. Here are some tips on how to achieve that goal:
Always Acknowledge Others
When you possess practical interpersonal communication skills, that means you’re focusing on others and exchanging feelings and ideas face-to-face. Your purposes aren’t to instruct or impress those who are around you. Avoid monopolizing the conversation, but instead, practice a give-and-take conversational flow.
You’re potentially damaging relationships if you’re unwilling to listen to others. So, you should always give individuals your undivided attention during every conversation.
Focus on Non-Verbal Communication
According to Peter Drucker, “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” We reveal a lot about ourselves by our appearance, body language, demeanor, facial expressions, gestures, movements, and posture. Albert Mehrabian’s communication model indicates that individuals listen “to only 7% of the substantive message.”
That means the bulk of communication is coming across in your body language and appearance. Another way of looking at this is, communication involves more than words. When you’re listening to another individual, notice their body language, facial expressions, gestures, physical proximity, and tone.
Nurturing your ability to have compassion for others is incredibly beneficial regarding practical interpersonal communication skills. For example, if you see someone struggling in your workplace, consider reaching out to them offering help. Ask them if they need someone there to listen or how else you can help.
By performing this simple gesture, you’re showing individuals you’re there for them. Your gestures don’t need to be grand, but instead, they should focus on small acts of kindness that occur daily.
Okay, maybe not everything, but asking high-quality questions is a crucial component to having interpersonal communication skills. You’ll help others understand you’re listening to them when gathering facts or inquiring about their feelings.
Don’t forget about the importance of developing your skills for asking follow-up questions. For example, you could ask one of your peers about their choice of college. Then, you can follow-up that question by asking them why they made that choice when selecting colleges.
It isn’t uncommon for us to forgo paying attention to others because our problems and difficulties are too distracting. Instead of venting or complaining during your next conversation, consider asking the person how they’re doing.
You can show interest in others by asking them about their hobbies, interests, and passions. In doing so, you’re getting to know your peers on a more fulfilling and in-depth level.
Use Active and Purposeful Listening Skills
You must genuinely listen to others, instead of giving the illusion that you’re doing so. Practicing interpersonal communication skills means you’re doing the former and avoiding the latter.
Listening actively and purposefully means you’re using observational and non-verbal communication for gauging emotions. You’ll complement the speaker by listening more and speaking less.
How to Improve Your Interpersonal Communication Skills
There’s room for improvement in all that we’re doing or the skills we have, and that includes interpersonal communication skills. It’s one thing to develop these skills effectively, and it’s another to improve your existing skills. Let’s see how to achieve that goal:
Always be Honest
A sign of integrity is when you’re consistently honest with others. You risk damaging your reputation or reducing tendencies for others trusting you if you tell a small lie.
Sometimes, when someone tells one lie, that prompts them to follow it up with others. In doing so, they face more significant negative consequences. Even if it’s small, you can’t predict the outcome of a lie.
Being sincere and genuine go hand-in-hand. When you’re real, you’re genuinely building bonds of trust between yourself and those with whom you’re interacting. When you can recognize your feelings and thoughts, that helps you become a more genuine person. That results in you being more sincere with others.
Practice self-reflection by thinking about your strengths and weaknesses and always be aware of these during interactions. Mentally inventory all your values. Aligning yourself with your values allows you to live a real and genuine life. During every engagement, use real body language, active listening skills, and empathy.
Don’t Avoid Eye Contact
Not everyone is comfortable with looking someone directly in their eyes. However, meaningful conversations involve maintaining eye contact. That way, the person you’re talking with knows you’re understanding and validating what they’re saying.
Giving this non-verbal cue also indicates that you’re paying attention to the speaker. Avoid looking out the window or on the floor for extended periods. Otherwise, the speaker will believe you aren’t listening, or you’re bored with the topic of conversation.
Maintaining eye contact also helps prevent you from being distracted by what’s around you. Holding eye contact also helps the person you’re having a conversation know they can trust you. Looking away every so often is okay to help everyone involved in the conversation feel more comfortable.
Embrace the Power of Gratitude
It’s challenging for some to express appreciation and gratitude in their workplaces. Doing so allows you to foster positive work environments, and others will recognize your role regarding bringing about this cultural change.
Expressing gratitude helps improve workplace productivity and attitudes. You’ll also be helping to reduce stress while simultaneously improving other’s metabolism, sleep habits, and wellness. That results in the improvement of work results and interpersonal communication skills.
Read as Much as Possible
Unfortunately, people aren’t reading as much as in the past. However, you’re expanding your horizons when you read more books or other forms of literature. You’re exposing yourself to what’s happening globally while simultaneously developing better communication skills.
When you acquire as much knowledge as possible, that opens up opportunities for interacting with more people. Reading as much as possible also helps you become more well-spoken and articulate. You’ll also expand your vocabulary by maintaining awareness of literature, global news, and scientific breakthroughs.
If you’re an optimistic friend or co-worker, you’ll find that more people will gravitate in your direction. Even if the company you work for is in an unfavorable position, or if you’re experiencing challenges in your life, make everyone’s environment better by being positive.
When you have a positive attitude, others view you as being accepting, non-judgmental, and welcoming. Showing a positive disposition will help you influence and inspire others. You’ll also give yourself opportunities to meet other positive people when having this attitude.
Developing a positive attitude means you’re consistently reminding yourself that situations can improve or change. Think about turning points throughout your life that inspired you to grow, and remember, there are opportunities for this to happen at any time.
Stop Using Your Phone So Much
Many of us use our smartphones for sending written communications via text message, email, or social media posts. It’s no mystery how much smartphones have changed the way we communicate and interact. However, as we use our smartphones more, that’s causing a decrease in our attention spans, eye contact, human interactions, and personal relationships.
When you’re about to enter a meeting, put your phone away. Those who are attending this meeting will receive the signal that you’re giving everyone your full attention and respecting the speaker’s time. Ignore your phone if it vibrates and make sure the ringer is on silent. That way, you’re focusing on the speaker and not your phone. This act also shows you’re considerate of others.
How Does That Differ from Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills?
When straightforwardly looking at interpersonal effectiveness skills, that means you’re interacting with others around you. Doing so involves a set of skills, including:
- Developing and maintaining relationships
- Balancing your demands and priorities
- Maintaining a healthy balance between urgent needs and wants
- Building and maintaining your self-esteem
If you have poor interpersonal effectiveness skills, that leads to you having the inability to understand or achieving your socialization goals. Because all interactions have a purpose, motivations are typically the leading factor, including:
- Achieving an objective: Like becoming friends with someone or asking an individual for a favor
- Maintaining relationships: Effective communication is the back-bone of healthy relationships with friends or family
- Keeping self-respect: Our interactions with others helps build either disagreeable or favorable impressions
The use of interpersonal skills is required for each motivation to help you achieve them. For example:
- Achieving an objective: You must maintain clarity for defining what you need or want, as well as what you don’t want
- Maintaining relationships: You must understand the relationship’s importance, how you want the other individual to feel about you, and ways for making it flourish
- Keeping self-respect: You must ensure individuals aren’t overlooking beliefs, morals, and values while simultaneously feeling good about the interaction when it ends
By the time individuals become adults, they typically develop their interpersonal effectiveness skills. Usually, individuals have experienced a variety of healthy relationships by this time. However, those who experience anxiety, depression, or other issues tend to have difficulty in this area.
Essential Components of Interpersonal Communication
1: DEAR MAN
- Describe: Using useful descriptions involves giving listeners more context, so you’re receiving the results you need
- Express: When you communicate your needs or wants, that means expressing yourself in a straightforward manner
- Assert: You can assert yourself respectively, instead of aggressively, when you want to change a situation
- Reinforce: If you’re not seeing the results you want or need, make another request to reinforce these desires
- Mindfulness: Staying mindful of conditions means you’re not assuming things or thinking about the future
- Appearing Confident: Don’t act scared when you’re asking for what you want, no matter the circumstance
- Negotiating: Whenever it’s possible, arrange to achieve some middle ground or to compromise
- Fairness: During thoughts and actions, you must be fair to yourself and others without placing blame or being judgmental
- Apologize Appropriately: Avoid saying, “sorry,” too much or out of habit
- Stick to Your Values: Your mannerisms should reflect your values in communication, family, and honesty to avoid feeling vulnerable
- Truthfulness: Your responses must always be honest and truthful
- Gentle Approaches: When approaching another’s feelings, be mindful of how open and accepting you are to their communication
- Interest: When others are talking, always show interest in the topic of conversation verbally or using body language
- Validation of Emotions: Conversations sometimes involve the speaker asking their listener for an opinion. Provide this response by validating their emotions.
- Easing Through Mannerisms: Try to focus on the conversation, be mindful, and relax to prevent people from thinking you’re uncomfortable
- Think things over: If you believe someone is unreasonable, think about the situation and determine the cause
- Have Empathy: Practice kindness at all times because everyone is going through something challenging on one level or another
- Interpret: Think about the individual’s behavior, and interpret why they might be acting the way they do
- Notice: Communication occurs non-verbally, and you must know how to pick up on these cues
- Kindness: Your responses must always be kind. That means controlling your emotions when you feel you might be cruel
Interpersonal Skills Activities
Do you worry about being an effective communicator? Are you working well with others and provide the highest level of service to your clients or customers? Or, are you a manager who worries about these things regarding your employees? That’s where interpersonal skills activities come into play.
One of your most valuable teachers is in the form of real-world or life experiences. You’ll find this is especially true regarding some talents that are challenging to master, including interpersonal skills. Those skills could cover everything from active listening to social etiquette.
Active Listening Back to Back
Interpersonal communication skills rely heavily on active listening skills. Participating in this activity will give you some insight into the complexities of communication occurring between two people.
Gather as a group and pair everyone up two-by-two. Ask every pair to sit with their backs to each other. Have one member of the couple draw interlocking circles or boxes, and then describe the picture to their partner. When listening to the description, the partner should sketch what they hear.
During this exercise, partners cannot ask each other questions. When complete, ask the pairs to show each other their drawings. Then, ask them to describe the challenges they experienced throughout the task. Then, ask the entire group how active listening and communication skills impact a working relationship.
Clarifying Each Outcome
Here’s an example of interpersonal skill activities that you can do independently. Typically, communication has a means to an end. However, if we’re not ensuring that the message regarding the outcome that we desire has an accurate conveyance, that could result in disappointment and confusion. You must determine this using clarification skills.
Over the next several days, your mission is to practice your clarification skills. When participating in conversations whereby there’s time for thought before engagement, clarify to yourself precisely what outcome you desire.
Is it your goal to receive something in particular, like an item you need to borrow or money that someone owes you?
- Are you looking for empathy from your peers regarding a situation or your feelings?
- Do you want to share something entertaining that evokes laughter?
When you have a firm understanding of the outcome you desire, that will help you decide the best way to express and frame your communication. For example, it can help you decide if asking a direct question is best or if non-verbal cues are a better option.
Cooperative Review Regarding Past Ineffective and Effective Communications
One of the best methods for learning more about effective communication is by learning from our past ineffective and effective communications while participating in a group. During this activity, members of the group will have to reflect upon these instances in their history to generate the best responses.
Gather into a group and form a circle. Then, ask everyone present to describe a situation whereby they were in a challenging situation and used effective communication to achieve a positive outcome. Follow that up by asking everyone in the circle to describe an instance where their conversation was ineffective.
Go around the circle one more time and, this time, ask everyone to describe patterns they noticed in situations where communication was effective versus ineffective. Ask everyone what lessons they can glean that will work in the future.
Each Participant’s Most Influential Experience
During this interpersonal communication skills activity, each participant is describing their most impactful life experience. Start by dividing participants up into even groups. Ask a co-facilitator to count each member off by one and two. That way, the “ones” can leave the room with them, and the “twos” stay behind.
Each member of the “ones” group should spend a little time reflecting on their most impactful life experience. Then, after a few minutes, return to the room with the “twos.” Ask each group member to sit in pairs of chairs, one for the “ones” and one for the “twos.” The “ones” describe their most impactful life experience, and the “twos” summarize what they hear.
Follow this activity up by discussing the difference in what the “ones” described compared to the summary the “twos” gave them. Then, talk about the importance of using active listening skills when learning more about interpersonal skills and how to improve them.
Game Focusing on a Customer
For this interpersonal communication activity, you’ll need to pass a straw out to each member of the group. You’ll also need a 3″ x 5″ card that you fold in half.
You’ll find that this game will work with a large group of participants. Ask every member of the group to stand in a semi-circle formation. Once they receive their straw, ask them to hold it between their lips like a lollipop.
Then, working from one end of the semi-circle to the other, balance an index card on the participant’s straw. Ask them to imagine that the card is a customer. After the first person receives the card, ask them to pass it to their neighbor without dropping it or using their hands.
The game has to begin again if someone drops their “customer.” Following this activity, engage in an active discussion with participants about how each group member worked to prevent their group members from losing the “customer.”
Q and A Sessions Following a Presentation
Here’s an excellent opportunity to bring interpersonal activities to a different level. Each member of your group will need to do some preliminary work before participating in this activity. Ask them all to prepare a five-minute presentation. Don’t discuss the Q and A that will follow.
Provide your group with some coaching regarding the sentence structure and vocabulary that’s most effective when asking questions. After each presentation, allow participants to ask whatever questions that come to mind about the content they heard. Make sure all group members understand that there are no right or wrong answers when presenters answer.
When mistakes occur during the presentation, as well as throughout the question and answer period, don’t make corrections. Instead, allow the discussion to develop into genuine two-way conversations.
Spontaneous and Creative Thinking
If you consistently participate in public speaking engagements or presentations, you’ll benefit from interpersonal skills activities involving creative thinking and spontaneity. During this activity, everyone in a group is telling a story and building up the narrative that the person before them used.
Fill a box with objects that correspond with the number of participants in the group. Gather in a circle and, each time someone takes the container, they remove one of the objects and use it to add narrative to the story. They can’t look in the box before pulling out an object. As the group leader, you’re responsible for starting the storytelling using an object.
Everyone participating must contribute to the story in a way that makes sense. That way, their narrative connects with the previous portion of the story. Once group members select all the objects from the box, and all members of the group added to the story, discuss how either fit or did not fit with the entire story.
Tower of Communication
Emphasize the importance of interpersonal skills by having a friendly contest that also embraces the value of contributing. Divide everyone in attendance into small groups. Then, give them toothpicks, gumdrops or mini marshmallows, and dry spaghetti.
Ask the groups to work together toward building the tallest tower using the supplies given to them in ten minutes or less. Tell half of each group that they’re not allowed to speak during this exercise.
When everyone finished, launch a discussion involving the entire group, whereby they describe the building process, and the use of verbal and non-verbal communication. Then, ask them to discuss the importance of each member of the group participating.
You’re encouraging every member of the group to develop short, structured responses during interpersonal skills activities like this one. Throughout this activity, participants are developing a formal understanding of two-way communication.
Ask each participant to create a short set of survey questions. Before beginning, tell everyone the topic of their surveys. For example, you could choose entertainment. That means each participant could ask questions about favorite movies, sports, and other pastimes.
These surveys can use either of these structures:
- Open-ended questions: An example includes, “What is your favorite movie?”
- Closed-ended questions: An example includes, “Do you like reading?”
Ask group members to circulate throughout the room and ask their peers the questions on their surveys and compile their results. When they finish, ask group members to share their findings. For example, they can share their results like, “Six group members like to read,” or “Two members of the group like [name of movie].”
When learning about interpersonal skills activities, you must first understand the definition of interpersonal skills, how to develop them, how to improve them, and how they relate to interpersonal effectiveness skills. Taking these steps will make you a more valuable team member in the workplace while simultaneously enhancing your communication skills in personal relationships.