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What are interpersonal skills?

Last updated June 2016

interpersonal skills
Interpersonal skills are very important for anyone looking for employment opportunities. These are the skills which we use to communicate with others every day. Employers are now-a-days emphasizing a lot on interpersonal skills.

Definition of interpersonal skills

According to Hayes (2005), interpersonal skills are goal-directed behaviors used in face-to-face interactions in order to bring about a desired state of affairs. They are also called people skills, interactive skills, face-to-face skills, social skills, and social competence.

List of interpersonal skills

We need a number of interpersonal skills for good working relationships. For example, communication skills, self esteem, positive attitude, stress management, assertiveness, conflict resolution, and team work to name but a few. Without these skills, it is rather difficult, if not impossible for anyone to succeed in life.

Communication Skills

Communication skills refer to our ability to convey information to others. We need good verbal, non-verbal, and written skills in order to carry out our responsibilities at work. Writing emails, listening to customers and their concerns, and talking to external bodies on the phone are some of the activities many of us are entrusted with at work.


Self-esteem refers to the confidence in one’s own worth or abilities (Soanes, 2002). It is very important as it allows people to believe in themselves which improve their attitude to work. It also sometimes protects us from wrong doing.

Positive attitude

Attitude refers to a way of thinking or feeling about someone or something (Soanes, 2002). We need to be positive in everything we do. It is very difficult to succeed in life without a positive attitude. People with a positive attitude can see lights in darkness! So, bear in mind that there is no alternative to positive attitude.

Stress management

Stress has been blamed for many work-related illnesses. Therefore, we should learn how to manage stress. It is a very important skill particularly for those who work under pressure. Regular exercise, healthy diet, and having a positive attitude can help us deal with stress. People suffering from stress should seek professional advice without delay.


Assertiveness is another important skill. It is about being confident and standing up for what we believe. It is also about defending the rights of others in a calm and positive manner with out recourse to any aggressive behaviour. Assertiveness should be supported by valid evidence.

Conflict resolution

Conflict may occur any time. It should not always be seen as negative. Some conflicts may result in positive outcomes. Therefore, we should learn how to deal with a conflict. Academics have developed a number of techniques to deal with conflicts. A very simple technique resolution is avoidance.

Team work

Ability to work in a team is what employers look for as majority of jobs out there depend to frequent interactions between employees. Unfortunately, not everyone is a good team player. However, if we have a willingness to co-operate with others, we should be able to develop good team working skills.

Finally, it is very important for all of us to have good interpersonal skills. The above list of interpersonal skills is not exhaustive. There are many other skills we should master in order to be effective in our day-to-day personal and professional communications with others.

Further reading/references

Hayes, J. (2005) Interpersonal skills at work, 2nd edition, New York: Routledge

Soanes, C. (2002) Pocket Oxford Dictionary, 9th edition, Oxford University Press: New York

Author: M Rahman

M Rahman writes extensively online with an emphasis on business management and marketing. He is a graduate of both Leeds Metropolitan University and London South Bank University.