18 Easy Ways to Learn and Improve Your Interpersonal Skills

How you interact with and relate to others can impact your success in life and your career. No one wants to work with someone who is negative and always complaining, and no manager wants to hire or promote someone who is rude, temperamental, or unreliable.

Strong interpersonal skills are just as crucial to your career as technical skills and expertise. They help you navigate the day-to-day tasks, office politics, and team projects you face at work.

So, what exactly are these skills, and how do you improve them? It may seem like learning people skills is as simple as socializing with others. While that will help, it will only get you so far. 

What Are Interpersonal Skills?

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Interpersonal skills are the personal and social skills we use to interact and collaborate with others, share ideas or information, and avoid conflict and misunderstandings. It’s basically how we connect and form relationships with others.

They include soft skills, such as communication, active listening, critical thinking, empathy, teamwork, problem-solving, emotional intelligence, and more. 

We use these skills in all aspects of life, but they are vital if you want to be successful in your career. Good interpersonal skills can help you be likable and build strong relationships with co-workers and customers, making your job more enjoyable. 

Employers value staff with people skills because they also help you be a better, more productive employee, which you can benefit from getting promotions, raises, and other perks at work. 

Here are strategies for learning and improving your interpersonal skills and living a more fulfilling and rewarding life. 

1. Change Your Surroundings 

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A total change in scenery will help you open up your senses and learn from what is happening around you. So, instead of sitting at your desk being aware only of what’s happening inside your brain, go and spend time around other people. 

2. People Watch

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You don’t necessarily have to jump into conversations to learn interpersonal skills. It’s okay to sit and people-watch for a while and learn from what you see.

Look around and listen to what others say, how they say it, and why they’re saying it. Take note of how the other people in the conversation respond.

3. Identify People with Strong Interpersonal Skills 

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If you know someone who is friendly and charismatic, and everyone seems to love them, pay close attention to their behavior and words. What do they do differently? What qualities do they have that you admire?

4. Find a Mentor or Coach

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It can be hard to learn interpersonal skills alone, so why not find a mentor or coach to work with? They can help you learn how to communicate effectively, how to resolve conflict, and how to build relationships.

A mentor or coach can also provide you with feedback and accountability, which can help you stay on track as you work to improve your interpersonal and other related job skills.

Having someone guide and support you while learning a new skill can make all the difference. 

5. Read Books On People Skills

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If you want to learn how to talk to others at work more confidently, many books will help you do just that. They cover topics from small talk, body language, successfully navigating relationships, public speaking, overcoming social anxiety, and more. 

A few good examples include Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People and Leil Lowndes’s How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships.

6. Learn How To Make Small Talk & Get Good At It

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Making small talk with someone shouldn’t be a big deal, yet we often freeze up when faced with it. The best way to learn to be a great conversationalist is to practice your skills with new people. What you talk about doesn’t matter, but choosing a subject you are both interested in is important. (You probably want to avoid politics and religion, though.)

Commenting on the weather or asking other people about their day is a great go-to conversation starter.

7. Be Approachable and Friendly

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Don’t be afraid to say hello to people and start a conversation, even if you don’t know them. If you have the urge to speak to someone new, just do it! The worst thing that can happen is they give you the cold shoulder and walk away. But who knows? Maybe you will hit it off and become friends.

8. Join a Group or Club

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If you don’t come into contact with many people throughout your day, consider finding a group and joining it. It can be job-related, like a professional association or networking group, but it doesn’t have to be. You could instead find individuals with whom you share the same interest or hobby, like a book club or a sports team.

9. Learn How to Read Body Language 

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You don’t need to be an expert at reading others, but you should know that some telltale signs give people away, especially when they’re not telling the truth. Various studies suggest that up to 90% of communication is nonverbal, so if you can learn to read body language, you’ll have a leg up on your competition.

10. Ask for Feedback

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Try different strategies when making small talk at work and ask for feedback, especially from those you already have a relationship with. Ask your colleagues and work friends how you’re doing with your people skills, and keep track of what they say. That way, if anyone gives you negative feedback, you can take the time to self-reflect on why that is happening and change your approach.

Stay open-minded about the feedback, and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you’re unsure what someone means.

You can also ask your friends or family members for constructive criticism or suggestions on how you can improve.

11. Practice, Practice, Practice

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Mastering your people skills might seem like a no-brainer, but it requires a lot of effort. You have to put certain things in place before you can expect to see any results. If you want to get off the bench and into the game, you need to prove that you’re willing to work just as hard as everyone else.

Do you know why salespeople are so good at making sales? It’s because they practice their people skills every day. They know how to read people, and they know how to sell them what they want. To be successful, you need to learn how to do the same thing.

12. Take a Class

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The Internet offers many free classes, workshops, and videos on improving and practicing interpersonal skills. A few suggestions include Developing Interpersonal Skills by IBM and Improving Communication Skills by the University of Pennsylvania, both available for free on Coursera.org. But there are many places to learn new skills for free.

13. Reflect on Your Interactions

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Reviewing your interactions with others can teach you a lot. Think about the words and phrases you used, how you reacted to the conversation, and your body language. They all affect how the interaction is perceived.

Interactions can also reveal what someone is thinking or feeling. For example, if someone is laughing a lot, they may be enjoying the conversation. If someone seems angry, they may disagree with the other person.

14. Keep Track of Your Progress

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To know how far you’ve come, you need a way to measure your growth. Make notes about what people have told you about yourself and compare that list with the original version from time to time. 

15. Work on Your Communication Skills

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Improving your communication skills will make your life a lot easier. When talking or writing, be cautious of what words you use. Ask yourself if you might be misunderstood or cause confusion; if so, make your message clearer. 

Non-verbal communication also plays a critical role in your interactions. Experts have found that a larger part of your message is communicated by non-verbal signals like body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and the pace you speak. These signals reinforce or contradict the words coming from your mouth, and they are hard to fake. 

16. Don’t Just Hear, Listen!

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Effective communication involves much more than the words you speak. There is a big difference between listening and hearing. That is why you should talk less and listen more before you react to anything. 

Pay attention to what others say, and give them your full attention. Show them you are interested in what they are saying by actively listening and not just pretending to listen while thinking about other things.

17. Set Goals

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One of the best ways to learn interpersonal skills is by setting goals for yourself and taking action to achieve them. 

For example, let’s say you want to learn to be a better listener. You could set a goal to practice listening to people for 10 minutes daily. As you work on achieving this goal, you will naturally develop the interpersonal skills necessary to be a good listener.

18. Be Patient With Yourself 

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It takes time to improve how you communicate with others. You can’t expect everything to happen overnight. If this really matters to you, stick with it, and you will continue growing.

Success Begins with People Skills

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The better your interpersonal skills are, the more likely you are to be successful in various areas of life, such as your career, personal life, and social life. While this list is by no means extensive, it’s a good start. Pick a few to incorporate into your daily routine, and you will be charming your way to success in no time!

The Top Interpersonal Skills You Need at Work

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We need people skills for everything from networking at conferences to interviewing for a new job to advancing our careers. Communicating and working well with your coworkers, customers, and managers can mean the difference between having a successful career and a failed one.

If you are looking for a way to stand out during your next interview or want to make a good impression on your boss and colleagues, be sure to focus on the top 10 interpersonal skills needed today.

Amanda Kay, the founder of My Life, I Guess, provides valuable career advice and support for anyone striving to make a living and, more importantly, make a life. Whether it's navigating job searches, learning new skills, overcoming unemployment, or dealing with debt, My Life, I Guess has been a go-to resource for career guidance and financial stability since 2013. Amanda's expertise and relatable approach have been featured in trusted publications such as MSN, Credit.com, Yahoo! Finance, the Ladders and Fairygodboss.

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