Interpersonal Skills for Work

How This Skill Set Can Help Your Career

Using interpersonal skills at work
••• Erik Von Weber

Interpersonal skills, a set of soft skills, allows us to interact with other individuals. They are sometimes called "people skills." Verbal communication and listening skills are at the foundation of interpersonal skills, but they go beyond our ability to use words to share information.

This skill set also includes being able to negotiate, persuade, and instruct people as well as coordinate our actions with them and read their body language, also known as non-verbal cues. The ability to sympathize and empathize with others, and know when something will offend someone are also interpersonal skills.

How to Develop Excellent Interpersonal Skills

You may think interpersonal skills are only necessary if your job involves helping other people, persuading them to do or buy something, or managing them. As long as you interact with people in any capacity—that could mean merely working side-by-side with them—interpersonal skills are essential and will contribute to your success in any career. They allow you to get along with our coworkers and bosses, serve your clients and customers (or patients) well, function as a member of a team, take direction from your superiors, and they contribute to your leadership qualities.

Not everyone is born with adequate interpersonal skills, but there are ways to improve them. Put yourself into situations that involve interacting with other people. The practice will be helpful. Students should join extracurricular organizations and graduates can become active in community groups. Practice listening and talking to other members, and observing their responses. Volunteer to work on projects. An internship or part-time job will teach you how to interact with customers and coworkers.

The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become, and your interpersonal skills will, over time, improve.

Careers That Require Strong Interpersonal Skills

While excellent interpersonal skills are beneficial in most occupations, some absolutely require this skill set. Let's look at some of them:

  • Chief Executive Officer: Chief executive officers, commonly called CEOs, direct entities toward future success. Included in this mission are setting goals, developing and implementing strategies, coordinating senior staff, and reporting to boards of directors.
  • School Principal: School principals oversee all the activities in elementary, middle, and high schools. They coordinate the entire faculty and must interact with students and their parents.
  • Clinical PsychologistPsychologists diagnose and treat patients' mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders. They need to communicate with their patients and coordinate their treatment with family members and health care professionals.
  • Marriage and Family Therapist: Marriage and family therapists treat mental, emotional, and relationship problems. They work with couples and families, as well as individuals. 
  • ClergyMembers of the clergy, in addition to conducting religious services and leading religious education programs, provide spiritual guidance to their congregants.
  • Marketing Manager: Marketing managers direct teams that develop companies' marketing strategies.
  • Human Resources Specialist: After identifying their employers' needs, human resources specialists help find job candidates who are likely to fulfill them. They must be able to gather information through their interviews with applicants.
  • Special AgentSpecial agents determine whether individuals or businesses have violated local, state, or federal laws. They gather evidence and interview suspects, victims, and witnesses.
  • Chef and Head CookChefs and head cooks, in addition to preparing food, oversee the management of dining establishments. This job includes supervising other culinary workers.
  • Dentist: Dentists first diagnose and then treat problems with their patients' teeth and mouth tissue. They must establish rapport with them and their staff, including dental hygienists and assistants.
  • NannyNannies care for children. They usually work for individual families and must oversee the lives of the children under their watch and also interact with their parents, other relatives, teachers, and friends' parents.
  • Psychiatric AidePsychiatric aides help patients in mental healthcare facilities. They keep patients safe and comfortable by monitoring their behavior, serving them meals, and assisting with tasks of daily living.
  • Teacher: Teachers instruct nursery, elementary, and secondary school students, helping them learn and apply concepts in a variety of subjects.
  • Environmental EngineerEnvironmental engineers solve problems with the environment including pollution, waste disposal, and the depletion of natural resources. They collaborate with other engineers and scientists.
  • Probation OfficerProbation officers rehabilitate individuals who have been convicted of crimes but received probation instead of jail or prison time. They monitor their clients and try to keep them from getting into trouble.
  • Dietitian or Nutritionist: Dietitians and nutritionists plan dietary programs and supervise food preparation. They advise individuals and groups about healthy eating.
  • Athletic CoachCoaches train individuals and teams to compete in sports. They work with professional and amateur athletes.
  • Art DirectorArt directors oversee the visual style of publications; television, movie and live productions; advertisements; and product packaging. They coordinate the efforts of the individuals whose work makes up the final products. 
  • ChoreographerAfter creating dances, choreographers instruct the dancers who will perform them. 
  • Nurse (Registered or Licensed Practical): Nurses care for patients in healthcare facilities. Registered nurses (RNs) educate patients and their families about medical conditions. They also supervise licensed practical nurses (LPNs).
  • Financial AdvisorFinancial advisors help clients plan for their retirements, children's educational expenses, and other financial goals.
  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) or ParamedicEMTs and paramedics administer emergency medical care to patients who are injured or have suddenly become ill. They receive information from and convey it to patients, their families, and witnesses.