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8 Interpersonal Skills to Get You Ahead of Your Peers

It really does pay to be nice

Smiling woman looking at the camera

People tend to spend a majority of time in a job search and in their careers focusing on hard skills that qualify them for certain titles or positions. Hard skills are those technical skills, such as data analytics or coding or technical writing, that we usually acquire through school, on-the-job experience, and specific training.

While hard skills are important and will help in landing an interview or completing daily work tasks, the often-overlooked soft skills are equally, if not even more, important.

Soft skills include interpersonal skills—all the qualities and behaviors a person needs to communicate within the workplace and be successful collaborating with others to perform well in his/her position.

Why do I need interpersonal skills?

While technical skills may provide a good start, interpersonal skills are what will set you apart from colleagues and set you up for success in your career. In fact, in a 2016 survey, 93 percent of employers said that soft skills were either essential or a very important factor in hiring decisions.

Understanding human behavior and fostering relationships at work makes you relatable and helps build trust among your coworkers and executives within the company.

So, let’s get down to business and start prepping for success.   

8 interpersonal skills to practice at work to grow your career

1. Self-awareness

It’s essential to take some time to reflect on your own feelings and unique character traits to develop a sense of self-awareness.

Self-examination can help you to understand the circumstances that make you happy or sad, how you react to stress of confrontation, what gives you energy and what depletes you, how you handle lazy coworkers or favoritism, the types of people you connect best with, or how you most successfully handle problems.

So the next time something stressful, you can catch yourself before you react negatively. The next time you’re praised for good work, you can remember to give some credit to the team that helped you.

Read more: Emotionally Intelligent Leaders Are the New Successful CEOs

2. Confidence

Who would you want to align yourself with, someone who meekly agrees with the majority and perpetuates the status quo, or someone who stands up and voices their opinion with confidence and compassion? Confidence shows that you know your self-worth and understand your own capabilities.

In the workplace, confidence heightens others’ opinions of you and gives your ideas a greater chance of being heard, allowing for more growth in your career.

Confidence can be tough to develop. You can begin by seeking out tasks where you succeed or feel empowered, or sit down and make a list of your skills, accomplishments, and positive character traits.

3. A good attitude

Attitudes are contagious, especially when you work closely with the same coworkers every day. No matter how you are feeling on a given day, it is important to foster and maintain a good attitude in the workplace. This doesn’t mean you need to develop an air of sunshine and good vibes if that’s not within your personality, but it does mean choosing not to complain about circumstances and instead working through the challenge and it does mean encouraging your coworkers.

A great attitude demonstrates the capacity for good leadership and shows that you’re grateful for your position and are putting in your best effort. Most likely your coworkers, and especially your boss, will catch on to your optimism and want to follow your lead.  

4. The ability to develop and manage relationships

It doesn’t take much effort to say good morning or ask a coworker to join you for lunch. These small acts can go a long way in developing relationships and building trust with colleagues.

Striking up healthy relationships with your coworkers beyond just work matters is important for developing your network, creating allies in the office, lifting morale, and getting really good work done. You can start with some simple office chatter about the weekend or a colleague’s upcoming vacation. Ask about your officemate’s kids or ask them if they’d like to run across the street for a coffee.

5. Respect

When we’re under stress, our basic manners can slip. You can work on this interpersonal skill with the simple practice of saying please and thank you. Remember to be conscious of others’ time, their needs and their schedules. Treat the desk receptionist with the same level of respect as you would the CEO.

Respect also entails awareness of how your emotions come off through your body language and actions. Don’t roll your eyes, don’t interrupt colleagues, don’t show up late to meetings, don’t pass the buck.

6. Listening skills

Listen to what others have to say. Not only is this a sign of respect, it helps you better understand where people are coming from and the way they think through problems

Listening carefully can also lead to more work efficiency, less time spent re-doing tasks, and eliminate the need for multiple conversations on the same topic.

7. Cooperation

Cooperation is about working together for a common goal, not furthering your own personal agenda.

No matter what job or field you find yourself in, you will inevitably have to work in a team or collaborate with others at some point, sometimes all day, every day. Cooperating with others and exhibiting understanding for the ideas of those around you is an excellent interpersonal skill to develop and shows potential for leadership.

If you can’t work within a group, it is unlikely you will find yourself moving forward in a career, despite exceptional skills in other areas.

8. Conflict management

The way in which you conduct yourself when things go wrong says a lot about who you are as a person. Are you reactive and defensive? Do you immediately look to blame someone else? Do you carefully listen to what’s being said and try to get to the root of the issue?

Each conflict at work requires a unique management approach, and according to the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, there are five options to choose from: competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding, or accommodating.

Want to develop this skill? We got you: Boost Your Conflict Management Style (with a Little Help from the Office)

How to show off your interpersonal skills on your resume

Unlike technical skills, it’s hard to convey to employers your achieved level of interpersonal skills, since there are no tests to assess these kinds of qualities, no certifications or licenses to list.  

To add these skills to your resume or cover letter, avoid using fluffy phrases like I’m a people person or I’m an effective conflict manager—you’ll need to show, not tell. 

You can demonstrate your interpersonal skills on your resume by providing specific examples of how you applied those skills for a positive outcome. 

  • Collaborated with a large team to successfully meet client deadlines, typically ahead of schedule by at least three days

  • Effectively managed conflict between creative and business departments to create products that delivered 20 percent more revenue for the company 

  • Managed and led a team of four people by building trust and establishing ongoing relationships to work toward a mutual goal

  • Created an office-wide initiative to decrease our carbon footprint. Turned a reluctant group of three into an enthusiastic team of twenty

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By Megan Hageman


Megan Hageman is a Columbus-based freelance writer specializing in social media and content marketing.

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