The Internet and the communication tools it brought have transformed the world irreversibly. Now, becoming social is a more important than ever. In fact, chances are you have been listening a lot about interpersonal skills lately. What but what are they, really?
Etymology and Definition
Unfortunately, there’s not a strict consensus about what are interpersonal skills. The word “interpersonal” comes from Latin, prefix inter-, meaning between, and the word persona, meaning “person;” Literally, this means “between people.” When it comes to Marketing and Business jargon, though, interpersonal communication is usually defined as how well you communicate with people around you.
Is “Interpersonal Communication” the Same as “Social Communication?”
Even though interpersonal communication means “communication between people,” it is usually seen as something very different from social skills: social communication usually refers to talking to a broad audience; interpersonal communication, however, is usually seen as something more restricted, meaning you usually talk to 3 people, at most. Nevertheless, knowing how to talk with a co-worker or boss usually leads to a better work environment (or even the promotion you’ve always wanted).
Four ways of Interpersonal Communication
Though the process of Interpersonal Communication is something extremely complex, (and, therefore, would be someone to be discussed in a book) for didactic purposes we are going to split the process into four basic, pragmatic ways so you can start to understand what interpersonal communication skills are all about:
Empathy – of all the skills, take note: this is the most important. Empathy basically means you try to think about how a friend or co-worker would feel or react about something. This allows you to “synchronize” with him/her, as if you two talked the same language. If you lack empathy, the other 3 skills are seriously compromised.
Active listening – this refers to the skill of paying attention to what your co-worker has to say. The better you are at this, the better chances are you will be heard as well.
Perceiving non-verbal language – this skill refers to how well you’re able to read the body language of a person: the better you are, the faster you can take action to know if (s)he is upset or not – and even act in advance to prevent misunderstandings. Notice, however, the even body language may vary from a culture to another, or to a gender to another, and so on. Therefore, reading the body language of a person may take some practice to truly master (for this very reason, avoid buying books about non-verbal language and then assuming every person crossing his/her arms doesn’t want to listen to what you say, please).
Assertiveness – this refers to how well you are able to evaluate someone’s requests and statements, and to express your opinions about them. Good assertiveness also means you can be firm without being rude (unless, of course, your friend / co-worker is also being rude – but that’s another story, isn’t it?).