What are Interpersonal Skills?

This page was updated on Sunday 24th of December 2017

Interpersonal skills – you may have also heard them referred to as “soft skills” or “people skills” – have to do with the interactions of individuals and the ability to use them to achieve positive results.

It is clear that society calls interpersonal skills by a large number of names. It is just as obvious that these skills are not static but active and changeable.


Also, as interactions increasingly take place in cyberspace, e-mail etiquette and cell phone communications add new facets to the interpersonal skills you already know as communication and active listening.

What happens if you haven’t developed these social skills?

Those individuals with a well-developed set of interpersonal skills have an easier time succeeding in their professional, personal and academic lives. They get along better with their peers, they have better management skills, they are better leaders, are able to keep their cool under pressure, they can clearly express their thoughts and feelings, they can assert their position upon others if needed, and so on.

On the other hand, those who lack these abilities frequently experience failure and frustration when attempting to interact with others.

You might see this reflected in a boss who lacks leadership qualities, a confrontational coworker, a bully at school, someone who fails to engage their audience during a presentation, and who is unable to handle life’s daily situations.

While it is true that some individuals are born with an innate gift of one or more of these soft skills, it is just as accurate to say that those not so gifted may learn these skills, develop them more fully, hone and adjust them.

What can I do to start improving my Interpersonal Skills now?

We recommend you get started by getting a better grasp of the different types of interpersonal skills, how they are applied in your day-to-day activities and what you can do to improve them.

Visitors to this website tend to read the following posts first:

• How to Develop Your Interpersonal Skills
• Persuasive Skills: Getting Your Voice Heard
• Negotiation Skills
• Assertiveness: Gaining Confidence, Speaking Up
• Leadership Qualities and Styles: What Kind of Leader Are You?
• Conflict Resolution
• Communication Skills
• Helping Children Develop Interpersonal Skills
• 5 Tips for Overcoming Shyness

Signs that Interpersonal Skills are not optimized

What are telltale signs that you need to work on improving your soft skills?

- Do you have a difficult time accepting praise?
- Is it difficult for you to praise the accomplishments and good deeds of others?
- Have others commented on your timidity?
- Do you frequently feel like you do not fit in with your peer group?
- Do you tend to micromanage and find it difficult to delegate?
- Do new situations place an inordinate amount of stress on you?
- Are you insecure when around certain types of people such as authority figures or members of the opposite sex?
- Have you noticed that you are quick to tell a lie to avoid conflict of any kind?
- Do you find it easier to go along with someone else’s ideas, even if you disagree with them or have a better way of dealing with a situation?

If these situations describe some – or all – of your interactions with others, some interpersonal skill sets are either missing or not developed to their full potentials.

Also, unproductive company meetings, the inability to build a team and a failure to inspire subordinates all point to flawed soft skills in the business environment.


Another telltale sign is an otherwise highly qualified employee’s repeated inability to secure a promotion. Have you been told that you are very different from the first impression that you gave to a  coworker or supervisor? This is another sign of possibly missing interpersonal skills.

In your personal life, you have a difficult time entering into or maintaining relationships and friendships. Perhaps you are a bit of a loner. Think of the times you were tongue-tied when meeting someone new. Don’t forget the times you thought of a witty response long after an encounter is over. Delayed responses to situations are a telltale sign of incompletely developed soft skills.

Conversely, a delayed response may also point to a lack of practice with your interpersonal skills, which may point toward insecurities. As previously noted, insecurity finds its roots in skill set shortfalls, which makes it clear why actual training in this area is so important.

Finally, learning how to master your social skills is also key to improving your leadership skills.

Useful resources:
Develop Interpersonal Skills for Career Success – The Legacy Project from Cornell University
7 Things Employers Want from New Grads – US News

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