Interpersonal communication skills at the workplace-part 1

Corporate workers having a discussion outside their office

By Ainul Haliza Binti Abdul Hair, Lecturer, School of American Degree Program

Interpersonal communication is the process of sharing ideas and emotions verbally and non-verbally with another person. It allows us to interact with and understand others in our personal and professional lives. In the workplace, hiring managers often look for employees with strong interpersonal skills who will collaborate and communicate well with their colleagues.

It often includes face-to-face exchange of information, in the form of voice, facial expressions, body language and gestures. The level of one’s interpersonal communication skills is measured through the effectiveness of transferring messages to others.

In this article, we will discuss the importance of interpersonal communication skills in your career and how to improve them.

Research on Career Addict (July 2020) shows that on a scale of one to five, managers rate the importance of having good communication skills at 4.37, just below the ability to work in teams.

Even though most workplace business is now conducted through online communication channels, it is still necessary to possess verbal skills in order to work effectively with your colleagues and bosses. Interpersonal skills are crucial for business success.

Elements of Interpersonal Communication

Interpersonal communication can also be divided into subskills. Effective communication in the workplace relies on each of the following elements:

  1. Communication

Perhaps the most important interpersonal skill in any job is the ability to communicate well. Whether you are hiring for IT, customer service, real estate, or any other industry, your workers must be able to express clearly and effectively with others both verbally and in writing.

Different job roles will require expertise in diverse forms of communication. For service-centric jobs, verbal communication is a must. Similarly, an executive-based job calls for excellent verbal and non-verbal skills.

There are generally three types of communication.

  • Verbal – Here, your employees will have to interact with clients, customers, or teammates. Thus you must ensure they are good at one-to-one conversations and have the ability to close deals with clients by portraying their communication skills.
  • Nonverbal – E-mails, case studies and reports are some of the forms of nonverbal communication, and one must ensure that employees are trained in writing etiquettes. Having this skill ensures proper conduct at the workplace.
  • Public speaking – Addressing a large audience or group of people requires tremendous communication skills, and only a few charismatic personalities can excel at this. If the job requires such skills, you must choose the best person who is able to capture a crowd with a convincing speech.
  1. Problem-solving and decision-making

One of the best ways to maintain professional relationships is through effective problem-solving and decision-making. Both of these skills align team members towards a common goal. If leaders are unable to take the steps necessary to solve problems and make the right decisions for the team, a business cannot function successfully.

  1. Listening

Strong listening skills are invaluable for business professionals. They help individuals to understand sent messages and to act accordingly. If a manager provides instructions but team members are unable to listen and synthesise the information, problems will arise that can derail projects and cause negative consequences.

  1. Assertiveness

A commonly undervalued element of interpersonal communication is assertiveness. The ability to influence others helps leaders drive the team towards a common goal. Being willing to take charge and effect change is one of the hallmarks of a business leader.

  1. Negotiation

This skill is a key element in conflict resolution. Finding common ground and identifying shared goals can help business professionals work effectively with others.

  1. Leadership

Leadership qualities are not limited to a managerial position. Even a regular employee can display the ability to be a natural leader. Such an employee will be motivating, an excellent collaborator, and will put the team’s success above other things. You must ensure that you look for leadership experience in job applicants, and that involves an encouraging nature, the ability to inspire trust, the ability to instruct, management skills, motivation skills, and positive reinforcement.

A significant part of being a competent manager, employee or colleague is empathising with others. Empathy is a quality every employer must look for in their new hires. For example, if a customer or colleague complains for any reason, employees and managers must listen to their concerns thoughtfully by expressing compassion towards their issues. An empathetic person is able to become a better team member and also promotes better team dynamics. Empathy is an important skill which helps workers interact with other people at the workplace by showing care, compassion, diplomacy, diversity and inclusion, kindness, patience, respect, sensitivity and sympathy.

7. Conflict Management

No matter if you are hiring a manager or an employee, they will likely need to face conflicts at some point in their job. Whether the issue is between two staff members, between yourself and the employee, or between the client and company, you must ensure that your employees will listen carefully to both sides and use creative problem-solving to arrive at a solution. It involves conflict resolution, constructive criticism, counselling, mediating and problem-solving.

8. Teamwork

When it comes to interpersonal skills, teamwork plays a pivotal role. Even if the job requires independent work, employees still need to collaborate with others. Teamwork functions with good communication, listening to others, motivation from peers, and resolving conflicts collaboratively. A good team helps promote good company culture and a respectful work environment as it allows collaboration, group facilitation and team building opportunities.

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