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Developing Interpersonal Skills


After reading this segment, you will be able to:

• Work harmoniously with others

• Evaluate and accept responsibilities
• Identify methods you use to respond to conflict
• Work in teams more efficiently

You may be accustomed to doing things on your own, but sometimes “two
heads are better than one.” Considering the ideas of co-workers, even if they
are different from yours, leads to creative and effective approaches to solving
problems and getting work done.

Employers appreciate employees who get along with people at all levels;
therefore, they seek employees who have good interpersonal skills, such as
communication, problem solving, and teamwork abilities. Interpersonal skills
enable you to work with others harmoniously and efficiently.

Working well with others involves understanding and appreciating individual

differences. It also means using those differences to your best advantage.

Follow these links to find out more about various interpersonal skills:

Developing Assertive Approaches

Accepting Responsibilities

Resolving Conflicts

Working in Teams

Ten Ways to Improve Your Interpersonal Skills

Don’t discount the importance of interpersonal skills in the workplace. How

you are perceived by your manager and coworkers plays a large role in things
as minor as your day-to-day happiness at the

No matter how hard you work or how many brilliant ideas you may have, if
you can’t connect with the people who work around you, your professional life
will suffer. The good news is that there are several concrete things that you
can do to improve your social skills and become closer to your colleagues. All
of these tools will ultimately help you succeed in today’s working world.

Try these 10 helpful tips for improving your interpersonal skills:

1. Smile. Few people want to be around someone who is always down in

the dumps. Do your best to be friendly and upbeat with your coworkers.
Maintain a positive, cheerful attitude about work and about life. Smile
often. The positive energy you radiate will draw others to you.
2. Be appreciative. Find one positive thing about everyone you work with
and let them hear it. Be generous with praise and kind words of
encouragement. Say thank you when someone helps you. Make
colleagues feel welcome when they call or stop by your office. If you let
others know that they are appreciated, they’ll want to give you their
3. Pay attention to others. Observe what’s going on in other people’s
lives. Acknowledge their happy milestones, and express concern and
sympathy for difficult situations such as an illness or death. Make eye
contact and address people by their first names. Ask others for their
4. Practice active listening. To actively listen is to demonstrate that you
intend to hear and understand another’s point of view. It means
restating, in your own words, what the other person has said. In this
way, you know that you understood their meaning and they know that
your responses are more than lip service. Your coworkers will appreciate
knowing that you really do listen to what they have to say.
5. Bring people together. Create an environment that encourages
others to work together. Treat everyone equally, and don't play
favorites. Avoid talking about others behind their backs. Follow up on
other people's suggestions or requests. When you make a statement or
announcement, check to see that you have been understood. If folks see
you as someone solid and fair, they will grow to trust you.
6. Resolve conflicts. Take a step beyond simply bringing people
together, and become someone who resolves conflicts when they arise.
Learn how to be an effective mediator. If coworkers bicker over personal
or professional disagreements, arrange to sit down with both parties and

help sort out their differences. By taking on such a leadership role, you
will garner respect and admiration from those around you.
7. Communicate clearly. Pay close attention to both what you say and
how you say it. A clear and effective communicator avoids
misunderstandings with coworkers, collegues, and associates. Verbal
eloquence projects an image of intelligence and maturity, no matter
what your age. If you tend to blurt out anything that comes to mind,
people won’t put much weight on your words or opinions.
8. Humor them. Don’t be afraid to be funny or clever. Most people are
drawn to a person that can make them laugh. Use your sense of humor
as an effective tool to lower barriers and gain people’s affection.
9. See it from their side. Empathy means being able to put yourself in
someone else’s shoes and understand how they feel. Try to view
situations and responses from another person’s perspective. This can be
accomplished through staying in touch with your own emotions; those
who are cut off from their own feelings are often unable to empathize
with others.
10. Don't complain. There is nothing worse than a chronic complainer or
whiner. If you simply have to vent about something, save it for your
diary. If you must verbalize your grievances, vent to your personal
friends and family, and keep it short. Spare those around you, or else
you’ll get a bad reputation.

Inter - Personal Skills
The ability to have authentic relationships with people that result in win-win
outcomes. People with interpersonal skills are appropriately assertive and
have the potential of being able to communicate with people on the right
wavelength. When working with people, either singly or in groups and teams,
they consistently secure high levels of agreement and commitment.

Inter-personal skills are a crucially important capability in a world where

people are caught up in new technologies, suffering from information overload
and lack of human warmth and emotional intelligence.


• Safeguard your rights in a way that doesn't violate other people's rights
• Express yourself in ways that are clear and unambiguous
• Be open and honest about your motives and intentions.


• Encourage open communication within your organization

• Speak more effectively
• Pay attention to body language to improve your verbal and listening
• Employ 'active listening' skills to aid understanding of the message
being conveyed
• Write in a concise, informative, clear and relevant manner.

Face-to-Face Skills

• Convey clearly what you want to achieve and how

• Generate the reactions you want from other people
• Help you to respond to people's behavior appropriately
• Keep the interaction moving towards a successful conclusion.


• Elicit information, understanding and trust from the influence with

questioning techniques
• Reason with the person you seek to influence in order to help them see
the logic and benefits of your proposals
• Use clear verbal behavior to ensure that your proposals are easy to
understand and attractive to the person you are trying to influence
• Use positive body language to reassure people, as well as observe other
people's body language for clues as to how they feel and what they are

• Involving the other party and their interests in the decision-making

• Planning how you will conduct your negotiations, e.g. logistics for the
meeting, preparing proposals and counter-proposals
• Remaining focused on what you want to achieve from the negotiations,
rather than on bargaining positions or people's behavior
• Standing your ground when faced with difficult opponents and
intimidatory tactics.

Team working

• Become an enthusiastic, committed team member

• Behave in ways that enhance the performance of the teams to which
you belong
• Participate fully in team discussions
• Play your part in creating a supportive team spirit.

Assertiveness in the Workplace

Answer the statements using the following rating system:

.. 4
1 Never
. Usually
.. 5
2 Rarely
. Always
3 ..
Sometimes .

1. can say no to high-pressure sales people __________

2. I can return defective merchandise to the store __________

3. I can speak out if someone butts in front of me in line __________

4. I can listen to someone point out a mistake I made without becoming

defensive or upset __________

5. I can speak in front of a group without undue anxiety __________

6. I can complain about an unreasonable workload __________

7. I can maintain my point of view in the face of a disagreement from an

aggressive, opinionated person __________

8. I am able to negotiate salary increases, changes in job title or function


9. I am able to ask questions and request further information without fear

of sounding stupid or incompetent __________

10. Can object when I feel I am being treated unfairly __________

11. I can stand up for my rights when someone in authority is rude or

unreasonable __________

12. I can insist that my landlord (mechanic, repairman, etc) make repairs,
adjustments or replacements, which are his/her responsibility __________

13. I can request the return of borrowed money or items without being
apologetic __________

14. When I need help or a favour from a friend, I can ask directly for what I
want rather than using indirect means like hinting __________

15. I can make the first move towards beginning a friendship with someone I
am getting to know __________

16. I can refuse to do something I don't feel like doing, without feeling guilty

17. I am able to openly express love and affection __________

18. I can ask my roommate/spouse to take on a fairer share of the

household chores __________

19. I can say no to the demands of close friends and relatives that I do
things their way __________

20. When someone does something that bothers me I am able to express

my feelings __________

21. I can accept a compliment graciously without discounting it in my own

mind __________

22. I can accept my own mistakes and imperfections __________

23. I can make my own decisions and feel good about them __________

24. I am (or would be) a good model of assertiveness for my own child


Total your scores to assess how assertive you are in each area:

95 -
... Assertive
75 - 95 ... Moderately Assertive
50 - 75 ...
... Need Practice

Assertive Versus Unassertive and
Aggressive Behavior
Many people are concerned that if they assert themselves others will think of
their behavior as aggressive. But there is a difference between being assertive
and aggressive.

Assertive people state their opinions, while still being respectful of others.
Aggressive people attack or ignore others' opinions in favor of their own.
Passive people don't state their opinions at all.

The chart below gives some examples of the differences between passive,
aggressive, and assertive behavior.

Differences Between Passive, Aggressive, and Assertive Behavior. Passive

Behavior (The Passive Person) -- Aggressive Behavior (The Aggressive Person)
-- Assertive Behavior (The Assertive Person).

Passive Behavior: Is afraid to speak up

Aggressive Behavior: Interrupts and 'talks over' others
Assertive Behavior: Speaks openly

Passive Behavior: Speaks softly
Aggressive Behavior: Speaks loudly
Assertive Behavior: Uses a conversational tone

Passive Behavior: Avoids looking at people

Aggressive Behavior: Glares and stares at others
Assertive Behavior: Makes good eye contact

Passive Behavior: Shows little or no expression

Aggressive Behavior: Intimidates others with expressions
Assertive Behavior: Shows expressions that match the message

Passive Behavior: Slouches and withdraws

Aggressive Behavior: Stands rigidly, crosses arms, invades others' personal
Assertive Behavior: Relaxes and adopts an open posture and expressions

Passive Behavior: Isolates self from groups

Aggressive Behavior: Controls groups
Assertive Behavior: Participates in groups

Passive Behavior: Agrees with others, despite feelings

Aggressive Behavior: Only considers own feelings, and/or demands of others
Assertive Behavior: Speaks to the point

Passive Behavior: Values self less than others

Aggressive Behavior: Values self more than others
Assertive Behavior: Values self equal to others

Passive Behavior: Hurts self to avoid hurting others

Aggressive Behavior: Hurts others to avoid being hurt
Assertive Behavior: Tries to hurt no one (including self)

Passive Behavior: Does not reach goals and may not know goals
Aggressive Behavior: Reaches goals but hurts others in the process
Assertive Behavior: Usually reaches goals without alienating others

Passive Behavior: You're okay, I'm not

Aggressive Behavior: I'm okay, you're not
Assertive Behavior: I'm okay, you're okay

Tips for Behaving More Assertively
If you want to be more assertive, but aren't sure how, here are some tips to
get you started. But remember, the best way to become more assertive is
through practice. Visit the Role Playing and Sample Situations section of this
course for some test cases and try practicing with friends, family, or

Speak up when you have an idea or opinion.

This is one of the biggest steps toward being more assertive and can be easier
than you think. It may be as simple as raising your hand in class when you
know the answer to a question, suggesting a change to your boss or
coworkers, or offering an opinion at a party (even if it's just your opinion of a
new movie or book.)

Stand up for your opinions and stick to them.

It can be a little harder to express opinions and stick to them when you know
that others may disagree, but try to avoid being influenced by others' opinions
just out of the desire to fit in. You may change your mind when someone
presents a rational argument that makes you see things in a new light, but
you shouldn't feel a need to change your mind just because you're afraid of
what others may think. Like as not, you'll gain more respect for standing up
for yourself than you will for not taking a stand.

Make requests and ask for favors.

Most people find it hard to ask for help when they need it, but people don't
always offer without being asked. As long as your requests are reasonable (for
example, "Would you mind holding the door while I carry my suitcase to the
car?" as opposed to "Would you mind carrying my suitcase to the car while I
hang out and watch TV?") most people are
willing to help out. If your requests are
reasonable (meaning, would you agree or
respond kindly if someone asked the same of
you?), don't feel bad about asking.

Refuse requests if they are

It's perfectly appropriate to turn down
requests if they are unreasonable or if you
don't have the time or resources. For example, if someone asks you to do
something that makes you feel uncomfortable or you think is wrong, it's fine to
simply say no ("I'm sorry but I don't feel right doing that" or "I'm sorry but I
can't help you with that.") It's also fine to turn down someone if you feel
overwhelmed. If you are concerned that you aren't being fair to others, ask if
their favors are fair to you (would you ask the same of them? would you
expect them to say yes every time?) You can always offer to help in the future
or help in another way ("I'm sorry but I don't have time to help you with that
today, but I could help you tomorrow" or "I won't write your report for you, but
I'd be happy to talk to you about it and read it over when you're done.") As
long as you don't turn down every request that comes your way, you shouldn't
feel guilty.

Accept both compliments and feedback.

Accepting compliments seems easy, but people often make little of them
because they are embarrassed ("Oh it was nothing" or "It's not a big deal".)
But don't make less of your accomplishments. It's fine to simply say "thank
you" when people give you compliments -- just don't chime in and begin
complimenting yourself or you'll lose their admiration pretty quickly! ("You're
right, I AM great!") Similarly, be prepared to accept feedback from others that
may not always be positive. While no one needs to accept unwarranted or
insulting advice, if someone gives you helpful advice in the right context, try
to accept it graciously and act upon it. Accepting feedback (and learning from
it) will often earn you respect and future compliments.

Question rules or traditions that don't make

sense or don't seem fair.
Just because something 'has always been that way' doesn't mean it's fair. If
you feel a tradition or rule is unfair to you or others, don't be afraid to speak
up and question why that rule exists. Rather than break a rule or law, find out
the reasoning behind it. If you still think it's wrong, talk to friends or
coworkers, work with counselors and legislators, and see if there is a way to
change it. While some rules are less flexible and should be respected (for
example, a family's decision not to allow cigarette smoking in their house or
the state laws about drunk driving), others may be open to debate (for
example, why a public place doesn't have wheelchair access or your school
computers aren't compatible with assistive technology.)

Insist that your rights be respected.

While you want to choose your battles carefully (the right to equal pay in the
workplace is probably more important than your right to wear your Hawaiian
T-shirt to work on Fridays), you do have basic rights that you should feel

comfortable standing up for. Some of these rights may be guaranteed you
under law, such as your medical, employment, and educational rights. Other
rights may involve basic courtesy - such as the right to be treated fairly,
equally, and politely by friends, coworkers, and family.

Accepting Responsibilities
Accepting responsibilities that go along with your career can help you to
advance in your profession. The responsibilities you will be facing at work
consist of

• responsibilities that come with the job,

• responsibilities that you voluntarily assume, and
• responsibilities that arise from a situation.

Usual Work Responsibilities

Your everyday work responsibilities should be clearly described to you upon
being hired. These responsibilities will vary from career to career; however,
overall they consist of tasks that get work completed and objectives met for
the employer.

Your entry-level position may cover a wide range of duties, so if you are asked
to perform a duty that is not in your job description, check with a mentor or
friend. It is better to say refuse to do the work than to repeatedly perform
poorly or to complete a task that is someone else’s responsibility.

• If you are not sure how a duty should be performed, always ask for
• If you make an error, take ownership for the error; it is a sign of growth
and maturity.
• If someone corrects your error, you should show appreciation and not
feel threatened.

Accepting additional responsibilities can
be done voluntarily or involuntarily. In
most realistic work situations, you will be
asked to accept responsibilities that are
not included in your job description.
Handling these requests in a positive and
assertive manner can lead to career

By taking on additional responsibilities, you can

• learn new skills,

• improve your chances for advancement,
• make a positive contribution to the department and company,
• assist a co-worker, and
• help meet deadlines.

New skills and additional responsibilities can always be added to your résumé,
thus making you more employable.

Resolving Conflicts
Conflict occurs in situations in which there is opposition. Opposition occurs
when a solution cannot be found in a disagreement. Conflict resolution
involves identifying areas of agreement and areas of compromise so that a
solution to the disagreement or conflict occurs.

Many causes of conflict arise due to miscommunication. In these situations,

your assertiveness skills are of special need. For example, active listening will
help you to hear the real message. Sometimes you hear the wrong message
due to one or more of the following factors:

• Cultural differences
• Differences of opinion
• Unclear roles or expectations
• Emotional responses to an
issue or person
• Unequal status
• Misunderstanding of the

Becoming aware of these barriers

to effective listening can allow you
to work towards focussing on the
message and the intention, rather
than on distracters.

There are five methods to handle conflict:

• Running away
• Being obliging to the other party
• Defeating the other party
• Winning a little/ losing a little
• Co-operating

Which method do you typically follow? Use the following chart to list situations
in which you use these methods.

Flee Oblige Defeat Win/Lose Co-operate

Resolving conflict is an art of communication, as are listening and trying to

come to a happy solution for everyone. Talk about what is bothering you,
listen to the other party’s explanation, and come to a solution that satisfies

both you and the other person. This usually works. Co-operation reduces
anger, stress, and frustration.

Working in Teams
The amount of work to be accomplished in today’s work environments has
increased about as fast as the technological advances have permitted. Since
the work to be done is often complex, requiring the expertise of several
individuals, teams are formed to meet deadlines, project requirements, and

Employers greatly value individuals who can work effectively in teams

because they can

• contribute efficiently to the organization’s goals,

• complete complex projects rapidly, and
• respect other team members’ thoughts and opinions.

Listen to what people have to say, and help them in any way you can.
Communicate ideas at staff meetings even if you have not fully thought the
ideas through. You may be surprised that with the ideas and creativity of your
co-workers, your idea can be brought to fruition. Consequently, you may be
asked to lead a team project; don’t hesitate to take charge when appropriate.

Bring Out the Leader in Each
If you're a business owner with a team of employees, you are a business
leader. Good leaders understand the link between happy and fulfilled
employees and satisfied customers and clients. Your employees can be a
goldmine of good ideas and creative energy, as well as your strongest
resource, provided

Here are some ways you can bring out the leader in each of your employees:

• Be an Encourager. Employees often have fresh ideas or suggestions,

but may not voice those ideas because they don't feel their manager is
interested in hearing what they have to say. Encourage your employees,
regardless of their status within your business, to contribute their ideas.
Even if you decide an employee's idea won't work, thank them for their
suggestion and encourage them to continue suggesting new ideas.
• Get Everyone Involved. Leaders who aggressively solicit ideas from
their staff usually find that doing so improves morale, which in turn
creates positive change within the business. Strive to foster a climate of
openness within your business. Attempt to engage your employees in
the innovation process, and reward them for their input with verbal
thanks and positive encouragement along the way.
• Get to Know Each Employee Personally. It's impossible to motivate
employees without first getting to know them. Make a point of having a
one-on-one meeting with each member of your staff. Once you start to

gauge the strengths of each member of your team, you can help them
develop leadership capacities that suit those strengths, as well as
strategies to improve upon any possible weaknesses.
• Reward Great Ideas. It's important to acknowledge and reward
employees whose good ideas help lead to positive changes. You may
consider establishing an award or giving a gift of recognition. Then, get
out of the employee's way and let him or her lead the development
opportunity (with your support).
• Find Their Motivation. Learn to recognize what motivates each
employee, and encourage those things in each of them. This will coax
your employees to become leaders instead of followers. With a little
perseverance, your team will begin to work collaboratively to lead the
business to success.
• Develop a Sense of Urgency. To make leaders out of your employees,
each must believe that they have an urgent and worthwhile purpose
within the organization. Establishing a sense of urgency and direction
will help them know what your expectations are, and prompt them to
take on a more meaningful role in the company today.
• Keep Your Employees Informed. Praise your employees for what
they're doing right, and inform them about what they could be doing
better. Challenge each of them to be the best they can be. Keeping your
staff informed will foster respect and help them better meet your
combined goals.
• Provide Positive Feedback. Reinforcement encourages employees to
develop their skills to their maximum potential. Use your leadership
tools — coaching, counseling, and mentoring — to help motivate them.
And walk the walk as much as you talk the talk. Failing to lead by
example can foster resentment and lead to low morale. Be sure to check
out Do As I Do: How to Lead by Example for some helpful pointers.
• Allocate Decision-Making Power. Empower your employees by giving
them the ability (within reason) to make key decisions relating to their
jobs and duties. The more faith and trust you place in them, the more
likely they will be driven to succeed and to impress you.