What Is Interpersonal Communication at Work? (With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 3 January 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Interpersonal communication is an important factor in creating a positive work environment. By possessing interpersonal skills, you may have an easier time building and maintaining positive relationships with colleagues and clients. Learning what interpersonal communication at work involves may help you collaborate with others and improve your job performance. In this article, we discuss a list of interpersonal skills that can enhance your communication and provide several tips that you can use to improve them.

What is interpersonal communication at work?

Interpersonal communication at work involves interacting with your colleagues, clients or members of management. Interpersonal communication skills comprise listening to others, collaborating with your team and using nonverbal communication, like body language. This type of communication often influences a work environment, since it impacts how colleagues treat one another. For example, friendly communication may allow for a positive work environment.

Related: How to Create Collaborative Work Environment in 7 Steps

Why is it important to use interpersonal communication while working?

Interpersonal communication is important at work since it allows you to collaborate effectively with your team members. You may use these skills to work well in small groups and large groups. Often, a variety of standard business tasks require interpersonal communication to complete, like negotiating with clients or providing feedback to colleagues. For example, when giving a presentation, using interpersonal skills may help you connect with your audience and convey information clearly.

You may secure more customers by using interpersonal skills, since you can use verbal communication and active listening to ask questions about their purchasing habits. These skills may help you better address consumers' needs with empathy and compassion. Often, professionals who have strong interpersonal qualities can make effective leaders, since they have a deep understanding of how to provide effective feedback and encouragement to others.

Related: What Do Employers Look For? (Plus How to Develop Employable Skills)

Examples of interpersonal skills for work

Interpersonal communication may help your team trust one another and achieve goals. Here are several interpersonal skills that may help you perform your duties effectively:

Verbal communication

Verbal communication involves using language to interact with others and convey a message. It's important that you can speak clearly and confidently to your colleagues and clients so that you can help them understand your message. There are many factors in verbal communication, including tone of voice, rate of speaking and vocabulary. How you communicate verbally often shows your emotions, like if you're feeling calm or overwhelmed by a situation.

You may use a different tone and vocabulary depending on the situation. For example, if you're giving a presentation to stakeholders, you may use a formal tone and professional language. If you're speaking with a colleague, though, you may use an informal tone and friendly language.

Related: 4 Types of Communicators and How They Fit in the Workplace

Active listening

Active listening is the ability to pay full attention to someone when they speak and to understand what they're saying. It involves engaging with the speaker through subtle cues, such as eye contact and smiling. Active listening also involves paying attention to the speaker's body language. By observing their nonverbal cues, you may better understand the message they're conveying. Ask and answer questions to show that you're listening and interested.

Active listening is important for communicating effectively and preventing misunderstandings at work. It allows you to understand the instructions your colleagues or manager give you. It can also encourage colleagues to share their ideas and collaborate.

Related: How to Improve Your Communication Skills at Work in 10 Steps

Body language

Your body language is any nonverbal cues that take place during a conversation. Your posture, expressions and gestures may reveal your internal thoughts. You may also better understand the speaker by observing their body language. When communicating with colleagues, practise open body language to encourage trust and positivity. Open body language includes nodding, maintaining eye contact, smiling and having a relaxed demeanour. Avoid closed body language such as crossed arms, restless behaviour and shifting your eyes, which may cause you to appear distracted or dishonest.

Empathy

Empathy, also known as emotional intelligence, is the ability to understand others' emotions, needs and ideas from their point of view. People who are empathetic have awareness and compassion when communicating. Empathy in the workplace can be good for morale and productivity and can help prevent misunderstandings between employees. By showing empathy, you're more likely to gain your colleagues' trust and respect. You can try practising empathy by asking others about their workday or a project they're working on. This way, you may relate to any challenges they're facing by sharing your own experience with a similar situation.

Conflict resolution

You can use your interpersonal communication skills to help resolve issues and disagreements in the workplace, whether they involve you and a colleague or other parties. This might involve skills such as negotiation, persuasion and understanding both sides of the argument. Listen closely to everyone involved and try to find a solution that benefits everyone. Good conflict resolution skills can lead to a more positive and collaborative work environment. They can also earn you respect and trust from your colleagues.

Related: Earn Respect With 7 Conflict Resolution Strategies for Work

Teamwork

Groups of employees who can communicate and work well together have a better chance of success and achieving common goals. Being a team player can help you avoid conflict and improve productivity. Do so by offering to help your colleagues and asking them for their feedback and ideas. Be encouraging and optimistic when working on projects or participating in meetings.

Tips to improve interpersonal skills

Here are some ideas to help you improve your interpersonal skills:

Limit distractions

When communicating with colleagues and clients, it's important to focus on them as they speak. By doing so, you may build trust with them and understand them more clearly. Consider turning your phone off during conversations so that you can give your full attention to your colleague or client. You may also meet with colleagues in a private setting to limit external distractions.

Observe your colleagues

It may be useful to observe your colleague's interpersonal skills to see how they interact with others. Try observing them as they interact with other colleagues, meet with clients or speak with management. This may give you ideas about how to conduct yourself in various workplace situations.

You may also watch company leaders conduct themselves in management situations, like when providing feedback to others. Review the body language they use while communicating, and try to listen to the professional language they use while speaking. Take notes about how they engage the team member and the tone of voice they use throughout the conversation. Then, you can apply these interpersonal traits to your own workplace interactions.

Practise meeting new people

Try meeting new people so that you may practise your interpersonal communication skills. Consider joining a club where you may meet individuals that share similar interests as you. You may also join a professional organisation where you can meet other individuals in your industry. Observe how others communicate and behave in these settings. Strengthen your skills by listening to others, asking questions and using body language to show your interest in these conversations.

Find a mentor

Ask an individual you respect or admire to help you improve your interpersonal skills. A mentor may help you identify areas of improvement in your interpersonal skills. A mentor can be a trusted colleague, a current or former employer or professor, a family member or anyone you admire. You can also consider hiring a professional career or communication coach to advise you about ways to improve.

Record yourself

Use a video or voice recorder to tape yourself speaking, then watch or listen to it to identify where you can improve your communication skills. Note things you would like to change or develop, such as your tone of voice, speed of talking, expression, word choice or body language. Then, set goals to focus on certain skills, such as improving your eye contact or having more open body language. Take recordings periodically so you can assess your progress.

Role-play work scenarios with a friend

You may consider role-playing potential work scenarios with a trusted friend to help you practise your interpersonal skills. During these exercises, practise how to respond and what body language to use in common workplace situations. Consider several scenarios that you may act out with a friend, then ask them for advice on how you can improve your communication style. Here are some situations that you may want to role-play to improve your interpersonal skills:

  • handling conflict with a colleague

  • giving a presentation on an industry-related topic

  • asking a colleague if they may benefit from extra help on a project

  • speaking on the phone to a client

  • listening to a colleague speak

  • collaborating on a group project

  • explaining a topic or giving instructions to team members

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