As a teacher, I learned to create different personas to fit the environment. I had to learn to communicate in ways that were deemed “correct” in various situations. My principal and AP needed a fine balance between formal and friendly. While I kept a strict line of formality, but cordialness, with my parents. With my coworkers, I could be myself and blossom in relationships. My students saw a whole different side of me though. Each “version” of me grew out of the social skills I needed to fit each situation.
Stick me in a room with each group separately, and I could work it. Mix them together, and it’s a new ball game. But a vital skill to have. Learning strong interpersonal skills and utilizing them in the office and during presentations can make or break you. Developing those skills can open doors or falter successes and create obstacles.
Does this mean I lost myself in each conversational situation? Not at all, instead, it made me a more effective communicator and strengthened my interpersonal relationships with each of them. I learned to adapt my personality. You see, interpersonal skills as an employee matter just as much if not more once you get to the leadership level.
4 (and a half) Reasons Why Interpersonal Skills Matter in the Workplace
1. By Being Yourself, You’ll Gain Trust.
Think back to your days of making friends in school. People were more drawn to you when your true colors and personality shine through. Time travel with me to little Courtney in 4th/5th grade. I was a kid with a bit of an intense personality. I was loud, hyperactive, and had slight comedic energy. During the upper elementary years, I had to switch schools and while some people enjoyed my boisterous antics, others were turned off. So, those who couldn’t take it or didn’t find me to be “their cup of tea” left me alone. Gaining friends was easy (well, easier) because my positive attitude brought in new faces. But, building those good relationships and founding them based on other good interpersonal skills kept them close.
Your uniqueness will entice new connections. Then use it to your advantage. Team members, similar to those from my elementary years, will either like you or learn to work with you cordially (and professionally). Be yourself and others will follow.
2. Listening Skills Increase Efficiency and Likeability.
You may believe that some people are born communicators. That they are gifted with charisma, poise, and the ability to charm even the most jaded of bosses. In reality, charisma, poise, and the ability to charm and communicate clearly can be developed.
Ronald Reagan was not born talking to a camera or persuading audiences to believe him. He developed important interpersonal skills. We learn while still in diapers that if we look right in the eyes of our parents, listen and repeat what we hear, and smile a lot, we will be rewarded with adoration and applause. Adults are similar creatures. There are things we just don’t grow out of. It is never too late to become adored or at least well-liked.
It’s Free to Offer Smiles
Smile, be warm, and be approachable. By smiling and having a warm disposition, it puts the receiver at ease. They disarm and bring a positive feeling to meetings. Smiles tell our bosses or potential bosses that we are open and easy to be around. Being approachable creates trust and rapport. It helps build strong relationships with colleagues.
“You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”- Benjamin Franklin
Smiling is a nonverbal cue to people that you’re nice. It’s why RBF (resting B**** face) gets such a bad rap. Or more recently, labels of a “cinnamon roll” come about. Smiling is the precursor or appetizer. It signals to people, “I’m nice.” If I were to walk into a room, plain and simple (no smile, just walk in), I likely won’t make too many connections. But, if I were to walk in smiling with an added relaxed posture, I can float around connecting with everyone. People will start talking to me, and then the true test (or use) of my social skills comes into play.
Listen, really listen and respond.
Listening is a huge compliment to the speaker. It shows respect. It says that you are interested in what he or she has to say. Most importantly, your response, based on what you just heard, gives you the opportunity to then naturally build your credibility, and create rapport. Reminisce on conversations with friends and family, they usually feel more willing to confide in someone who is a good listener. Listening both builds and strengthens healthy relationships you already have.
Think about it in terms of a job interview, the more you listen, the more you show interest in the position and the company. On the other hand, if you’re distracted or half-listening, then you show a more apathetic feeling toward the company, the interviewer’s time, and the position. (You’ll likely lose out on, by the way.) Give the interviewer eye contact, smile, and pay close attention to what is discussed. Your nonverbal communication can say just as much as your words (if not more).
Along the same lines as listening falls communication. People are busy. Give them respect by not wasting their time with excessive details. Trust me, it goes a long way. Using a lot of Ph.D. words will only bring you the label of “professor.” People hired alongside you don’t need to hear about nuclear physics or biochemistry. Their worth in the company is shown through their being hired. Trying to use “professor-like” verbiage in the work environment causes tension and people to feel belittled. Clearly and concisely communicating your ideas with common words and clarity gets buy-in and understanding. Good communication skills, like clear and concise language, create efficiency in a conversation (again, respect others’ time.)
3. Great Interpersonal Skills Create Opportunities.
Flowing into the next piece, with trust and rapport comes access or responsibility in other areas. A trusted individual becomes the go-to for problem-solving and advice. Your trust and rapport gain the perception that you’re or can be a good leader. The same essential skills asked of you to get hired by a potential employer are the same skills that leaders look for. The modern workplace is full of competent staff, but you can stand out by going even further. Good team members have cohesive, positive relationships and know how to wade through difficult situations together. That could be their professional life or communication barriers during projects.
Working through problem-solving and reaching common goals builds camaraderie. Regardless, effective teamwork comes from mutual respect gained through trust and rapport. That same teamwork plays an essential role in business success. For various reasons, poor communication can divide the workplace. A good communicator has the ability to guide team players in the correct direction. Often requiring some kind of conflict management and a calm tone of voice.
4. Your People Skills Could Land the Job Before Your Education.
In these “get a job”/“keep my job” tough economic times, being able to communicate with ease, confidence, and clarity is like holding Julia Child’s secret recipe for chocolate soufflé at a cooking contest.
In a recent survey by Accountemps (published in USA Today) People Skills proved to be the deciding factor for landing the job:
CFOs were asked, “If two candidates interviewing for an accounting or finance position had similar skills, which one of the following additional qualifications would you find most valuable?” Their responses: >Personality or people skills — 31%. Job interviews are nerve-wracking, I get it, but the more at ease you feel, the more your personality shows.
Don’t throw out the technical skills in your tool belt. This post isn’t to say education is a fluke. Your education and work ethic get you noticed, but effective interpersonal skills in the business world get you hired.
Developing people skills is like putting money in the work-relationships bank. It will pay you enough dividends that you can afford to book a table at your favorite expensive restaurant. Go ahead, order the chocolate soufflé!