Interpersonal communication is one of the five interdependent ‘soft skills’ considered essential in enabling the qualities, behaviours and attributes necessary to succeed in the workplace:
- Communication and interpersonal skills
- Time and self-management
- Decision-making and initiative-taking
- Taking responsibility
‘Soft skills’ were so-called because they were considered less demanding, less important than the ‘hard skills’ of academic theory, specialist knowledge or technical know-how. It seemed that ‘soft’ skills required less effort, these were skills which could be ‘picked-up’ as an incidental – while focusing mainly on the critical ‘hard’ skills.
Anyone who has experience of giving feedback on poor performance, managing personality clashes within the team, working under pressure to meet tight deadlines, following-through on tough decisions…will know that there is nothing ‘soft’ about soft skills.
And good communication is not just about managing challenging one-off events. Showing respect, building trust, creating a positive work environment, valuing the contributions of team members, generating confidence …all of these activities, like culture change, need daily commitment and nurturing. Neither is the communication all one-way; good leaders know that effective communication is as much about understanding the other person’s frame of reference as articulating our own. This requires a conscious effort as well as language expertise, the ability to listen as well as talk.
In addition to knowing how to use language effectively and listen attentively, effective interpersonal skills also draw on our Emotional Intelligence. There is so much emotion present in the workplace – jealousy, disappointment, anxiety, happiness, anger, enthusiasm, frustration, pride, love… People’s feelings about their organisation, the leadership, their team, their line manager, their own personal growth, their well-being…have a direct impact – not only on the happiness and success of the individual but on the whole organization. Acknowledging and managing these feelings – in others, in ourselves – can be by turns joyous and challenging…and yet, building on positive emotions and addressing potentially destructive negative emotions enables individuals and teams to find new solutions, build resilience, celebrate achievements, move forward.
Communicating with each other can be demanding – intellectually, emotionally, even physically. Effective interpersonal communication draws on all our intelligences – Emotional (EQ), Cultural (CQ), Political (PQ), Social (SQ) as well as our IQ! Managing the complexity of language is every bit as technical as the so-called ‘hard’ skills – and, like the hard skills, it can be learnt, practised and further enhanced.
Which communication challenges are you facing now? Dialogue Links offers practical strategies for developing and enhancing interpersonal skills to create high-performing teams in which colleagues feel confident and valued.