Why Interpersonal Communication Is So Important at Work

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 8 November 2022 | Published 26 May 2021

Updated 8 November 2022

Published 26 May 2021

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 the exchanging of information, ideas and feelings between two or more people either verbally or non-verbally. To determine a person's interpersonal communication skills, you measure how effectively they transfer messages. In a workplace, interpersonal communication may include client and strategy meetings, job interviews and employee performance reviews. In this article, we provide examples of why interpersonal communication is important at work and discuss how to easily improve your interpersonal skills.

What are interpersonal communication skills?

Interpersonal communication skills, also known as people or soft skills, are the personality traits and characteristics we rely on when we communicate and interact with other people. We unknowingly use these skills daily when interacting face-to-face with both customers and colleagues. Here are ten examples of interpersonal communication skills:

  • Leadership

  • Teamwork

  • Strong work ethic

  • Problem-solving

  • Conflict resolution

  • Body language

  • Flexibility

  • Empathy

  • Active listening

  • Verbal communication

People may communicate these interpersonal skills to others verbally (tone of voice) or non-verbally, which can include listening and body language.

Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

Why interpersonal communication is important at work

Interpersonal communication is an important part of any workplace, especially if you work in a customer-focused role. Commonly, people with strong interpersonal communication skills can build good relationships and work well as part of a team. Therefore, employers often seek staff with impressive interpersonal communication skills because they're team players and outstanding leaders who can effectively communicate and motivate their peers. Here are a few reasons why interpersonal communication is important in the workplace:

Problem-solving

Interpersonal communication gives people the ability to better understand co-workers and customers, which leads to effective problem-solving. Excellent communication skills allow people to discuss problems, weigh the different outcomes and find the best solution for everyone involved.

Strong company culture

When employees possess good interpersonal communication skills, company culture is more synergic and positive. Alternatively, it's crucial for employers to have strong interpersonal communication to improve trust and to ensure their employees know their role in achieving business goals. Employee recognition is another important part of a strong company culture. When employers have good interpersonal relationships with employees, they're more likely to recognise great work and give constructive feedback.

Related: Guide to Company Culture

Effective leadership

Following on, effective leadership is another integral part of strong company culture and it's achieved through interpersonal communication. Good leaders incorporate interpersonal skills like empathy and patience into their decision making. Leaders also need to be able to effectively communicate and pass on the right skills to their employees so they can perform their tasks and jobs successfully and therefore achieve business goals.

Effective leadership also involves fostering solid interpersonal relationships, establishing trust and communicating clearly. Both managers and individual employees can have strong leadership skills, as employers value people who take ownership to achieve common goals.

Conflict and crisis management

Interpersonal communication is crucial to resolving conflicts in a calm and timely manner. The most successful conflict management strategies use communication to resolve stressful situations. When employees can connect and collaborate efficiently, it's much easier for organisations to communicate the impact of a crisis on both a personal and company-wide level.

Career development

Regardless of your industry, most employers look for employees with strong communication and interpersonal skills. So continuous improvement to your interpersonal communication can make a good impression and result in positive career growth and progression.

Examples of important workplace interpersonal communication skills

Good interpersonal communication can affect the morale and productivity of an entire workplace, which is why it's such an important aspect of any work environment. Here are seven examples of interpersonal communication skills that are imperative to most workplaces:

Verbal communication

Effective verbal communication involves speaking clearly, confidently and appropriately according to the situation and audience. For example, speaking formally and professionally during meetings and avoiding technical language when communicating with customers.

Active listening

Active listening is when you pay full attention when someone's speaking, so you truly understand what they're saying. The purpose is to gather information so you can therefore effectively engage with the speaker by giving verbal and non-verbal responses, which include eye contact, nodding and smiling. Active listeners avoid distractions, focus on the speaker's body language and visual cues, ask thoughtful questions and give appropriate answers when prompted. This shows you're actively listening and interested in the conversation. In the workplace, active listening is paramount in preventing misunderstandings and encourages colleagues to collaborate and share their ideas with you.

Related: Active Listening Skills: Definition and Examples

Body language

Your body language is just as important as the words you communicate. When talking with colleagues and customers, practise using open body language that encourages trust and positivity, like nodding, maintaining eye contact and looking relaxed. Closed body language involves crossed arms and shifting your eyes, which you want to avoid.

Related: Improve Your Nonverbal Communication Skills

Empathy

Commonly known as emotional intelligence, empathy is a person's ability to understand someone else's feelings, needs and ideas from their point of view. Empathetic people express awareness and compassion when they communicate. In the workplace, empathy is good for morale and productivity, and prevents misunderstandings between employees. By being empathetic with your colleagues, you'll likely gain their trust and respect. Employers may hire empathetic people to create a positive, high-functioning workplace.

Conflict resolution

Your interpersonal communication skills are also crucial in resolving issues and disagreements in a workplace, whether the conflict involves yourself, your co-workers or customers. Conflict resolution may involve negotiation, persuasion and understanding both sides of the argument. Actively listen to everyone involved to find a solution that benefits all parties. Strong conflict resolution skills often lead to more positive and collaborative work environments and can earn you respect and trust among your colleagues.

Teamwork

Teamwork is an extremely valuable interpersonal communication skill in most workplaces. It also involves using other interpersonal skills, such as communication, active listening, flexibility and responsibility. Employees that communicate effectively and work well together have a higher chance of success and achieving goals. Being a team player can also help you avoid conflict and improve productivity when you assist co-workers as needed and ask them for feedback and ideas. When your colleagues relay their opinions and advice, encourage them by actively listening and reacting positively.

Strong work ethic

Employees with strong work ethics are reliable, dedicated, hardworking and intrinsically motivated to perform their best. From being punctual to keeping promises, employers highly value dependable workers and trust them with important tasks and duties. Therefore, having a strong work ethic is one of the most important interpersonal communication skills to develop.

Related: Tips to Demonstrate Work Ethic

How to improve interpersonal communication

To develop your interpersonal communication skills, practise good communication daily and set deliberate goals for improvements. Here are some other ways to improve your interpersonal skills:

1. Attend workshops or online classes

There are several workshops, online classes and videos available to help you practise your interpersonal communication skills. While some are free, many Australian universities offer interpersonal communication courses at a cost.

2. Find a mentor

Ask an individual you respect or admire to help you improve your interpersonal skills. Your mentor could be a family member, professor, former or current employer, trusted colleague or anyone else you think highly of. You might even hire a professional communication or career coach.

3. Ask for constructive criticism

Ask your friends or colleagues for feedback on your interpersonal skills, so you can determine specific areas and plan for improvement. For example, you could casually mention to your co-worker that you're trying to improve your interpersonal skills so you were wondering how they perceived you when your first met, how they normally feel when you interact and whether they think you listen well. Remember to listen openly to the constructive feedback and remember it will benefit your interpersonal relationships.

4. Practise

Put yourself in positions where you can build relationships and improve your interpersonal communication skills. This might include joining a group or attending a networking event. Observe how other people interact with each other and then practise skills like active listening, using positive body language and maintaining eye contact.

5. Reflect

Take the time to review your interactions and reflect on how you could have communicated more effectively. Consider whether you could have reacted differently or used certain body language or words more effectively. Viewing situations from another person's perspective and being empathetic is also an integral part of interpersonal communication and can lead to more productive conversations.

6. Look for ways to increase your confidence

Confidence is a powerful asset in interpersonal communication, but it's important to balance confidence and humility. This allows you to hold your head high and not approach conversations in a shy and reserved manner.

Confidence will also help you be more adept at other interpersonal skills like conflict resolution, constructive feedback and problem-solving. The most efficient way to boost your self-confidence is to know what you're talking about and to listen actively in conversations so you can respond accordingly. Another tip is to list your strengths and read through them for an instant confidence boost before entering an important work event.

Explore more articles