Interpersonal skills, which are also known as people skills, are defined as the behaviours and tactics we use every day to interact with others effectively.

Commonly, in the business world, the term is used to refer to an individual’s ability to work well with others. Interpersonal skills range from communication or listening skills to attitudes and deportment.

Very often, when employers are hiring, interpersonal skills are amongst the top skills used to evaluate candidates. Regardless of a person’s profession, it remains important that one is able to get along well with colleagues, management, customers, or vendors.

In some instances, these interpersonal skills are called employability skills. This is a strong indicator as to how important they are. Management will not be looking to hire someone without these critical relationship skills.

As a result, interpersonal skills are considered to be a critical part of the foundation for success in life. People with good and well established interpersonal skills are able to work well with other people, the skills also help them to work well in teams and groups, or in the formal and informal environment.

When people can communicate effectively with others regardless of the setting, they generally also have better relationships at home and at work. Interpersonal skills matter ultimately because none of us lives in a bubble.

In our lives, it is necessary to communicate with and interact with people daily or hourly, or more often. The wheels of these interactions are oiled by good interpersonal skills, making them pleasant for all involved. These skills help us to build better, long-lasting relationships personally, socially and professionally.

Interpersonal skills at home

Since we do not live in a bubble or in isolation, it is important to be able to maintain good relationships with those in our domestic settings, especially with our partners. These skills are important in instances where you have to resolve small problems, or make plans that require input and participation by many parties for their success.

Interpersonal skills at work

In today’s world, we certainly spend more time with colleagues, workmates and vendors than our domestic partners. Interpersonal skills become very important at work to ensure that we create a good working dynamic and so a good working environment for all of the different players in the professional setting.

Your ability to do so effectively has an impact on whether you have a successful working life or not. As with all things, there may be some jobs in which interpersonal skills are particularly important especially those jobs that are customer-centric, such as sales and customer relations management, healthcare provision, including doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. These environments require you to be able to listen to, or talk to, patients and their families.

In careers such as financial advice and brokerage, practitioners need to be able to listen to their customers, or understand any investment instructions issued. Poor interpersonal skills would cause it to be difficult to build good customer relationships, or to understand customer needs.

In areas such as computer programming and development, it is often an erroneous assumption that interpersonal skills are not essential. It is proven time and again though, that technical developers need interpersonal skills to be able to better understand customers, and ensure good product delivery. In a way, it is still a customer-centric role.

Interpersonal skills for job-seekers

When a person goes to an interview, they are interrogated on their skills-set and are given the opportunity to interrogate the management/ interviewers of the organisation. More often than not, the way they conduct themselves, the way they walk, etiquette displayed is also under observation as an indicator as to whether the individual will fit into the organisation’s culture or not. It is also assessed whether the person will be able to interact well with the existing employees.

There are a myriad of interpersonal skills that one can possess, develop and display, all towards a successful life filled with good relationships. It pays to invest in some training and skills development short courses to enhance your chances in the professional world.

Karen Manyati is the director of Zimbabwe Leadership Forum and writes in her personal capacity. She can be reached on [email protected]