Interpersonal Communication Skills


Interpersonal communication skills are the life skills we use every day to communicate and interact with other people, both individually and in groups.

When two or more people are in the same place and are aware of each other’s presence, then communication is taking place, no matter how subtle or unintentional. Interpersonal communication is the process by which people exchange information, feelings, and meaning through verbal and non-verbal messages.

Interpersonal communication is not just about what is actually said – the language used – but how it is said through tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures, body language, posture, and dress. This information provides clues to a person’s role, emotional state, personality and/or intentions.

Our AIM is to give thought to the message we want to give. This means making an effort to ensure that our words, feelings and actions are congruent. We can practically do this by making sure that we communicate with both:


How well we communicate with others is a measure of our interpersonal skills.

Interpersonal communication can be used to:

  • give and collect information
  • influence the attitudes and behaviour of others
  • network (create contacts), build and/or maintain relationships
  • express personal needs and understand the needs of others
  • give and receive emotional support
  • make decisions and solve problems
  • anticipate and predict behaviour.

Four steps to effectively communicating a message

  • 1.

    Focus your message
    Ensure your message is clear and is relevant to your audience.

  • 2.

    Magnify the listener’s attention
    Use examples that are relevant to your audience, ask yourself what would draw them in, why would they care? Create interest and make it relatable.

  • 3.

    Limit any distractions (noise)
    Noise is often referred to as anything that distracts the listener from understanding the message. Noise can come from the environment, a lack of clarity and vagueness, poor choice of words, a message that is not relatable, etc.

  • 4.

    There are three types of listening:

    Passive – one-way communication, typical of a classroom setting where there is little interaction with the listener.

    Competitive – when the person is not really listening closely, they are busy thinking about their response, this happens when people ‘talk past each other’.

    Active – genuine two-way communication. You are listening intently, thinking about the information to make sure you understand it, and providing feedback to the speaker to clarify what you don’t understand.

Techniques to assist Active Listening

Clarifyensure your message is clear and that the listener has understood the message.

Restating, paraphrasing, or mirroring you restate, paraphrase or “mirror” what the speaker has said and use their words to verify that you have heard correctly.

“Do I understand you correctly that …”

“Did you say that …”

“What I think I’m hearing you say is …”


Similar to restating, this is a way of reviewing progress in a conversation. You restate the main ideas briefly and set the tone for the next subject or conversation.  “Ok, so we agreed that ….”

Potential Challenges and Suggested Strategies

Unintended messages

Always be aware of your body language and check the message you might be sending (is it intentional or unintentional?). Think about:

  • eye contact
  • facial expression
  • body posture and position
  • gestures and movements
  • tone of voice.

Broken trust

The only way to restore trust is to follow through and do what you say you will do, take responsibility for your actions, and clearly articulate the course of action required (and agreed upon) to remedy the situation.

Lack of clarity

You need to be able to convey a clear vision or purpose, without this it will be impossible to inspire and motivate others.

Poor interpersonal skills

Most importantly you need to be able to listen to others without always thinking about your response. Allowing people to be heard diffuses conflict and creates the opportunity to work cohesively together. ry not to judge the other person and try to see things from their perspective. Always let the speaker know you understand their point of view.

Inability to create rapport

This can happen when there is a lack of belief in your message or in you as a person. Being ethical, having strong values, and spending time with one another can help to increase rapport and build trust.

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