Interpersonal skills are the kind you might use every day when communicating and interacting with others. They include things like verbal communication and listening skills, non-verbal communication, and emotional intelligence.
Verbal communication is spoken, but it's important to remember that it's also about listening. For example, when saying something, a speaker may talk slowly or firmly to emphasise a particular point. And part of that engagement process also includes demonstrating your active listening skills. This could be paying attention by concentrating on what the other person is saying, avoiding interrupting, for example, providing visual cues that show you are listening such as nodding, and responding with appropriate feedback to what was said.
Non-verbal communication includes facial expressions, hand gestures, eye contact, posture, and physiological changes such as blushing. While physiological changes are largely involuntary, being aware of them in yourself and others helps keep you in touch with what is going on in a conversation. For example, how interested someone is in what you are saying.
As with verbal communication, presenting and picking up appropriate non-verbal communication depends on cultivating awareness of your own and others' behaviour. To get the most out of a networking encounter you need to present effective non-verbal communication as well as reading other's non-verbal communication accurately.
Awareness of yourself and others is linked to emotional intelligence and the ability to recognise and regulate your own emotions or dealing with others. People with high emotional intelligence tend to be good listeners and come across as caring and considerate. They are also good at working out problems and stressful situations calmly and decisively. Because effective networking is almost entirely dependent on successful communication, it's certainly worth investing time and effort to improve your interpersonal skills.
This is true whether you are communicating or interacting on a one-to-one basis or in a group and using verbal or non-verbal means. It all comes under the umbrella of interpersonal skills, which are highly relevant to your networking activities. Therefore, developing your interpersonal skills can have a positive impact on your networking approach.
What does it look when we start to put these skills into practise? Imagine you are meeting someone at a networking event for the first time. Firstly, you would offer a preliminary greeting. Introducing yourself and a handshake is considered appropriate in business, but use empathy to consider that norms of physical contact can differ depending on culture.
Following that, you may offer a more formal introduction. You want people to remember you, so make sure they know your name early in the event. Throughout the networking process aim to maintain eye contact. Eye contact promotes confidence and engagement, helping us in self-awareness and self-regulation of emotions. But too much can be intimidating, so vary your gaze from time to time while looking at the other person.
Also, consider your body language. Empathy, self-awareness, and self-regulation of emotions also come from body language. Keep your body language warm and open making sure you face the speaker but at a slight angle to avoid a sense of confrontation. Use your arms and hands to emphasise what you are saying or hearing. Smiling can also help self-regulate your emotions and promotes empathy.
When it comes to verbal communication, self-regulation of emotion helps you avoid nervous chatter or rambling. This ensures that people receive the important message you were trying to communicate, but it also demonstrates that you're a good communicator and makes it easier for them to respond.
You can also express your enthusiasm for networking by showing others you are listening. Include positive words or gestures and paraphrase back to the speaker to show you have understood. Leaning into the speaker slightly indicates your interest in what they have to say.
Throughout this process make sure to ask relevant questions. The social skill of asking questions can speak volumes about you self-motivation. If you are genuinely interested in other people you will ask relevant questions which demonstrate that you have been listening. Such questions often elicit additional useful information that could help build your network or give you further insights into what you can offer someone.
Finally, close an interaction by agreeing any follow up plans with the other person. Doing so presents a great opportunity to demonstrate consultative decision making so you are both sure of the next steps in your relationship. Combining all of these tips will enable you to confidently and effectively communicate with others, offering a huge boost to your networking skills.
- The different types of interpersonal skills
- Why these skills are important for networking
- Tips that can help you engage better with others