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4 ways to develop your interpersonal skills for strong and satisfying relationships

Our ability to communicate, understand others’ feelings and perspectives, empathy and leadership skills are all commonly referred to as interpersonal intelligence. In other words, it indicates how good we are at relating to others, from our closest friends and family to colleagues and, more broadly, anyone in our social community, like your morning coffee barista, or the bus driver on your commute. Keep reading for more on how to develop these skills.

When we think about our thinking abilities, we often get caught up in our reasoning or complex problem-solving abilities. Have you ever thought about your social skills though? Our ability to successfully interact with and connect with others is as essential as our analytical skills and is known as our interpersonal intelligence.

But is it something we can nurture, and build on to bring more success and satisfaction to our relationships? Keep reading to find out.

The short answer is yes!

As with all forms of intelligence, we can nurture it, develop the skills and practice implementing these into our relationships. Of course, some of us may have a greater aptitude for connecting with people - exactly as some have a greater aptitude for painting, analysing international stock markets or fixing cars - but there’s nothing that cannot be learned, developed and nurtured throughout our lifespan.

Renowned psychologist Howard Gardner theorised that our intelligence does not just refer to one ability, but we in fact have multiple intelligences - including interpersonal intelligence.

Our intelligence doesn’t just refer to traditional analytical skills, such as logical reasoning or calculation, but is made of all those different skills that make us successful humans in our daily lives. And as we are ‘social animals’, our social and interpersonal skills really make a difference in the way we conduct our lives.

Having good interpersonal skills doesn’t necessarily mean having a large number of friends, being chatty in social situations or being an extroverted person. It’s more about being able to authentically connect with others, to be able to understand what’s going on in their mind and in their world, to understand the reasons behind their behaviour, especially when this looks odd to us, and to be able to adapt our behaviour in response.

It’s about being open to understanding points of view that are different from ours and being able to consider different aspects of a fact or circumstance, by looking from different perspectives.

So, how can we nurture our interpersonal intelligence?

Here are some tips we can try out in everyday life situations.

Try to listen actively: active listening means fully paying attention to what the other person is saying, without interrupting or thinking about what you'll say next. It's not just sitting passively in front of someone who's talking, but nodding, maintaining eye contact, or facing them, to show we are listening and help us stay engaged. Try this next time you're having a heart-to-heart with someone, or even catching up with a colleague.

Exercise empathy: it's not always easy to put ourselves in someone else's shoes, but making an effort to consider others' perspectives and understand their feelings can build strong, supportive relationships and resolve conflicts more effectively. Try to pause before reacting or responding to someone, and take a moment to process what has been said before leaping in with a suggestion, opinion or judgement.

Pay attention to body language: nonverbal cues during a conversation, such as facial expressions, gestures, and posture are a central part of any communication. Noticing these cues in others can help us understand their emotional state and respond appropriately while being aware of our body language can help us express ourselves clearly and effectively. Of course, non-verbal communication that shows disinterest won’t help us, things like checking our watch or phone, looking down or folding our arms can make us seem disinterested or not listening.

Develop your emotional intelligence: being able to recognise and manage your own emotions, and to understand and respond to the emotions of others, is deeply related to our interpersonal intelligence. Emotional intelligence allows us to build stronger relationships and have effective interactions with others. We can do this by developing our self-awareness or learning about our own emotions and their causes, and practising empathy in our relationships. By understanding ourselves, we can begin to manage our emotions effectively, allowing us to interact with natural empathy and less emotional reactions, building our interpersonal skills.

So there’s 4 ways to develop our interpersonal skills to help us maintain strong and satisfying relationships, socially, emotionally and even romantically. It can benefit all relationships from working to socialising to bonding with family, and even new people we meet.

Having strong interpersonal skills can also make us feel a bit more confident in ourselves and our interactions with others - so we’re less likely to end up ruminating about whether we seemed cool, fun, loving or even professional enough!

Building our interpersonal skills takes practice and compassion when we don’t succeed. Don’t expect results overnight, start practising these skills in everyday life as much as you can, and slowly we’ll notice some results. It's an active process we have to take a step at a time, but it’s well worth it to feel the benefits strong and satisfying relationships can have on our wellbeing, mood and day-to-day life!




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