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The True Meaning of Interpersonal Skills: 3 Actionable Ways to Develop People Skills

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The True Meaning of Interpersonal Skills: 3 Actionable Ways to Develop People Skills

Sarah Mae (SMae) |
The True Meaning of Interpersonal Skills: 3 Actionable Ways to Develop People Skills

Are you an introvert that wants to hide in a corner at the mere thought of building interpersonal skills?

It’s a common misconception that people with strong interpersonal skills are born extroverts who love large groups, crave being the center of attention, and thrive in collaboration. This idea makes the rest of us feel like we just don’t have”people” skills.

In this post, I am going to share the meaning of interpersonal skills, why they’re important, and three ways to develop people skills, even if you’re the shyest person on the planet!

The True Meaning of Interpersonal Skills

When you strip away all the nonsense, the true meaning of interpersonal skills is simply understanding how to build and sustain a network of relationships.

Therefore, interpersonal skills are just like any other skill and they can be learned, even if they scare you.

I’m sure you have lots of skills you don’t particularly love doing. I know brushing my teeth isn’t my favourite thing in the world, but I still do it multiple times every day.

You’ve also built skills that once scared you. When I was a kid, I was terrified to take my feet off the ground when learning to ride my bike, but I still did it and have that skill for life now. I bet you do too!

My point: Shy people can have strong interpersonal skills too.

The Importance of People Skills

Now that you know the real meaning of interpersonal skills, why are they so important that I include Interpersonal Literacy as an Essential Skill?

Humans are made out of microbial communities and we need human communities to flourish.

By developing your interpersonal skills you’ll be able to create authentic and fulfilling relationships and build a network of support with the social capital to achieve even your most ambitious goals.

The real truth is, at the end of the day, you can’t succeed without the help of others.

There is a reason they say “it’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know”.

3 Ways to Develop People Skills

1) Shift Your Mindset

If having strong interpersonal skills doesn’t mean you’re the life of every party and have a witty response to everything, then what does it really mean? What does it look like?

Before I started taking acting classes I imagined that all of the brilliantly famous actors out there were major extroverts with amazing interpersonal skills. It only took one class for me to realize how wrong I was.

At the end of class, we would sit in a circle of about 10-15 people and reflect on the day’s activities. I was shocked to hear every single person in the circle talk about their anxieties around being seen and how helpful the exercises were for their social anxiety. Even the loudest and funniest people in the room had the same social anxieties.

As the weeks passed people talked about how much easier it was to have conversations at parties and much more confident they felt. I learned then that really taking the time to go deep into knowing oneself paves the way for real connection.

Interpersonal skills are the skills we use to connect and interact with others effectively. It isn’t being the center of attention or speaking over other people in the room. It isn’t having all the answers or telling the best jokes.

It’s being able to make others feel seen and heard through active interest and deep listening skills. It’s being able to read the room and understand how to respond in different situations. It’s following up and staying in touch. It’s being yourself rather than trying to fit in.

In short, while it might not seem to come naturally for many of us, people skills are something introverts can be GREAT at.

The first thing you need to do is shift your mindset and believe you can develop these skills because you can.

2) It’s Not About You…. Ask Questions

One of the most common things I hear from my clients is that they get social anxiety because they don’t know what to say. They think they are bad at telling stories and that everything they might have to talk about is going to bore everyone.

If you’re reading this and thinking, I totally get that too, then have I got news for you!

You don’t have to be the center of attention in conversations! Connecting with others isn’t about you! Phew!!

So what will you talk about? People LOVE talking about themselves, all you need to do to connect with someone is get curious about them and ask questions.

Who are they? What do they do for work or for fun? Who do they know at the party?

Questions will get the conversation flowing but don’t be a creepy drill sergeant. Give them time to respond and ask follow-up questions or share ways that you connect with what they are saying.

Make sure you’re not in your head thinking about what you’re going to say next, just breathe and listen, you’ll know what to say when it’s your turn to talk if you’ve been really listening.

Pause if you need to think, silence is only awkward if you choose to perceive it that way.

3) Follow Up

So you got in the right mindset before you went out, and you had some great conversations with people. How do you create a relationship with them though? You follow up.

Before you walk away from a conversation with someone that you would like to develop a relationship with, ask for their contact details.

You can say, “I really enjoyed our conversation and would love to connect on social media, what platforms do you use?” Or “This has been really great conversation, let’s exchange phone numbers (or email addresses)”!

Then, follow up within 24 hours. Send them an email or message saying that you enjoyed meeting them and highlight something from the conversation that you connected with, this will help ensure that they remember you.

As Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, says, “Make follow-up a habit. Make it automatic. When you do, the days of struggling to remember people’s names – and of other people struggling to remember yours – will be a thing of the past.”

My Favourite Interpersonal Literacy Books

These books, along with my acting classes (which I highly recommend!), really helped me understand the meaning of interpersonal skills!

*note that clicking on a book cover will take you to my Amazon affiliate account, where I will get a small kickback if you purchase. I never recommend any books that I have not read and found helpful in my life.

I love talking about the books I have read, so hit me up when you’ve read any of these and let me know your thoughts! Email or Instagram DMs are the best way to reach me.

The Takeaway

Introverts like to think that they’re just too shy to have strong interpersonal skills. When in reality, this is just an excuse not to try.

We like to believe that people with strong interpersonal skills are born extroverts and we just don’t have “people” skills.

When, in fact, the real meaning of interpersonal skills is actually just understanding how to build and sustain a network of relationships, which means anyone can learn them.

All essential skills take work to master. If you haven’t put the work in to learn how to interact with people, then you’re making it ten times harder for yourself to achieve your goals.

Get in the right mindset, put your attention on the people you’re talking to, and follow up with the people you want to connect with. Then you’ll be well on your way to creating a network of people you can count on.

Rise With SMae

P.S. I still have some spots in my signature 1-1 coaching program, Route to Rise, where I support adults who took the safe route in life, finding themselves stuck in the daily grind with no clear way out. I help them overcome their lack of confidence, create habits that serve them, and gain clarity with a success plan, so they can purposely design a life they can’t wait to get out of bed for. Find out more and book a clarity call HERE.



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