Often described as ‘people skills’, interpersonal skills are used to communicate and interact with people and are a fundamental skill for everyone. They are skills we can hone and incorporate into our way of being that assist us in countless areas of our daily life.
While some people come across as having been born with great interpersonal skills, for others it requires time and effort to develop rapport, build trust, engender credibility, collaborate, know how to use active listening skills to strengthen relationships and to confidently persuade other people to their point of view.
The good news is that interpersonal skills can be learned, and the first step is to understand the different styles at play.
In today’s world of work, team success relies on collaboration and commitment and the actions of each person.
Understanding the various interpersonal skills that exist enables people to adapt their own style to suit specific situations in a way that increases both personal and professional success.
The Four Interpersonal Styles
Communication skills describe those skills which people use to communicate with other people. Such skills include listening, reading, speaking, writing and other non-verbal communication which may involve the use of ‘body language’.
Interpersonal skill, on the other hand, is the ability to know HOW to communicate with other people, how to get along with others, how to develop rapport, collaborate and build positive relationships. Interpersonal skills often demonstrate the way in which a person chooses to present and create an impression.
Most researchers would agree that there are generally four interpersonal styles and by understanding the style of another person, it is often easier to establish rapport and interact with that person. When like-minded styles get together, the synergy is almost instant with neither party having to make a great deal of effort to connect.
The supporter exhibits an interpersonal style that is relationship oriented and radiates warmth and compassion.
They are often the ‘go to’ person when someone has a problem to resolve.
Supporters tend to be co-operative, patient and kind in their communication with others.
They are naturally good, attentive listeners and will likely rely more on friendly persuasion than power or authority.
They like to demonstrate warmth in any written communication and will make and express their opinions in a thoughtful and deliberate manner.
Other common characteristics of ‘The Supporter’ include:
- Co-operative, patient and kind in their interpersonal communication.
- Taking responsibility for making sure that everyone is included and interpersonal harmony prevails.
- Exhibiting dramatic behaviour, usually providing immediate non-verbal feedback including cues such as facial expressions and demonstrating enthusiasm.
- Taking the time to share similar experiences with others to strengthen connectedness – often digressing from the conversation to do so.
- Drawing out the most reserved personality through their natural enthusiasm and interest in other people.
- Being verbally expressive, positive and empathetic in their interactions with others.
- Enjoy conversations that foster co-operation and collaboration.
- Demonstrating a tendency to verbalise their appreciation of others and the support they can offer.
- Being good, attentive listeners that will likely rely more on friendly persuasion than power or authority.
- Expressing opinions in a thoughtful and deliberate manner and demonstrating warmth in any written communication.
In times of crisis, the interpersonal style of the supporter comes into its own. Being able to empathise, show concern, respect and confidence in others is a critical communication skill at these times.
Analysers tend to exhibit a firm minded and analytical interpersonal style.
They believe the best form of communication is to present the situation in a logical order with supporting documentation.
Feelings and personal opinions matter little to the analyser.
They are often quick to critique and to challenge statements and behaviours and can be open and assertive in their communication.
They say what they think and show great powers of persuasion.
Common characteristics of ‘The Analyser’:
- Confident and verbally fluent, the logical style can sometimes come across as directive and overwhelming to others.
- Natural-born leaders often have an analytical interpersonal style. They enjoy being and working with results-oriented people who like to focus on solving problems. They are fast paced in their communication and set high expectations.
- The analytical person will abhor inefficiency. They can come across to others as being inconsiderate of other people’s feelings and may overlook people in their focus on the task at hand.
- Analysers are used to taking the lead and are willing to make and stand by tough decisions. When looking to resolve conflict, they will see the situation as a problem to be solved or something to negotiate. The people element may be overlooked.
Visionaries enjoy talking to other people and being in the limelight or the centre of the group.
Their interpersonal and speaking style comes from deep within and from the heart of their core values.
The Visionary’s mission is to persuade and to change points of view.
Common characteristics of ‘The Visionary’:
- They often know how to tell a story, how to use language, draw mental pictures and use their passion to persuade others to their cause. Others are often attracted to the imagination of the visionary who may sometimes be referred to as charismatic.
- They are often accomplished public speakers.
- Visionaries thrive on change and innovation and communication often focuses on the future and possibilities.
- One of the communication strengths of the visionary is that they do not overload people with detail and they find simple ways to describe their points of view, so others know exactly what they mean.
- Visionaries are often superb public speakers and need the right platform with sufficient time to explain their vision and to gather feedback. They are often found using high profile communication tactics such as podcasts and other digital technology.
- Visionaries are expressive of their inner vision and engage with others who are keen to go on the same journey. They love to brainstorm ideas and will often ask open-ended questions.
- They enjoy emotionally charged discussions and being around energetic people. Others often describe visionaries as dreamers and ‘not in the real world’ and not to be taken seriously.
In their communication the pragmatist tends to be realistic, calm, consistent and careful with facts.
They can be counted on to do the right thing, at the right time and in the right way.
They make loyal and reliable colleagues and friends and are a stabilising influence at home and at work.
Common characteristics of ‘The Pragmatist:
- They believe in following the rules and co-operating with others. Pragmatists are not very comfortable ‘winging it’ or creating new ways of doing things. They tend to stay with the ‘tried and true’.
- The pragmatist can often go at a slower pace than others in both words and actions as they focus on how to do things and what to say. Due to a focus on structures, standards, rules and regulations, sometimes this will create difficulty in communication and relationships.
- Pragmatists may tend to distrust people who fail to acknowledge the facts and details and sometimes this can lead to a harsh, negative and extreme reaction.
- The pragmatist may become angry or stubborn if their attention to detail is questioned or others want to explore possibilities and ignore the facts.
- The pragmatist tends to be a traditionalist and has a huge respect for another person’s accumulated experience and skill.
- They like to see things operate well. In team meetings, the pragmatist will offer clear direction and summarise situations with concrete, factual and viable comments.