How To Improve Interpersonal Skills: Connecting With Your Community

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated April 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Interpersonal skills can be essential to navigating the world around you. Even for those who prefer not to engage with others regularly, interacting with others may be necessary for day-to-day interactions like shopping, doctor's visits, or work. In addition, social interaction has mental and physical health benefits that can reduce the risk of adverse health impacts over time. 

Despite the benefits, communicating and establishing bonds with people may not feel fit for everyone, and some people may benefit from guidance in improving these skills. However, success in relationships can be possible, and you're not alone.

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What are interpersonal skills? 

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), interpersonal skills are behaviors you use to interact with people in groups and individually. These can encompass the following: 

  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Empathy
  • Negotiation
  • Resolving conflict
  • Teamwork


The ability to communicate effectively with others, whether verbal or non-verbal, may not come naturally to each person, and several factors can go into becoming a better communicator. Communication can include real-life conversations, written or printed material, body language, and your ability to listen to another person to understand their point of view. 

When using verbal communication, your words, tone, and volume of your voice can all impact the outcome. It may be beneficial to adjust how you communicate based on your audience. For example, a meaningful conversation with your boss could sound different than one with a partner, even if the conversations were on the same topic. Likewise, a presentation given to a group of schoolchildren may be expressed differently than one given to a group of doctors.

How you express yourself can increase or decrease the possibility of miscommunication and potential disagreements. Speaking to others as clearly and concisely as possible and, if necessary, conveying your feelings and respectfully providing your opinions are often critical points to establishing healthy communication. Once you've expressed yourself, allowing your listener to ask questions or request additional clarity can be beneficial. 

Your body language may also send signals to others about how you feel. Smiling, making eye contact, and maintaining an open, confident posture are a few ways to convey a positive message. The ability to listen to others can also be as beneficial as the ability to express yourself verbally and non-verbally. If you struggle to listen effectively, messages can become distorted, and miscommunications can arise. However, note that there can be a difference between listening and hearing. Listening often requires interpreting a message from both verbal and non-verbal communication. Hearing someone often involves mentally recognizing their words without considering the in-depth meaning or implications.


Effective leadership may involve developing a solution or plan based on understanding a social situation. You may take the first steps to becoming an effective leader by improving your decision-making skills and learning healthy persuasion.

Influential decision-makers often use a combination of intuition and reasoning to reach their conclusions. Intuition refers to your "gut feeling" and is often established according to your beliefs, experiences, instinct, and feelings.

Reasoning may use facts rather than emotions to make decisions. Many experts believe that while decisions can be made with intuition, complex decisions may benefit from considering the facts and your expertise on the topic before considering intuition and a well-rounded solution.

The ability to persuade others effectively is not based on power or control. Instead, it refers to using forms of communication to explain to others why your decision, idea, or course of action is the best possible, encouraging them to reach an informed conclusion. People who are healthy in persuading others try not to use positions of power to scare others into agreeing with them. Instead, they may present the information in a way that naturally points to one conclusion.

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The American Psychological Association defines empathy as understanding a person from their frame of reference rather than vicariously experiencing that person's feelings, perceptions, and thoughts. Developing empathy often happens over time, and some people first experience it in childhood. When you can attempt to understand a situation from another's point of view- regardless of whether you agree with them, you might understand where they're coming from with more ease.  

The ability to pick up on subtle nuances in body language could also help you develop empathy. Crossing of the arms, sudden stiffness, or averting eye contact may indicate that the individual isn't receptive or in agreement with the point. If you can pick up on these signs, you may steer the conversation in a healthier direction. 


Learning to negotiate is one way to improve interpersonal skills. Negotiating involves addressing a challenge, considering the factors involved, and coming to a compromise to impact each person positively. Negotiation may allow people to find common ground respectfully. In an ideal situation, negotiation can be used to diffuse disagreements in the conversation before emotions like anger occur. 

A meaningful discussion in which everyone explains their point of view could be at the center of a negotiation. With active listening skills, a productive give-and-take in the discussion may lead to a conclusion that benefits everyone. 

Resolving conflict

Conflicts can cause extreme emotions to arise on all sides. Staying mindful of how you express your feelings during a conflict can help you remain healthy during a conversation. As with negotiation, try to acknowledge the source of conflict before speaking. Allow all parties involved to speak their mind and make a diligent effort to be an active listener when you aren't speaking. 

In some cases, conflict is a result of miscommunication. Try to keep an open mind and view the problem from another person's point of view. Conflict is often more successfully resolved with respectful discussion. 


In many workplaces, people work with a group they wouldn't necessarily choose to work with in their personal life. In a place where people of all backgrounds and beliefs must work together for a common goal, it can be challenging to come to an agreement.  

An effective team may consist of individuals willing to take on whatever role is necessary and make attempts to understand diversity. In a team, you might be called upon to be a leader, coordinator, implementer, evaluator, or a person integrating all of the above. Working effectively in a team can also require interpersonal skills like communication and leadership. When you work on a team, you can practice these skills and learn more about what they might mean about you. 

Practicing interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills may not develop overnight, and not everyone has a work environment where they can actively acquire them. If you're looking for everyday ways to gain interpersonal skills, you may find the following tips helpful: 

  • Meet one new person each week and try to learn more about them on a level beyond small talk. Try to empathize with that person and understand their point of view.
  • Join a club or sports team where you'll work with others.
  • When you're out in the world, try to observe the other people around you to make inferences based on body language. 
  • Find an organization that speaks to you and spend time reaching out to others in need through volunteer work. 
  • Go to a mock interview to practice your interviewing skills.
  • Attend a public speaking class to learn how to speak confidently to others.

Counseling options 

If you experience extreme anxiety or stress when interacting with others, an underlying mental health condition may be impacting your social ability. When a mental health condition, like social anxiety disorder, is present, reaching out for in-person professional support can be difficult. In these cases, you might benefit from talking to a therapist online through a platform like BetterHelp. 

Online therapy is often more convenient than in-person therapy and is as effective in treating generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and social anxiety disorder. If you sign up for an online platform, you can choose between phone, video, or chat sessions with your therapist. Some people prefer live chat because it allows them to receive therapy without showing their faces or talking out loud. This format may reduce barriers to addressing uncomfortable social symptoms for someone with social anxiety.  


Interpersonal skills can take practice to achieve, and not everyone is born knowing how to use them. However, you're not alone if you're struggling with severe anxiety when you try to socialize with others. Speaking to a counselor about these challenges can allow you to develop a personalized plan to improve your social skills and address potential mental health challenges.
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