6 Timeless Interpersonal Communication Skills You Should Master

Are you looking to improve your interpersonal communication skills? If so, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll discuss the 6 essential interpersonal communication skills that everyone should master. We’ll also provide tips on how to improve your skills and put them into practice.

So read on and learn how to master the 6 essential interpersonal communication skills!

Written by Murray Johannsen. Feel free to connect via LinkedIn or directly from this website.

Why Learn Better Interpersonal Communication Skills?

“Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.” — Plato

According to Linkedin’s CEO, Jeff Weiner, Communication is the No. 1 skills gap across the United States.

You see it over, and over and over again. Communication skills are what businesses want. They want it in existing employees and they want it in new hires. In fact, Axios reports about 40% of job descriptions mention communication skills as must have job requirement (Boomy, 2023).

The written word primarily appeals to reason and logic. But speaking also arouses emotions, motivates, and persuades.

Despite its importance, few people spend time upgrading interpersonal skills. So you might say the competition is weak. By investing time in upgrading your interpersonal skills, you can stand out in a crowd

Improve Your Interpersonal Communication Skills

This online course polishes the 6 interpersonal skills mentioned on this page.

Dive in to discover how to leapfrog your peers by making a lasting impression through polished interpersonal communication skills.

Training or Coaching Options. Legacee offers a comprehensive training and coaching programs that will teach you everything you need to know to improve your communication skills.

Delivery Options. We offer a variety of training options, including online courses, in-person workshops, and one-on-one coaching.

Contact us today to learn more about our training program and how we can help you master the 6 essential interpersonal communication skills.

Investing in interpersonal communication skills pays off many times over. One important example. Having lousy interpersonal skills will keep you from getting a better job. And there is nothing worse than bombing the interview.

What Is Interpersonal Communication?

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has occurred.” — George Bernard Shaw

Image defining effective interpersonal communication. Something happening less frequently than we would like.
While the diagram looks simple, there are over 17 communication barriers generating confusion and misunderstanding.

Effective communication is essential for success in both personal and professional life. But what is interpersonal communication, exactly?

Effective communication has a simple goal — to make sure the meaning of the message is the same for both sender and receiver. You might ask, what is interpersonal communication? It simply involves sending a message between two people. And that information can flow in either as a one-way or two communication flow.

Interpersonal communication is the process of sending and receiving messages between two people. It can be verbal, nonverbal, or a combination of both. The goal of interpersonal communication is to create understanding between the sender and receiver of the message.

There are many different aspects of interpersonal communication, including:

  • Verbal communication: This is the use of words to convey meaning. It includes things like speaking, listening, and writing.
  • Nonverbal communication: This is the use of body language, facial expressions, and other non-verbal cues to convey meaning.

They can help you to:

  • Build stronger relationships
  • Influence others
  • Negotiate effectively
  • Resolve conflicts
  • Give and receive feedback
  • Ace job interviews

If you want to improve your interpersonal communication skills, there are many resources available to you. You can take classes, read books, or watch videos. You can also practice your skills by talking to friends, family, and colleagues.

Learn About Six Must Have Interpersonal Communication Skills

Mastering these 6 interpersonal communication skills will give you the edge you need to succeed in both your personal and professional life. Whether you’re looking to build stronger relationships, influence others, or ace your next job interview, these skills will help you achieve your goals.

1. Minimizing One-Way and Maximizing TWO-WAY COMMUNICATION

The interpersonal communication model looks simple having only six major elements: a sender, a receiver, a medium, encoding and decoding and feedback.
The interpersonal communication model looks simple, having only six major elements: a sender, a receiver, a medium, encoding and decoding, and feedback.

 Interpersonal communication can be either two-way or one-way. If it’s one-way, it is sender-dominated and closely associated with passive listening. The receiver stays rarely speaks or asks a question. A receiver doesn’t have to say anything; they can simply nod from time to time.

They are typically faking it with an occasional acknowledgment statement. Manufacturing it comes in handy since few want to allocate precious attention to a boring subject—the bottom line. One-way communication creates misunderstanding.

To make matters worse, many people tend to engage in self-talk. It’s not that hard to identify the self-talker; all you have to do is look at their eyes — they are never focused on you. For example, that classic self-talker doesn’t care whether their words are understood.

2. LISTENING: What Excellent Communicators Do Really Well

“The mind is like a TV set; when it stops working, it is a good idea to shut off the sound.” — Unknown.

“Every ass loves to hear himself bray.” — Thomas Fuller

His Master's Voice, Francis Barraud (1856-1924) painted his brother's dog Nipper listening to the horn of an early phonograph during the winter of 1898
His Best Friend

“General Eisenhower and I didn’t discuss politics or the campaign. Mostly we talked about painting and fishing. But what I remember most about the hour and a half I spent with him was how he gave me all his attention. He was listening to me and talking to me just as if he hadn’t a care in the world, hadn’t been through the trials of a political convention, wasn’t on the brink of a presidential campaign.” — Norman Rockwell, Saturday Evening Post, April 2, 196

There are different types of listening. You can listen actively, passively, or emphatically. In addition, one can listen to memorize or critically hear as a means of logic checking.

Most people are terrible listeners, but they do know how to fake it pretty well. Technically, faking it involves using certain types of acknowledgment signals to give the sender the impression that we are paying attention when we are not.

We do this with acknowledgment techniques such as: nodding at the right moment, period acknowledgments such as “Ah” and “Ah, ha,” and the classic method used in marriages everywhere, the “Yes, dear.” We are so good at fake listening that the average person can’t even tell.

Leaders cannot afford to develop a reputation for unskilled listening — it’s ruinous. Yet, despite this, one of the more common complaints in many organizations is, “My boss doesn’t listen to me.”

This interpersonal skill can be improved but requires both knowledge and effort. Unfortunately, for many years, I did this wrong. I had thought the fundamental problem was a series of barriers. It turns out that the most critical problem limitations placed on attention.

Attention Limits Our Ability to Listen

One should not give up hope, however. There are ways to relax the constraints placed on attention. You can look at articles such as this one which proposes 11 Exercises That Will Strengthen Your Attention.

“Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens, we have to keep going back and begin again. — Andre Gide

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3. Getting meaning from NONVERBAL Communication

” The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” — Peter F. Drucker.


A Communication Joke: On the Numbers

“A newcomer to a certain summer resort was surprised to find a group of men gathered on the lawn one evening shouting numbers at each other. “Sixteen,” one would yell, and all would laugh. “One hundred and thirty-five,” another would say, and all would laugh. “Twenty-seven,” a third would say, nearly choking with glee, and all would laugh. “Two hundred and three,” shouted someone, and this time everyone fell off his chair howling.

The laughter continued till some turned blue in the face and had to be pounded to keep them from suffocating. Numbers continued to be called after that, and laughter, now more subdued, also continued. Then, finally, the newcomer spoke to one of the men on the fringes and said, “Pardon me, but tell me what’s going on.” ‘Well,” said the other, “this group meets every year at this resort, and night after night, we swap stories.

Naturally, we all know the stories, so we gave them numbers and save time by calling the numbers.” The newcomer nodded. “I see. But tell me this. When someone shouted, ‘Two hundred and three,’ everyone laughed particularly loudly. Why was that?” His informant chuckled. “Kohl Well, that one we had never heard before.

Essentially, it means that meaning is not embedded in the words. Instead, you can understand people’s thoughts by paying attention to facial expressions or body language.

Yet, most individuals don’t pay much attention to nonverbals, so the average person is relatively clueless about what it all means. Part of this confusion stems from cultural differences. For example, while a smile is universal, the meaning attached to other facial expressions is determined by culture.

Besides cultural differences, there are many different types of nonverbal communication. These include (Tubbs and Moss, 2006): 

  • Artifacts,
  • Haptics.
  • Kinesics
  • Facial expressions,
  • Paralanguage,
  • Gestures,
  • Osculesics,
  • Chronemics,
  • Interpersonal distance, and 
  • Body movements .

As you know, emotions mostly get communicated by voice tones and facial expressions. If you don’t pay attention to these, it is like having the right eye shut and the left one looking left when it should be looking right. You miss me so much.

Like all communication skills, nonverbal communication can be improved.

4. Asking QUESTIONS: What Great Minds Can Do those Average Ones Can’t

“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.” — Chinese Proverbs.

Nine different types of questions one can experience during a conversation.
Image by Murray Johannsen. The picture shows nine types of questions one can use during a conversation.

For some reason, many executives assume that they have to dominate everyone. This is typically done by communicating in a loud, angry voice with a fast tempo for an extended period to prevent someone from being able to speak or ask questions. Then, if a question does get asked, the executive has a fallback position — the two-minute tirade of irrelevancy.

TV shows or movies with trial scenes graphically illustrate the power questions have when used correctly. You typically see the defense attorney or a prosecutor enhance or destroy a witness’s credibility simply by using questions. Unfortunately, many fail to recognize that questions are as powerful as persuasive statements.

Questions are one of the most valuable methods of extracting information from another. The key is to ask the right question since most people tend to answer them honestly.

Questions encourage the receiver to discover the answer themselves. Skillful communication with questions is subtle and more indirect. It possesses the additional advantage that the person typically doesn’t become defensive.

And of course, without using this interpersonal communication skill, effective counseling, therapy, and group facilitation is essentially impossible.

5. Forming Sound RELATIONSHIPS:

“You never get a second chance to make a positive first impression” — American Saying.

“When someone’s character seems impossible to fathom, observe his friends.” — Japanese proverb.

A message left by a young girl in a common area to get back her cat. It illustrate the importance of using skillful communication to build relationships and so to be able to influence. It's unknown if she ever found her cat.
A young girl left a message in a common area to get back her cat. It illustrates the importance of using skillful communication to build relationships and so to be able to influence. But unfortunately, it’s unknown if she ever found her cat.

You can focus on specific communication techniques to build relationships. For example, in business, Americans tend to de-emphasize the importance of interpersonal communication skills in building relationships, possibly due to the extensive use of business contracts in the industry.

For cultures in Asia, business doesn’t begin until the relationship is sound. You won’t succeed in business if you can’t form strong relationships.

Discover how to enhance relationships by focusing on the significant elements people define as crucial in building close personal or business relationships.

6. INTERVIEWING As an Interpersonal Communication Skill Set

And without interviewing skills, you won’t do well in Interviews.

They are super important to job seekers who must skillfully communicate to meet the interviewer’s criteria for the ideal candidate.

It’s tricky since we don’t do it often enough to get good at it. And since a 30-minute interview is both high pressure and high stakes, it’s easy not to say the right thing at the right time.

The following interpersonal communication skills come into play during a face-to-face interview.

This is not the moment to be introverted; you must engage in the moment and practice two-way communication skills.

You see it all the time; a person providing the wrong answer to a question because they didn’t listen effectively to the question asked. 

One has a short time to make a positive first impression. Therefore, if you can master this interpersonal communication skill, you have a good chance of the interview going well.

Sure, you want to sell yourself, but also you want to find out information about the job in the company that would like to hire you. Most interviewers expect questions.

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Find Out How to Improve Your Communication Skills With Online Classes & Courses


Boomy, Nathan ( 2023) AI, you say? Employers want recent grads to have people skills, Axios, June 9. Employers are looking for one thing from recent grads that they can’t get from artificial intelligence: humanity.

Burley-Allen (1995).Listening: The Forgotten Skill. 2nd Edition. Wiley. Another textbook that we often use.

Baron-Cohen, Simon (2004).The Essential Difference: The Truth About the Male and Female Brain. New York: Basic Books.

Bate, Barbara & Taylor (Eds.) (1988). Women Communicating. Norwood, NJ: Ablex

Tannen, Deborah (1991). You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. This is a classic. It contains many patterns men and women have that lead to miscommunication.

Moss, Stewart, and Tubbs, Sylvia (2006). Human Communication, Principles and Contexts, 11th Edition. New York: Prentice-Hall.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116695/Tapscott, Don (1998). Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Tubbs, Stewart (2009). Human Communication, Principles and Contexts, 12th Edition. New York: Prentice-Hall. This is one of our teaching texts for our online communication classes.

Incredible Movies About Communication Skills

Jerry McGuire (1996)

Who said the life of a sports agent is easy? Especially one that has ethics that caused him to give up. The most famous line was, “Show me the money.”

Thank You For Smoking (2005)

Great show if you want to study the fine art of persuasion or marketing of tobacco products. One gets the impression that working as a lobbyist requires much fast-talking and a meager standard of ethics.

Online Information

Think You Can Pitch: Creatives Break Down Their Art.   One of the better descriptions of the art I have ever run across. One that’s worth listening to.

Communication Skills Test. This site (called Queendom) has many different types of assessments, many offered for free.

This Fast Company article has many communication tips — over 55 of them. These form the basis for something called heuristics — the ability to make a good decision based on availability.

The Elevator Pitch. We all need a short elevator pitch to explain what we are doing. More art than science needs to be practiced. 

Borchers, Tim (1999).Interpersonal Communication. Allyn and Bacon. This is an excellent overview of interpersonal communication. You will find scholarly views on relationship development, self-disclosure, patterns, and interpersonal conflict.

First Published on June 14, 2001, Last Update: June 11, 2023

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