Interpersonal skills are critical in any workplace environment, and effective communication is important both on the personal and corporate levels. However, if you’re not naturally an outgoing people person, building relationships with colleagues can be difficult. Simply going into the break room to heat up your lunch can stress you out.
Luckily, as an article in Fast Company pointed out, there’s no such thing as a pure introvert or pure extrovert. We all have the ability to adapt to the situation and learn the communication skills we need to succeed. And while it can be scary to step outside of your comfort zone, the relationships you have with your co-workers can improve your productivity and satisfaction in your current job, as well as become an important part of your professional network for the future.
If interpersonal skills are not your forte, check these 5 tips to strengthen them at the office.
1. Work for an organization that you believe in and are confident about.
One of the hardest parts about interacting with people is finding common ground that makes it easier for you to connect. If you work for a company that you truly believe in, that’s a great starting point from which to build a relationship with co-workers. Knowing that you share an interest in the work you’re doing with those around you will make it easier to communicate with them.
Most people automatically become more open and talkative when they’re discussing something they’re passionate about, and that enthusiasm is often contagious. Not only is it personally rewarding to share what you love, but this will also make you seem like more of a positive, upbeat individual. And your co-workers will enjoy your company more because of that.
If you feel your work isn’t something you’d feel excited telling someone else about, consider altering your career path. Useful tools like career exploration apps can help you figure out whether or not you’re in the right field, as well as learn about all the options available to you.
2. Keep your home and work lives separate.
There are few things more awkward or depressing than when a co-worker insists on bringing their home troubles into the office. There’s a thin line between telling your work friends about what you did over the weekend and the laundry list of things that are stressing you out.
Don’t make those around you uncomfortable by oversharing your personal life at work. While those types of conversations might feel cathartic to you, they can be distracting for everyone else. Additionally, they may cause others to avoid interacting with you out of fear of awkward situations. Leaving your home life behind when you go to the office will help you focus on work and be a more approachable colleague.
3. Have balanced conversations.
There’s nothing worse than being cornered by a co-worker and having them go on and on about their idea without leaving you room to get a word in edgewise. Don’t be that person. Remember, a conversation is a two-way street. Communication isn’t just about talking; it’s also about listening.
Whether you’re interacting with a co-worker one-on-one or in a group, do your part to ensure everyone’s ideas are being heard. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to bring others into the conversation by saying “I’d like to hear what you have to say about this,” in order to get quieter people involved. This will help improve productivity and efficiency when brainstorming.
Also remember that this is important for more casual conversations as well. Nobody likes a know-it-all. Even if you have seen every episode of Game of Thrones, read all the books, and investigated every fan theory, other people deserve to speak up about the topic. Take a step back every now and again, and let others talk about their interests or opinions.
4. Set socializing goals for yourself.
For people who aren’t naturally outgoing, it can seem daunting to put yourself out there. However, if this a professional goal of yours, you need to make it a priority to mingle with your co-workers on a regular basis.
Start small. Go to the break room twice a week for five minutes and strike up a conversation with whoever is there. Ask them about a project they’re working on or take the chance to thank them for something they helped you out on earlier in the week. You’re just trying to break the ice, so don’t stress out if you run out of things to talk about quickly. The key is baby steps.
From there, build up to weekly happy hours or team lunches to improve your social skills. Since these are longer events, it’ll require more interaction. However, because there will be multiple people there, you can make the rounds without putting too much pressure on yourself to talk with one person for an extended period of time.
5. Be mindful of your tone and body language.
The messages we send out to others aren’t purely defined by our words. Your tone and body language can also speak volumes. A variety of research reported on in Forbes found that everything from a smile to better posture can help you develop better relationships in the workplace.
Pay attention to co-workers who you view as confident and likeable. Do they stand up straight? How well do they maintain eye contact? Do they use certain words or tones that make them particularly effective communicators? Try to incorporate those things into your body language.
Don’t stand or say things that seem unnatural to you, but practice in front of a mirror so you can improve your stance, movement, and tone in a way that’s natural to you.
Your co-workers can play an important part in your professional success. They can be there to help you when you’re facing a problem or inspire you to work harder. But in order to develop those relationships, you have to focus on improving your interpersonal skills.
What are some other ways to become more of a people person? Share in the comments below!