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What is interpersonal skills?

Interpersonal skills are the life skills we use every day to communicate and interact with other people,
both individually and in groups. People who have worked on developing strong interpersonal skills are
usually more successful in both their professional and personal lives.

What are the different components of interpersonal skills?
The skill of maintaining interpersonal relationships, is, to a great extent, influenced by or is dependent
on self-awareness. The greater the understanding of self, the more comfortable and secure one is in
other relationships. Our level of awareness of the factors that form and maintain a relationship can
determine whether we will be able to form healthy and successful relationships.

Let's look at the Components that contribute to our Interpersonal Relationship Skills:
The Ability to Initiate Relationships: Striking up a conversation, making small talk, smiling and self-
introduction are all means by which people initiate relationships. Relationships may be initiated for
temporary gain, for long term friendships, professional reasons, and boredom or to overcome
loneliness. Very often, low self esteem, a fear of rejection, lack of trust or the preference for solitude or
just simply, the lack of communication skills hinder people from initiating relationships.
Sustenance of Relationships: Sustenance of relationships means the ability to carry a relationship
through to a fruitful end or to remain committed in the relationship. Every human relationship has a
honeymoon phase when both parties in the relationship tend to focus on the positive or unique qualities
of the other. Even differences are looked at as strengths. After this phase comes the ebb, when people
find that they have to really work at keeping the relationship going. They get irritated with the very
things that they once found different and endearing. They are forced to accept the fact that the other is
all too human and has very real defects and lacunae. Once acceptance of this fact sets in, adaptability
and flexibility to the flaws and differences in the other person become easy. The decision to 'agree to
disagree' is an important one at this stage in order to carry on the relationship.
Negotiation: The art of negotiation is an important part of interpersonal relationship skills. Children
constantly bargain with parents to increase or decrease punishments and rewards or fulfil needs and
luxuries. Negotiation brings in a sense of democracy in a relationship. It means that all voices are heard
and all viewpoints taken into account. When there is no room for negotiation, it often means that
someone has been silenced while another is playing dictator. In a professional relationship, often several
aspects of work ethic, training, productivity may be non-negotiable but the manner in which these are
extracted from employees as well as employee responses are greatly dependent on interpersonal
relationship skills.
Compromise: Compromise is often seen by some people as a weakness. However, the ability to
compromise when all negotiations fail may save a relationship. A compromise may be temporary...just a
means of biding time as one waits for better opportunities to communicate ones true feelings or needs.
A compromise need not necessarily mean giving in to someone else's demands. It may simply mean
accepting the differences and agreeing not to get conflicted about these differences.
Compromise may be necessary in order to sustain essential relationships like those with your children,
spouse or parents. For instance, a parent who learns to compromise and agrees to allow space for a
child who has chosen a marriage partner of a different faith may find themselves at much more peace
than parents who break all physical ties or emotionally cut-off from the child. Similarly, a daughter who
refuses to compromise on an intrusive, critical mother may find herself festering with rage and lose out
on the opportunity to have a non-conflictual relationship with her mother.
Maintaining Boundaries: Boundaries are an important aspect of relationships. They are an intangible
reality in every relationship. People whose boundaries are diffused tend to intrude or be over involved
with others. The do not allow for much freedom in relationships and can be quite suffocative in the
demands that they make of others. People with diffused boundaries also tend to allow anyone and
everyone to have a say in their lives. They are heavily influenced by others and leave little room for self.
On the other hand, people with rigid non-flexible boundaries tend to be defensive and do not allow
warmth or trust to grow in relationships. They have an emotional barrier that they put around
themselves and rarely allow people to enter this space. They take offense easily and resent any
demands made on them. Often, a fear of rejection keeps these people from developing relationships. It
is therefore essential for people to have open and clear boundaries in relationships that protect
individuality and autonomy while allowing freedom of interaction.
Developing Intimacy: The ability to develop intimacy in spousal, parental or other close love
relationships is also an important aspect of interpersonal relationship skills. Many couples delay
developing sexual relationships in their marriages for reasons as varied as a fear of the sexual act, lack of
desire or arousal, disinterest in the partner, ignorance about sex, confusion about sexual orientation or
discomfort with ones sexuality. Becoming comfortable with who one is sexually, is an important
milestone towards sexual intimacy.
Physical affection, emotional attachment, caring acts experienced through childhood and adolescence,
all contribute to the ability to develop intimacy in relationships. The lack of affection during significant
periods in life can result in adults lacking the ability to be affectionate and caring in relationships. At the
other extreme, emotionally deprived or abused children may go on to become adults who crave for
attention or develop sexual addictions.
Termination: The ability to end a relationship amicably and with maturity also forms an important
component of interpersonal relationship skills. Termination first requires individuals to be able to
evaluate a relationship for what they are gaining out of or putting into it. Termination through divorce in
spousal relationships can be a painful affair, especially where children are involved.
Preparing the family for the consequences of divorce is essential. Children need to be prepared for what
is going to happen. Parents must remember that even though their spousal responsibilities may now be
over, their parental responsibilities are permanent. Parents often drag children to take sides. Others try
to punish their spouse by not meeting up with children or disallowing the child to meet with the
divorced spouse. This creates a great deal of anxiety in the child about the security of his family.
Termination of relationships between dating couples can often become painful affairs. Partners need to
allow for closure by breaking up face to face and not by telephone, emails, sms, greeting cards or
telegrams. Sometimes, partners abandon each other because they cannot communicate their needs or
they have now found someone new. Many a times, you may come across the spouse who wants to
leave the relationship blaming the other partner for causing them to leave. They lay blame so that they
themselves can avoid the guilt. It is important that people acknowledge their role in the death of a
relationship and not place blame elsewhere.
Tips to Improve Interpersonal Relationship Skills
Some things that you can start doing today are:
1. Initiate conversation with that one person whom you've been curious about at work or college.
2. Do that one thing that your spouse, parent or significant member has been asking you to do for a long
time now. It maybe something you've been putting off for lack of time. Let it serve as an act to sustain
your relationship.
3. Take your spouse or partner out for a romantic date or write him/her a romantic email. The aim here
is to increase emotional intimacy.
4. Call up that one person you've been really upset with and found hard to forgive. Rekindle ties with
them and try to look at things from their perspective.
5. Tell a close friend what he/she means to you in the relationship.
6. As a parent make it a point not to talk about your grouses with your partner in the presence of your
children. Don't belittle your spouse in the presence of your child.
7. As a parent, learn to apologise for the mistakes that you make even to those younger than you or
economically weaker than you. Remember that your children watches your every move.
8. Make it a point to organise a family reunion at least on a bi-annual basis. Introduce your children
afresh to the extended family
9. Control your harshness of tone or words the next time you mother or father calls you asking for the
nth time why you haven't visited them or blame you for not doing something for them. Instead try to
humour them or change the topic to something less conflictual. Later try to spend some time and think
of whether their complaints are justified and if you can actually do something about it.
10. If you are in a toxic relationship and are afraid to let go, try to picture yourself 10 years from now
and analyse whether you would still be a happy cheerful you or an unhappy, unfruitful bitter person.
You know what you should do if you see a bitter you! Build up the courage to leave by taking the help of
someone who you know would understand. Take them with you to talk things over with the person you
want to leave
11. Do something special for your in-laws. If you know there's a birthday or anniversary coming up plan
it in advance. You may be adding brownie points to your marital relationship
12. If you are someone who befriends people easily and then has trouble maintaining boundaries here is
something you can try: This time when you find someone you think can be a good friend spend a little
while observing them from a distance. Watch how they interact and who they hang out with. How do
they treat women or older people? How are they with money? Who are their current friends? The idea
is to practise reserve and restraint and gradually work towards initiating a conversation. You can then
slowly begin hanging out with them and disclosing more of yourself to them.
13. If you have trouble stopping yourself from beating the people you love because you find this an
effective way of establishing control or having your way in the relationship then you need to urgently
consider seeking counseling. Please don't delay this as you may be damaging your partners self
confidence as well as their emotional well being. Violence could also end in tragedy if it gets out of hand
and you don't want to get yourself into legal trouble so do the right thing today.