What Are People Skills?

Effective nonverbal communication is an important people skill.

The term “people skills” refers to both the ability to interact effectively with others and the ability to deal with one’s own emotions, reactions, and motivations. Because these skills are a crucial part of being a healthy and well-adapted human, academia and professional workplaces devote much attention to understanding and cultivating them. Although these skills are all strongly interconnected, breaking them down into several categories can help make more sense of a term that is somewhat vague.

1 Clear Communication

The ability to be understood and share ideas effectively is a cornerstone of people skills. People with strong verbal skills can use language to adapt their message to a particular audience and form meaningful intellectual connections. Non-verbal communication is equally important in positive relationships. The ability to send and interpret signals transmitted through facial expressions, postures, gestures, and eye contact is a people skill that will augment a person's expressive ability and prevent misunderstandings.

2 Self-Awareness and Self-Esteem

While the use of the term “people skills” in everyday speech refers mostly to conduct in social situations, a large component of psychological wellness and introspective prowess is inherent in developing those skills. Individuals who understand and accept their own motivations, beliefs, and shortcomings are better equipped to handle interactions with others.

Self-esteem allows people to project a positive and confident image of themselves. It also puts others at ease and facilitates the formation of positive relationships, both in the business world and in personal life.

3 Empathy and Attentiveness

American psychologist Daniel Goleman’s model of emotional intelligence draws special attention to empathy as a skill in interpersonal interaction. The ability to recognize feelings in others that may not be explicitly stated is an important part of communicating and interacting. Individuals who cultivate empathy by attempting to place themselves in another person’s situation are simultaneously cultivating a whole subset of “people skills” that will allow them to respond appropriately to the complicated demands of the social world.

4 Conflict Resolution

The ability to resolve disagreements and restore peace in volatile social situations is another important element of the term “people skills.” Inherent differences in outlook and personality inevitably lead to tension between people, particularly those who are forced into a social situation by the demands of work or other obligations. This category of skills can be cultivated through training and strategies for controlling volatile emotions, listening attentively, interpreting nonverbal communication, and being sensitive to personal differences.

Drew Lichtenstein started writing in 2008. His articles have appeared in the collegiate newspaper "The Red and Black." He holds a Master of Arts in comparative literature from the University of Georgia.