Lesson 3 - Interpersonal Skills

Teacher with student

Learning Goal: To examine the role of interpersonal skills as an aspect of work ethic, to better appreciate its importance in the workplace, and to develop strategies for improving interpersonal skills.


Interpersonal skills include the habits, attitudes, manners, appearance, and behaviors we use around other people which affect how we get along with other people. We sometimes do not understand how important interpersonal skills really are. It's easy to laugh and make jokes about people who obviously lack interpersonal skills, but sometimes we need to examine our own impressions on others to better prepare for success in life as well as for a productive career.

The development of interpersonal skills begins early in life and is influenced by family, friends, and our observations of the world around us. Television and movies also influence this area, but most of these characteristics are passed along to us by our parents or guardians. Some aspects of interpersonal skills are even inherited. Appearance and some personality traits are largely influenced by our genes.

For us to improve our interpersonal skills, we must first be aware of what we are like from the perspective of other people who interact with us. Habits we are unaware of, actions we think go unnoticed, and other things about us that might affect other people are impossible for us to change if we are not aware of them. One of the things that teachers try to do, starting in the early grades, is to help students correct bad habits and to develop good interpersonal skills.

As we become adults, it increasingly becomes our own responsibility to initiate any changes in interpersonal skills that might be needed. They are more important than ever and they greatly influence both opportunities and success. It's just that rather than trying to change interpersonal skills, as is the case when we are children, adults tend to make judgments about one another based on interpersonal skills without explicitly saying that is the case.

Assignment 1:

Examine the pictures below and answer the questions for each of them. Write down your responses so that they can be used during a class discussion.

Man working on car

1. How important are interpersonal skills for this line of work?
2. What will happen if this person has poor interpersonal skills?
3. Would the education and training this person had in preparing for their career help them improve interpersonal skills?





Lawyer in courtroom


1. Are interpersonal skills important in the careers that these people are practicing?
2. What happens if interpersonal skills are lacking?
3. If you were going to employ the person on the left, what kind of interpersonal skills would you want him to have?





Salesman holding contract


1. Do you think this person has good interpersonal skills?
2. What kinds of interpersonal skills would be important in his work?
3. What happens if interpersonal skills are lacking?





Doctor with patient


1. List some of the kinds of interpersonal skills that are needed in this work.
2. Have you ever visited someone in this occupation who did not have good interpersonal skills? If so, what was it like?
3. Are interpersonal skills in this work optional or do they play a role in the actual success of the job being performed?




Police with radar

1. Is this person likely to have good interpersonal skills?
2. What opportunities have you had to observe the interpersonal skills of someone in this line of work?
3. Based on what is shown on television, how are good interpersonal skills helpful in this job? Does television provide an accurate portrayal of this job?




Assignment 2:

What about your own interpersonal skills? Being able to manage relationships with other people is a large part of being successful in the workplace. Often this requires sensitivity and understanding of other people. Sometimes the decisions you make will impact the success of other people who work with you also.

Take the Communication Style Test and record your results.  This inventory will indicate what your preferred communication style is like.  When people with differing communication styles work with each other, the potential for misunderstanding and miscommunication increases.  Bringing the results of your style test with you, spend some time in a small group comparing your scores and discuss how these differences might play a roll in workplace interpersonal skills problems. (These materials can be printed if preferred. There are also some additional discussion items included.)

Assignment 3:

Courtesy and manners also play a role in interpersonal skills. These societal norms are intended to make it more pleasant for other people to be around us. How are your manners? Respond to the items on this Interpersonal Skills Questionnaire and write your answers on a piece of paper to be used in a class discussion.