What are Interpersonal Skills? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:03 What Are Interpersonal Skills?
  • 0:42 Emotional Regulation
  • 1:12 Conflict…
  • 2:59 Questioning/Empathizing
  • 4:35 Body Language/Verbal Language
  • 5:51 Good Manners
  • 6:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

Expert Contributor
Kaitlyn Danahy

Kate has a bachelor's degree in literature & creative writing from Gordon College. She taught high school literature in India and tutored in the US.

In this lesson, you'll learn the definition of interpersonal skills and be given examples to further your understanding. Following the lesson will be a brief quiz.

What Are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills are capabilities to effectively communicate, socialize, connect, and cooperate with people in life, whether it be an individual or a group. Some people naturally have great interpersonal skills. Others have to learn and practice interpersonal skills in order to master them. One thing's for sure: taking the time and effort to become proficient in this skill set can tremendously benefit your relationships in life and may improve your professional success! There are many different types of interpersonal skills, so let's take a look at some of the most common interpersonal skills and an example for each.

Emotional Regulation

Emotional regulation involves self-control of emotion so that we can take better command of our actions in response to that emotion.

Let's say that it's a school policy that anyone involved in a fight will be suspended or expelled. When Bobby called Emily a name on the soccer field, she felt anger and an urge to fight. But she counted to 10, took some deep breaths, and returned her focus to the game. Emily was practicing emotional regulation to stay calm and out of trouble.

Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution is a complex process involving compromise, negotiation, and the ability to calmly solve a problem.

Let's look at an example. Jonah and Victor are roommates in college, and Jonah allows Victor to use his computer. After a while, Jonah develops an issue with the arrangement and solves it calmly, validating Victor's feelings and coming up with a compromise that works for both of them:

Jonah: Hey Victor, do you have a moment to talk about something that has been bothering me?

Victor: Sure, Jonah.

Jonah: I know I said that you could use my computer to do school work, but I've noticed that you're using it for other things and sometimes I'm not able to use it for my own school work.

Victor: Yes, sometimes I get bored and there's nothing else to do.

Jonah: You get bored, too? I get that! But I think it's important that we are both able to use the computer for school. How about we make an agreement that whoever needs the computer for school uses it first. If we only want to use the computer for fun, let's take turns in 30-minute intervals. Sound like a deal?

Victor: Sure. That sounds good.

Active Listening

Active listening involves listening fully and intently to what the speaker has said. It may also involve paraphrasing the content or feelings back to the speaker to ensure you've understood them correctly and to make the other person feel heard and understood.

Let's listen in on an example conversation in which Leon used active listening with his wife, Sue, so she'd feel heard and understood:

Sue: My boss just doesn't understand that we have more work than we have time! And not to mention that we have to deal with a ton of distractions from customers throughout the day, making it hard to focus!

Leon: So, there's not enough time to accomplish all the work your must do, and your boss just doesn't understand this predicament?


Questioning is another important interpersonal skill. Questioning involves the ability to ask effective, open-ended questions to gather more detailed information, explore an idea, or delve into someone's thoughts.

Say that your friend Mindy met Marco at a networking event, where she wanted to meet new people and develop professional relationships. Mindy asked Marco questions to get to know him better:

Marco: I went to college at the University of Florida.

Mindy: Is that right? What did you study there?

Marco: I studied advertising.

Mindy: That's so interesting. What aspect of advertising are you most interested in and why?

Marco: Oh, I really love the creative side of advertising, you know? Thinking up all of the ideas….


Empathizing goes beyond sympathizing. It involves putting yourself in another person's shoes and feeling their negative emotions. This allows people to truly support someone going through a rough time.

In our example for empathizing, Juan and Ashley go to high school together. Juan comes to school sullen because his dog died that morning.

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Additional Activities

Putting Learning into Practice:

For the following scenario, you will evaluate how to best respond and resolve the situation using all seven of the interpersonal skills identified in the lesson.


You are chaperoning a camping weekend for middle schoolers. One night, shouting wakes you up, and you find two of your students fighting. A third student tells you that Asami borrowed Akriti's phone charger without asking, and now the charger is broken. Akriti got angry and struck Asami. How would you handle this? How can you take steps to prevent this from happening again in the future? Answer by going through each of these seven interpersonal skills and listing how you would employ them.


Other answers are possible, but here are some ideas:

  • Emotional regulation: Suggest Akriti take deep breaths to calm herself when she is mad before confronting someone.
  • Conflict resolution: You could let Akriti borrow your phone charger, and have Asami pay for a new one.
  • Active listening: Take time to listen to both girls about what happened, and repeat it back to them to ensure you hear both sides of the story. Give them both a chance to speak.
  • Questioning: What happened to the charger? (Asami may not have been careless; maybe someone tripped over the charger.) What is upsetting to Akriti about it being broken? Is she worried she won't be able to contact home? Has Asami broken things of hers before?
  • Empathizing: If it was an accident, empathize with Asami that accidents happen, but that doesn't mean she shouldn't try to solve the problem. Understand why Akriti is upset, but tell her hitting isn't acceptable.
  • Body language: What would you want your body language to look like? At first, you might stand tall to break up the fight, but when empathizing with children, it can be helpful to crouch down so that they don't feel intimidated.
  • Verbal language: What would you like to say to them? In what tone would you say it? How would you tell their parents, if you would?
  • Good manners: Tell Asami that while accidents happen, if someone lends you something and it breaks, it is good manners to apologize and offer to fix it. Tell Akriti hitting isn't acceptable, and encourage them both to apologize to each other for those specific actions.

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