top of page
  • Liz Cruz

Interpersonal Skills in the Workplace: What Are They + 3 Ways to Work on Yours

Even leaders who work from home need these skills

Think about the last time you had a conversation with someone you work with. It could be either over the phone, in a Zoom meeting, or in person at your office.

Did you show them you were listening by asking relevant questions?

Did you show you understood them by agreeing with them when appropriate?

Did you show support when they needed it?

Awesome! If you did any or all of those things, you already have a great foundation of interpersonal skills. It’s the third composite dimension/pie slice of emotional intelligence (EQ).

And if engaging with colleagues sometimes makes you feel anxious, on edge, or like you need to improve your interpersonal skills, that’s okay (more than okay, actually). You’re also not alone– 55% of LGBTQIA+ leaders I surveyed said they were interested in learning more about emotional intelligence.

So here’s what to expect in this post about the interpersonal pie slice of the EQ model.

The graphic of the Interpersonal composite area of the EQ-i 2.0 along with the three related skills. It says Interpersonal Composite, Interpersonal Relationships, Empathy, and Social Responsibility.
The graphic of the Interpersonal composite area of the EQ-i 2.0 along with the three related skills: Interpersonal Relationships, Empathy, and Social Responsibility.

I’ll be breaking down three interpersonal skills you need for your leadership, sharing an activity for each of those skills, and inviting you to stay in the know about my coaching offerings (hint– they’re freakin’ awesome).

Ready? Me too!

What are three critical EQ skills we need for great relationships?

1. Interpersonal Relationships

Are you the type of leader who wants to learn how to delegate even though you find it awkward? Support your colleagues and show you trust them but are unsure where to start? Help your team members learn from failure instead of avoiding it? [1]

If you are, you’re in the right place. It sounds like you’re thinking about the first part of interpersonal skills in leadership: interpersonal relationships.

And this applies to all kinds of leaders. Whether you’re:

  • self-employed and only have an occasional Zoom meeting with a client

  • the owner of a large company who engages with colleagues the second you walk into work

  • or a manager of a small team who gives quarterly performance reviews

everyone can improve their relationships by working on this skill.

Interpersonal relationship skills refer to your ability to develop and maintain relationships with your colleagues. The EQ-i 2.0 assessment I use says that relationships should involve trust and compassion, and also be “mutually satisfying.” [2]

As a queer leader, you might face a particular challenge in this area if you’re working in an environment that’s not supportive of who you are. You might be struggling to connect with others because of their biases and perceptions of you. It’s something almost all queer leaders have had to deal with at one point or another in the professional world.

With that in mind, here are a few prompts to help you reflect on your interpersonal relationships at work.

  • Activity #1: Ask yourself these questions

    • How do you cultivate trust? What actions do you take when trust has been damaged in a relationship?

    • Think about the professional relationships that challenge you. How might those relationships improve if you set or clarified your boundaries?

    • How does the culture in your workplace support positive relationships? How does it hinder them?

2. Empathy

“I understand your frustration.”

“I get how overwhelmed you are.”

“We’re here to help you with anything you need.”

If you’ve heard these phrases from a colleague before, or if you’ve said them yourself, then you know about the second interpersonal skill we’re about to talk about: empathy.

Empathy is all about being able to recognize how others are feeling and understanding their individual perspectives. When I work with leaders like you on this EQ skill, we take a closer look at their ability to show that they understand others and can act in ways that model that. [2]

This article by Tracy Brower, PhD at Forbes shows that empathy is the most important leadership skill overall. But Paul Bloom cautions leaders to notice a distinction between empathy and compassion so they don’t end up taking on others’ emotions. [3,4]

So it’s critical to find a balance– which this next activity is all about.

  • Activity #2: Explore the range of your empathy

Make a chart like the one below to take a closer look at the high and low points of your empathy. You can get as specific as you want!

What does it look like when you over-empathize?

What does it look like when I under-empathize?

I have a hard time making decisions because I’m thinking about how it’ll affect others

When I’m rushed, I sometimes make off-the-cuff comments that aren’t sensitive to others’ feelings

I start to lose track of my own perspective because I’m so attuned with what people around me are feeling

I get overly attached to my own perspective and forget to check out what other people are feeling

3. Social Responsibility

As an LGBTQIA+ leader, you already know and think about this third interpersonal skill a lot.

Wanna know why I think so?

It’s because queer leaders (like all marginalized and minoritized leaders) often have to work harder to get our voices heard. Our rights (and our humanity) are constantly in question. We’re the ones who have to persevere to make change happen.

And this isn’t always comfortable. It’s not an easy thing to do. Leading in harmony with our personal values compared to society’s expectations of what a leader should look like is challenging. But we find ways to do it anyway because it matters.

Social responsibility refers to our concern for supporting others and caring about the people we interact with. It’s about wanting to be a contributing member of society and serve as an active participant in our community. [2]

A queer leader is in focus, smiling towards a team member who's presenting to the group.
A leader can create positive change when they proudly show support to their team and lead with a purpose.

Queer leaders often feel the responsibility to practice ethical leadership. This article by Ethical Systems highlights how leaders are the ones who influence a work environment. It shows how key social responsibility is as an interpersonal skill. [5]

  • Activity #3: Rewrite rules to align with your current values

Think about the rules that guide how you lead now.

Maybe you learned them as a kid.

Maybe a mentor showed you them during an internship in college.

Or maybe they’re what’s commonly rewarded in your current workplace.

So here’s what I want you to try:

  1. Write down those rules.

  2. Take some time to analyze those rules.

  3. Notice any that aren’t serving you well? Go ahead and rewrite those rules to align with your personal values.

Need some examples? I got you!

  • “This is my project, so I have to do it all myself” → “This project will be better if I include a variety of people’s perspectives and ideas”

  • “To fit in, I have to dress/speak/present myself in a certain way” → “When I show up authentically, I help others to do the same”

  • “My job as a leader is to get my team to deliver, at all costs” → “My job as a leader is to help my team be at their best, and to make sure they’re fully supported”


Leaders with strong interpersonal skills create supportive relationships with colleagues.

They build trust with the people they work with by showing empathy and meeting people where they’re at.

And they feel connected with their community and work to do what’s best for everyone.

You’re already that leader. I can tell you care about developing this EQ skill and believe in the power of interpersonal skills in the workplace because you read this post. I know that you are capable of growing in this area.

Need some more support? I’m here to help you.

I invite you to join my email list. It’s where you’ll be among the first to know about some of my newest coaching offerings, upcoming events, and latest posts.

I’m cheering you on and can’t wait to keep supporting your leadership journey. 💜

Links to References


bottom of page