6 Most Essential People Skills in the Workplace & How to Improve Them

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May 29, 2024
Edited by
Camille Trent
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min read

3 key takeaways

  • Developing strong communication skills is one of the best investments you can make in yourself.
  • Jobs that involve people skills often involve teamwork.
  • Teal’s AI Resume Builder can help you properly list your soft skills—including people skills—on your resume.

What people say about you when you’re not around is called your Trait Affective Presence. It’s an indicator of your people skills and how you make others feel. 

Of course, you’re human. You experience a range of outside emotions that you might occasionally expose to your colleagues. For better or worse, coworkers will respond to your social cues. It’s what they associate with you, and it rubs off on them, altering the entire vibe of the office.

But how can you gauge your level of people skills (or Trait Affective Presence)? How do you know what skills are most important in the workplace?

In this article, you’ll learn the most essential people skills and some tips on how to improve them. 

Struggling to land interviews with your resume? Get started with Teal’s AI Resume Builder for free.

The most essential people skills for any job

Anyone who has ever relied on a network of colleagues and friends in their industry to get a job knows just how valuable people skills truly are. 

When people like you, they’re willing to put your name forward for roles even if they’ve never worked with you directly. After all, most jobs are looking for someone who doesn’t just fit a role but also fits a company culture. 

But there’s more to it. People skills are sometimes integral to the job. 

1. Communication

When you master communication, you’re able to comfortably speak in front of crowds and communicate effectively to earn buy in for your ideas. Both are keys to success in several professions. Just take it from Warren Buffet who, in an interview with Business Empires, said:

 “The best investment you can make is in yourself. Take communication skills— these students are getting their masters and they’re learning all of these complicated formulas. But if they just learn to communicate better, both in writing and in person, they increase their value 50 percent. You have to be able to communicate your ideas.”

If you’re a poor communicator, you might shy away from attention and avoid sharing your thoughts. This might lead to some difficulty getting buy-in for your ideas. 

2. Social skills

Small talk—or rather, being somewhat social—is an essential part of developing connections with people. But it can also be a vessel for developing effective relationships (or at least deeper conversations). Or, in the case of work, a vessel for opportunity.

Vanessa Van Edwards, author of the book Master the Secret Language of Charismatic Communication and Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People, shares the idea of “BIG talk”.

“Big talk is the idea of leveling up boring, predictable small talk into deep, memorable conversations.”

She believes that interactions happen on three levels (the first five minutes, the first five hours, and the first five days). At the last level, the person or people you’re engaging with feel like a friend or a business partner. 

“Conversation is the key to moving up these levels,” says Vanessa. “Master conversationalists use conversation as a tool for everything from building rapport, socializing, and winning sales.”

3. Social assertiveness

To conserve your social energy (and spend it where it counts), you have to have some measure of social assertiveness. That means you stand up for yourself in a social setting, and make your social needs known to others in a non-confrontational way. 

Without social assertiveness, you might surround yourself with toxic people that don’t help you accelerate in life or your career. You might also put too much energy into pleasing your peers, and find it difficult to earn respect.

4. Empathy

People that are empathetic are exceptionally good at decoding the emotional state of others. This isn’t just emotional intelligence. It’s interpersonal intelligence. 

It involves knowing yourself well and how to transfer your emotions onto others, in a positive way while also interpreting what others need.

Without empathy (or any interpersonal skills, for that matter) you'll have trouble decoding body language and picking up on social cues. 

5. Charisma

While some people are born with natural charisma, this isn’t the only way to be charismatic. You can learn to be charming and charismatic.

Vanessa Van Edwards finds that charisma is a blend of two other personality traits—warmth and competence. 

Charismatic people are often associated with being warm, trustworthy, and approachable. But they’re also seen as dependable and capable.

What’s interesting, Vanessa found, is that someone can be warm and approachable, but if they lack the other side of that (dependable and capable), they aren’t considered charismatic by their peers. 

6. Active listening skills

Developing active listening skills can help you nurture relationships further, both in your personal life and at work. But it also has the impact of shaping your worldview, or helping you to shape the worldview of others. 

Active listening involves showing your interest in what someone is saying and allowing them to see you truly understand them. 

According to research from an article on conveying and detecting listening in the Journal of Experimental Psychology by Hanne Collins, Julia A. Minson, Ariella S. Kristal and Alison Wood Brooks, most people are rather good at faking attentiveness. 

Throughout their studies, they found that most speakers were unable to accurately interpret when people weren’t listening to them (their minds were wandering). Speakers even occasionally believed the listener to not be listening when they were. 

Of course, everyone has a different level of skill in both listening and interpreting body language. The only way to actively listen and to show you are, is to engage in the conversation by asking questions.

How to improve your people skills

Before you can improve your skills, you need to know which ones are strong and which ones need work.

Teal's Work Styles Assessment can give you a baseline understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, and work style.

Teal work personality quiz, the work style assessment
Teal's free Work Style Assessment helps professionals understand how they work

How you communicate at work is a big part of the equation. Feeling unheard is a common experience for a lot of people. But this is particularly painful if you’re in the workplace, trying to convey any new idea, trying to sway clients or prospects, and most especially when you’re trying to manage people. 

Julian Treasure, the chair of the Sound Agency, which advises businesses on how to design sound in their communication and space, claims in his book, How To Be Heard, that there are seven deadly sins of communication.

Avoid these seven communication mistakes

The seven communication mistakes—gossip, judging, negativity, complaining, excuses, lying, and dogmatism—make it hard to build trust and keep you from being heard when speaking among your peers. 

“It’s hard to listen to someone who’s constantly throwing their opinions at you regardless of facts,” says Treasure.

He goes on to explain that there is an opposite to those sins. They are the cornerstones of good communication—honesty, authenticity, integrity, and love. 

“It’s hard to judge someone that’s authentically wishing you well,” says Treasure. In order to improve the most important skill—communication—you must rid yourself of those poor habits and infuse your speech with those good cornerstones. 

Improve conflict resolution by being social and supportive

Shadé Zahrai, a science-based personal development coach, poses a situation that often comes up for her students in which a colleague excitedly explains their idea. You might respond that the idea didn’t work last time.

“You’ve just unintentionally invalidated their idea, and them,” says Zahrai. Instead, she insists you change any “but” (as in “we tried that but it didn’t work last time”) to “and.”

A phrase like, “Yes, and we can learn from what we did last time to increase our chances of success this time” is a much more positive and validating response.

Be more charismatic

Myka Meier, the Founder of Beaumont Etiquette, which teaches business etiquette and protocol, explains that, “one of the most important aspects to building charisma is having confidence. Make eye contact. Stand tall. Speak with conviction.”

Another tip Ms. Meier states for becoming more charismatic, is to be an active listener. You’re maintaining eye contact, nodding, and asking questions, especially questions that help the speaker tell their story, such as “what happened next?” or “what did you say to them?”

Keeping a positive mindset is also instrumental to being perceived as charismatic. It passes off a certain energy that’s entirely infectious. 

For more on developing people skills, check out this post on hard skills for your resume.

Jobs for people with strong people skills

Maybe you feel you don’t have good people skills and are looking to understand which jobs value people skills, and which don't. Or maybe you possess a healthy dose of people skills and are looking for a job that keeps you social. Either way, here are a few examples of jobs that require fewer technical skills and more people skills:

  • Event planner
  • Sales associate
  • Marketing manager
  • Flight attendant
  • Public relations specialist
  • Teacher
  • Human resources associate
  • Life coach
  • Product manager
  • Any front of house role in hospitality
  • Social worker
  • Recruiter
  • Performer
  • Customer service agent
  • Onboarding specialist
  • Cosmetologist
  • Nurse
  • Athletic coach

What many of these jobs have in common is they tend to involve a lot of noise and activity, involve a lot of collaboration with other team members (meaning a support system), and some level of risk-taking or experimentation.

How to include people skills on your resume

If you’re working on earning an interview, keep in mind that everyone you speak with in the company will offer some input as to your “fit” with the company. You’ll have to prove you demonstrate all of the good personality traits and characteristics they’re looking for in a new hire. 

To land that interview, however, you’re going to have to add people skills to your resume

Most job listings will feature some soft skills that are particularly important for the role and to be a good fit for the company. 

Take a look at this listing for a Content Manager:

How to find people skills in a job description
Use Teal's Matching Mode feature in the AI Resume Builder to find key skills in a job description

“Strong communication and people management skills” are directly listed within this description. They double down after just a few bullet points by adding “exceptional written and oral communication skills.”

Communication skills are clearly an important aspect of the role. So you shouldn’t use poor communication skills to convey that. For example, avoid “I have demonstrated communications skills in this role,” or a similar iteration.

Instead, there’s a specific way to add people skills to a resume. 

  • Quantify your experience: If the role is looking for someone that’s good with people (in other words, you can keep a level head and resolve conflicts easily) you might add a line under one of your past roles similar to, “led tour groups of 10 to 30 people for one hour tours.”
  • Phrase your responsibilities in a way that demonstrates your people skills: Most roles are looking for someone who can speak well, either verbally or in writing. The responsibilities for some of your past roles should demonstrate this.
  • Pro tip: With Teal’s AI achievements functionality, you can add in your work experience and choose to improve that summary with AI. The AI will boost your text with new arrangements, powerful language, and figures. You can then add in the appropriate numbers or make any changes you deem necessary for accuracy.

resume summary created in Teal
Teal's AI Achievement feature suggests better ways to write or rewrite your achievements

  • Utilize the summary or professional statement: If you’re new to the job market and don't have extensive experience, you might include a professional summary to beef up your resume and highlight some of your personal skills.

resume summary created in Teal
Teal's AI helps job seekers write more impactful resume summaries

  • Use your achievements: If you, for instance, took on a job that no one else wanted and had success with it, it might demonstrate your tenacity, drive, and proactive problem solving. If you lead a team through a difficult project, it could demonstrate your ability to collaborate and lead. 
  • Use your cover letter: Your resume might not always offer opportunities to highlight your abilities, but your cover letter offers more flexibility. Share stories of situations where your personal skills came in handy to resolve issues, or earn you a promotion. 

With Teal’s AI Cover Letter Generator, you can easily create a tailored cover letter in just a few clicks. Demonstrating your abilities on a resume can be tricky, but know there are ways to let your personality shine through. You just have to see the soft skills in the outcomes you’ve produced. 

For more on showcasing skills on your resume, check out this post on resume soft skills.

The easiest way to add people skills to your resume

People skills are essential in any workplace, but there are some jobs that absolutely require them. Those with this requirement often feature specific, desired skills in their job description. 

Adding those specific skills to your resume will help you stand out in the candidate pool, especially if you can find ways to demonstrate those skills in conjunction with your achievements.

If you’re finding it hard to squeeze people skills into your resume, you can always work them into your cover letter.

Either way, with Teal’s AI Resume Builder you can easily create AI-generated resume summaries, achievements, and cover letters to tailor these assets to your job search. 

Give Teal’s AI Resume Builder a try today.

Frequently Asked Questions

What skills are people skills?

People skills encompass communication, social skills, social assertiveness, empathy, charisma, and active listening. These skills are essential for effective interaction and relationship-building in the workplace.

What is a better word for people skills?

A better, or at least more common, word for people skills is "soft skills." These skills include interpersonal and social abilities that facilitate effective communication and collaboration.

What are 10 essential people skills to succeed?

Ten essential people skills are communication, social skills, social assertiveness, empathy, charisma, active listening, teamwork, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, and adaptability.

What's the best job if you have excellent people skills?

Jobs that are ideal for individuals with excellent people skills include event planner, sales associate, marketing manager, public relations specialist, teacher, human resources associate, life coach, and customer service agent.

How can you tell if someone has good people skills?

Good people skills are evident through positive feedback from others, strong relationships, effective communication, and the ability to make others feel comfortable and understood. Observing someone’s Trait Affective Presence can also indicate their level of people skills.

Sarah Colley

Sarah Colley is a freelance content writer, content strategist, and content consultant for B2B SaaS, e-commerce, Martech, and Salestech companies. She specializes in creating interview and SME-based content and helping fill the gap between content specialization and management.

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