Interpersonal skills defined
“The skills we use everyday to communicate with others [include] the ability to control and self-regulate our own emotions” says Leigh King, one of the day camp managers at the YMCA of Greater Toronto. “Being able to effectively communicate with … peers and effectively control emotions is a huge part of growing up and learning. The more [kids] can learn that at a young age, the more positive interactions they’ll have with their peers, teachers and friends.” Early development of interpersonal skills can play a huge role in a child’s maturation.
What are the benefits of interpersonal skills?
The development of interpersonal skills goes deeper than the ability to communicate, if you ask Alice Wiafe. For her, it’s a kind of intelligence, “a science that allows you to know how you’re wired, how you’re seen, how you’re perceived by other people … It’s your ability to read those cues with other people”. Emotional intelligence, she says, demonstrates the importance of interpersonal skills in everyday life. As a psychotherapist at Positive Kids, she deals directly with children’s growth in the realm of social and emotional skills.
“Emotional intelligence [understanding, demonstrating and regulating emotions] is now a higher predictor of success than IQ,” according to research, she says. “Interpersonal skills and the ability to hone, nurture and grow in that part of your life is probably the most important piece [of kids’ personal development], more so than getting A’s in math.”
This ability to connect and relate to other people, to communicate effectively and read social cues is extremely important, “in the workplace, in relationships ... in your [ability] to be self-aware and how you’re being perceived by others,” she says.
Emotional intelligence is now a higher predictor of success than IQ.
As children get older, their interpersonal skills will develop and help them in their adult lives. These skills are useful in both personal and professional settings. People with interpersonal skills are better equipped to understand the needs and wants of others. They’re able to make positive adjustments to their behaviour or actions and cultivate harmonious environments as a result. They’re more likely to solve problems without commotion, communicate effectively and have a deeper consideration of others.
How to develop your child’s interpersonal skills
You can foster interpersonal skills by modeling certain behaviours for your child. This includes keeping your temper at bay when you’re frustrated, working through situations calmly, listening to others and communicating how you feel calmly and respectfully. You can also encourage your child to practice positive interpersonal skills around other people by using manners, being polite and respectful. Remember to support your child’s achievements and use any discrepancies as an opportunity to learn from mistakes.
Children aren’t born with interpersonal skills. As Wiafe explains, “some kids are naturally more comfortable with people but many are not. A lot of times they have to be honed, developed and learned.”
Social environments provide children with the ability to focus on building relationships, gain confidence and manage their own emotions, behaviours and speech. It’s increasingly important, she points out, “that [camps and schools] are now realizing how important emotional intelligence is and are actually putting supports in place to make sure that’s something that’s nurtured in the curriculum.”
How does camp accelerate the development of interpersonal skills?
In a camp setting, children are exposed to new and various people. At camp, they build new relationships, develop skills and gain confidence. Through daily trial and error, kids learn at their own pace. “How you act during that process all naturally contributes to building interpersonal skills,” she explains. “If you were to ask a parent about what their child learned at camp, or if you were to ask an adult about what they learned at camp as a child ... they often will tie it back to social skills as well as just learning skills in general and how that has improved their confidence and helped them in their lives as they got older.”
Wiafe supports King’s point by mentioning that a camp environment is “built around the whole idea of building emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills.”
“They recognize that it’s very much needed and very significant in nurturing both intrapersonal skills (my relationship with myself) and interpersonal skills (my relationship with somebody else).”
What is an example of interpersonal skills?
If a child is told to line up and they begin to push people or cut ahead, thatès one example of lacking interpersonal skills. Children don’t realize “there’s repercussions for that behaviour in terms of how they’re seen and ultimately treated,” Wiafe explains. “A child who has learned interpersonal skills would recognize that, if I act this way or say these things, then it’ll cost people to not want to be around me or not want to be my friend.” It’s all about developing fuller relationships with others around them.
Leigh King illustrates an example of interpersonal skills at the YMCA of Greater Toronto, where she works. An initiative called “The YMCA Values Bead Program” awarded beads to campers demonstrating one or more of their six core values: respect, responsibility, inclusiveness, caring, honesty and health. One camper showed surprising personal growth by offering to give away one of his Values Beads in acknowledging both the emotions and actions of his peers.
Leigh tells the whole story below.
Want your child to enhance their interpersonal skills?
Children learn interpersonal skills through exposure to others in a structured environment, like camp. They meet new friends, strengthen relationships, work in small and large groups and develop those interpersonal skills. “I just can’t stress enough what a huge role that I feel camp plays in the development of positive interpersonal skills for children and youth,” King mentions. “Camp is just a huge [opportunity] for children to learn and grow.”