Understanding Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills (The 4 Components)

Interpersonal Effectiveness

It’s impossible to go through life without socializing with people. Hence having effective communication skills is a necessity. That’s a major reason why your interpersonal effectiveness related skills are so essential.  

Your skills in communication and socialization can make a marked difference in your overall ability to have meaningful relationships with friends, family and even co-workers.

Our ability to interact with people around us also plays a significant role in the quality of our life.

What Are Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills?

Not everyone understands what this collection of skill sets relate to. But, before you begin to explore that area, you need to take a closer look at what this term refers to.

On a basic level, interpersonal effectiveness relates to one’s ability to interact with others around them. This includes a range of different skill sets that we use to do the following:

  • Develop and maintain relationships
  • Balance our priorities and demands
  • Maintain a balance between the urgent wants and the needs
  • Build and maintain self-respect

With poor interpersonal effectiveness skills, a person is unable to understand or achieve the goal they had in mind when they socialize with people. All our interactions usually have a purpose behind them. In essence, they’re usually based on the following motivations:

  • To achieve an objective – Such as asking for a favor or becoming friends with someone
  • To maintain the relationship – Communication is the foundation for all healthy relationships whether they are with your family or friends.
  • To keep your self-respect – How we interact with others builds an impression, either favorable or disagreeable.

Each motivation behind the interaction requires the use of interpersonal skills in order to achieve them. For example:

  • To achieve an objective – You need to have clarity to define what you want, what you need and what you don’t want.
  • To maintain the relationship – You need to know the importance of the relationship, how you want the other person to feel about you and what you have to do to keep it flourishing.
  • To keep your self-respect – You want to make sure that your values, morals and your beliefs are not being overlooked and to feel good after the interaction is over.
Understanding Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills (The 4 Components) Infographic

As you can see, this requires a lot of skill on an interpersonal level. Your personal skill sets will definitely affect the kind of outcome you get here.

Who Needs Help for Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills

Who Needs Help for Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills?

People have usually developed their interpersonal effectiveness skills by the time they are adults. Usually, most people have had a host of healthy relationships throughout their lives for this to happen. However, people who suffer from mental disorders, including anxiety, depression or even borderline personality disorders (BPD) often have a hard time in this area.

The nature of their condition makes it difficult for them to interact with others and as a result, they often find it hard to be understood or be happy with an interaction. Fortunately, enhancing your interpersonal effectiveness skills is a possibility with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).

In DBT, the main focus remains on the interpersonal skills of a person. The core belief is that these skills are essential because our interactions and level of communication with others, affects the quality of our relationships. This in turn makes an impact on our self-confidence, self-esteem and well-being.

When taking DBT, a person will focus on building and improving on the following two major actions:

  • Being able to ask for what you need or want
  • Knowing how and when to say no

These are usually the two key areas where most people struggle with. People with anxiety and depression tend to be unable to vocalize their wants properly, even when they need help. Additionally, in the manic phase of BPD, a person can have difficulty in saying no or understanding when they should say no.

Research has also highlighted that the use of DBT to improve interpersonal skills can produce positive results, particularly people with BPD. A study showcased that people with BPD were able to improve their relationships and minimize their effective instability and other symptoms with DBT and interpersonal effectiveness.

Additionally, improvement in this area is not just limited to patients with mental disorders. People in abusive relationships, who experience trauma or have attachment issues can also enhance their communication and interpersonal skills through DBT as well.

As it is so complex in nature, there is no way to gain true mastery of this skill set so you will find that there is always room to improve.

The Four Components of Interpersonal Effectiveness

The Four Components of Interpersonal Effectiveness

When taking DBT for the development of interpersonal skills, a person is required to work on four different components. These were derived from seeing the positive skill sets that people in healthy relationships have.

The following are the four major components of interpersonal effectiveness and DBT:


This component relates to one’s personal thoughts. Many people with anxiety and depression experience negative thoughts and emotions. This can greatly restrict and hamper them from making meaningful interactions with others around them.

THINK is an acronym which can be broken down into the following tasks:

Think About It

If you think they’re being unreasonable with you, try to think about the situation first to find the cause. Additionally, if you’re the one who is viewing things in this manner, how can you help to improve the condition? Thinking about the situation allows you to get a bit more clarity and control on your emotions.

Have Empathy for Others

Everyone is going through something so it’s always a good idea to be kind. Not only should you put yourself in their shoes, try to think of how you would like others to treat you. Remember, people can often be a reflection of us. So, if you don’t want to be treated in that manner, don’t act that way with them.

Interpretation of the Behavior

You’re not a mind reader nor are you always responsible for the reason why someone was upset with you. Always ask first before you start to interpret their behavior and make up outlandish reasons for their attitude. Additionally, everyone is human and a bad day can leave one in a bad mood which can be why they appeared to be upset or annoyed.

Notice the Person

Communication with people is not always verbal. There are a lot of non-verbal cues to pick up as well. When you’re talking or interacting with someone, notice these things. Notice how they smile at you or how they’re not really annoyed, just tired. All these small things can tailor your response towards them and also help you understand the mood of the person.

Kindness in Your Response

Always tailor your response to be kind. This means that you read the situation and control your urge to be cruel. For example, if someone has hurt you and wants to apologize, instead of yelling at them, you can say, “While I do want to fix things, I’m still hurt from what you said. Right now, I would really like some space.”


The second component of interpersonal effectiveness skills relates to your ability to maintaining your self-conflict, especially in conflict. This ensures that your needs are not overlooked and you’re left feeling unhappy and angry.

FAST is an acronym which relates to the following tasks:

Fairness to Everyone

Be fair to others and yourself in your actions and your thoughts. This will not only remove blaming and judgmental responses, it will also prevent you from feeling like you are powerless in the situation. Instead of thinking, “It’s their fault,” you’re going to share the responsibility and think “What can we do to fix it?”

Apologize Only When Needed

Some people have a habit of saying sorry, even when they are not at fault. This often diminishes the power of this word. Break this habit and use it only when you are truly at fault. Never apologize for anything when it is not your fault or you have done nothing wrong.

Sticking to Your Values

Whether you value family, communication or honesty, make sure that this is reflected in your mannerisms. In a conflict, it can leave you feeling vulnerable to stifle your values to maintain the peace. Remember that if you don’t stand up for what you believe in, you’ll fall for everything.

Truthfulness and Honesty

Always remember to be honest and truthful in your responses. Exaggeration or misconstruing of details can result in a warped understanding of the situation. Additionally, don’t minimize things either. If something was very hurtful, don’t say it was mildly annoying.


The third component of DBT for interpersonal effectiveness skills relates to building and maintaining positive relationships. This skill set is necessary whether you’re meeting an old friend or seeing someone for the first time.

GIVE is another acronym that relates to these tasks for a person:

Gentleness in Your Approach

Gentleness here relates to being mindful of your approach towards the other person’s emotions. This also means that you have to be open and accepting in your communication with them. If the other person feels judged or attacked, they won’t feel loved or accepted with you.

Interest in the Other Person

Always show interest in the conversation or what the other person is saying. Showing interest can be done either via verbal responses or you can show it through your body language. Maintain positive eye contact, nod your head and also have a relaxed posture which shows you’re interested and enjoying the conversation.

Validate their Emotions

During a conversation, a person might talk to you to get your opinion about a situation they went through. Make sure to add your input and if possible, validate their emotions. For example: If someone is frustrated that their friends cancelled a hangout with them, you can reply, “I understand just how you feel. It must be very annoying.” This builds a feeling of camaraderie and understanding.

Easy in Mannerisms

Try to relax, be mindful and stay focused on the conversation at hand. People can always tell when someone is uncomfortable with them. If you’re not comfortable around someone, they will not want to be around you either. Showing that you’re at ease around people, through your mannerisms will also make you more approachable.


The last component of interpersonal effectiveness relates to a more complex skill – being able to ask for a favor in a respectful manner that also improves your relationship, whether or not you get the results you wanted.

For this skill, you have the longest acronym DEARMAN which includes the following tasks:

Describe Effectively

Always describe what you need clearly so that you’re able to get the results you want. This gives the other person more contexts too. If you want to go to the movies, which sentence below is the right way to ask your friends to join you?

  • “Do you want to watch a movie?”
  • “The new Marvel movie just came out. Do you want to watch it?” 

It is easy to guess which question will get a better response.

Express Clearly

Clear communication is also necessary in order to get what you want. This also applies to expressing your wants, instead of what the other person wants. So, your statement should include what you want as well. Which one do you think expresses your desire to watch a movie with your friends properly?

  • The new Marvel movie just came out. Do you want to watch it?”
  • The new Marvel movie just came out. Do you want to watch it with me tomorrow?”

Again, the second statement shows that you will get the response you were hoping for.

Assert Positively

Being assertive can help to give you charge of the situation but you have to do so respectfully instead of aggressively. Respectfully being assertive means that you acknowledge the feelings of both people involved. Take a look at these two statements and see which one asserts positively:

  • “I know you want to go out for dinner. Can we move it to another day?”
  • I know we have to go out for dinner but I’ve got to work. Is it okay if we move it to another day?”

In the second statement, you take charge of the situation in a more positive manner where as the first one can be more dismissive.

Reinforce What You Need

If you’re not getting what you want, you can always ask again to reinforce what you wanted. This can either be through a promise or that you will do something in return. This builds a little give and take in the relationship and you will also be able to contribute to the other person in some manner.

Mindfulness in the Situation

Don’t worry and start thinking about the future or assuming things. Stay mindful and stay aware of what is happening in the present. If your friends want to say no to going to the movies, they will tell you. Don’t assume their answers for them or pretend to know what they’ll say.

Appearing Confident

Never be scared to ask for what you want, even if it seems like you don’t have a chance. If you’re asking your boss to give you a raise, don’t tell them that you’re scared. Go with confidence and a positive outlook so that you’re able to handle the situation well, even if things don’t work out your way.

Negotiate When Possible

If there is room to do so, make sure to negotiate so that you can get to a middle ground. Negotiation allows you to get the results you were looking for and come to a compromise. This will allow you to walk away happy from the scenario.

As you can see, interpersonal effectiveness can make a marked difference in your interpersonal skills!