Can Interpersonal Skills Be Learned?

  1. Obviously, interpersonal skills are very important to being a nurse. Do you feel that this is something that can be learned during nursing school or is it an inherent personality trait?

    I tend to feel "awkward" around new people or in group situations. I'm nervous about how that would affect my ability to be a good nurse working with so many patients and co-workers. Any thoughts or suggestions?

    Anyone out there who used to be shy but changed after nursing school?
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  2. 7 Comments

  3. by   santhony44
    Yes.

    I can still be alone quite happily and can go for hours without talking to anyone else. I also find that interacting with other people is very tiring for me and I need time alone. I'll never be the "life of the party" in any case but I don't have any problem walking into a room and talking to a patient.

    However, I am a lot more assertive and outgoing than I was years ago when I first became a nurse. Nursing school will push you, nursing will push you, and you will push yourself. Of course, I don't know if I would've changed this way anyway in another line of work.

    Being more of a "quiet type" can also mean you're a better listener. Remember that some people are better at thinking about what they are going to say than they are a listening to other people. Being a good listener is not at all a bad thing for a nurse. (Not to say that outgoing people aren't good listeners, some are!)

    I'm still working on my interpersonal skills in some situations!

    Good luck to you.
  4. by   UM Review RN
    I'm great with my patients, but I still have two left feet in a normal social situation.
  5. by   Tweety
    I think it's learned in nursing school and beyond. I was very shy and ackward around patients, but took the risk to do the job. For me it was classified as a risk because I was quite introverted.

    Over the years I've changed and grew and am very comfortable around people and have fairly good interpersonal skills.

    All you have to do is try and put yourself out there, "act as if" and you'll do fine. You have to give yourself time.
  6. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Can they? Absolutely. My dh was the most shy child ever...he used to sit in his grannie's car in 10 degree weather , for hours, rather than go into a home of someone he did not know well. He had to be dragged in, screaming the whole way, that was how much he avoided socializing with anyone but his parents and grannie (who raised him).

    This same man, today, uses excellent interpersonal skills to sell Snap-On tools for a living, as a government accounts manager with numerous accounts all over Washington State. To say he learned interpersonal skills in his 20 years in the US Air Force would be understating it. His skills are brilliant now. I admire him as you can tell.

    Anyhow, the answer is "yes", such skills can be learned.
    Last edit by SmilingBluEyes on Oct 23, '06
  7. by   one2one
    There is a book written by Nicholas Boothman called "How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less". He offers great tips on building rapport with people in literally only 90 seconds. It's very simple and well worth the effort.
  8. by   gonzo1
    I used to be very shy and afraid to talk to people. Since I have been a nurse I have become much more assertive. Have no trouble talking to my patients because I know they need me and what I have to say. Talking to patients is so much different then trying to be witty and "cute" at parties. You will learn along the way and become sensitive to which approach works with which patient. You will no doubt make mistakes as I have but keep learning and growing and it will become much easier. And eventually this new found confidence will leak out into your personal life as well.
  9. by   capnnikkiRN
    I think everyone has said the same thing, that interpersonal skills can be learned or rather acquired. At first I was uncomfortable, but luckily I had a purpose for the transaction with my patient. I was armed with a set of questions and information. I didn't have to offer more unless it was asked. The longer I have been in nursing the easier it is to read people and situations and the more comfortable I find starting some small talk. I am still not completely comforatable 100 percent of the time, but it is easier to transition into the role of therapeutic communicator.

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