Interpersonal skills

Good interpersonal skills start with you. Your self-awareness is an essential part of working sensitively with patients/clients and colleagues. These skills will build over your first year in practice and throughout your career.

During this time a willingness to learn from mistakes and asking for feedback are powerful tools which you should to use to help you to communicate.

Communication skills

Use the resource below to help you critically explore your communication skills, either on your own or with your mentor or a colleague.

GoodPractice Develop Yourself Toolkit (Athens password needed)
This resource provides a wide range of information about communication skills

Use the "10 tips to communicate with impact" or 'How well do I communicate' resources with your mentor or members of your team to review your communication skills.

Note the key areas where you can develop your skills and plan how you can do this. Add this information to your portfolio and return to it in 3 months to see how you have progressed.

You will need your Athens login to gain free access to this resource. If you don't have an Athens password, email: or complete the application at this link

Am I a good listener

Good communication is key to you providing care that is safe, effective and person centred, and to you working as part of the team. One crucial aspect of this is taking time to listen effectively to what those around you are saying.

A useful activity within the GoodPractice Develop Yourself Toolkit is the 'Am I a Good Listener?' self-assessment. Try this activity when you first start a new post or a new rotation.  It will help you find out more about your strengths and learning needs in this important area. You will need your Athens login to access this page.

Alternatively use the GoodPractice Develop Yourself Toolkit search function to find a wide range of resources about listening skills (Athens login needed).




Interpersonal communication skills and your KSF PDP

Discuss the expectations and standards around your interpersonal communication skills in your work setting or team with your mentor/NHS KSF reviewer.

Reviewing your NHS KSF Foundation Outline will clarify the broad areas you need to achieve and your development needs in this first year. Identify and agree the priorities for you to work towards over the next 3 months. Make sure this is reflected in your Personal Development Plan.

Repeat this activity every 3 months to track your progress.

Observing communication skills

The activity below will help you gain an insight and overview of the communication skills you will need to develop in order to work with patients and clients. It is a useful set of activities to carry out early in your first job or rotation. Each activity will take around 20 minutes - you may want to do them on separate occasions, or may only want to do 1 or 2 of them.

1.    Observing a colleague
Observe your mentor or another experienced registered practitioner interacting with a patient/client, their family members or carers and note the communication skills and approach they use.  

2.    Being observed
You should now ask your mentor or another experienced practitioner to observe your communication skills and approach in a similar situation.

3.    Getting feedback
Now discuss what you saw and thought when you observed a mentor or other experienced practitioner and ask for feedback from the colleague who observed your interaction to assist you to enhance your communication skills.

You can find useful checklists for feedback on the Communicating, Connecting, Caring website (e.g. the reviewing communication page).

What influences communication?

A wide range of factors influence communication with patients/ clients, relatives, carers and colleagues. Review the information about the 'Principles of Good Communication' and 'Factors Impacting on Communication' in 'Communicating, Connecting Caring'.

Identify a situation where communication went well and identify how these principles and factors influenced this interaction.
Identify a situation where there were challenges or barriers to communication and how these principles and factors influenced this interaction.

Record your observations and how they can influence your approach to similar situations in future. Add this information to your portfolio.

Coping with challenges

Identify the personal communication skills that could help you minimise the impact of these challenges e.g. listening, non-verbal communication. Revisit your responses in the first activity Communication Skills in this section and use these to help you here.

Try these skills out in your current clinical setting and make a portfolio entry relating to your experiences.

You will find the NES Basic Sensory Awareness resource highlights a range of factors to consider when communicating with people who are visually impaired people, deaf, or deafblind.

The Make Communication Even Better 'Vision Statements' highlight a wide range of issues that you need to consider when communicating with individuals with communication difficulties. Remember this may be anyone you encounter - patients/clients, carers, visitors or colleagues.

Communication and emotions

It is inevitable that, at some point in your first year as a newly qualified practitioner, you will be involved in sharing information with patients/clients and relatives/carers that provokes an emotional response, for example, tears, anger or disbelief. You may also find yourself in difficult situations where there may be comments, issues and potentially complaints from patients/clients and relatives/carers and you will want to be as prepared for these situations as possible.

Explore a situation that you have already encountered in your work setting, or that could arise unexpectedly (colleagues may be able to highlight one they have encountered).


  • the communication skills you may use and how you may approach these situations
  • the support that is available to you when such challenges arise

Explore experiences that both you and your mentor have had and how they were dealt with:

  • what would you do differently if you encountered a similar situation?
  • what are the key things that you have learned or need to learn that will help you deal with challenging situations?
  • how are you going to meet learning needs that you have identified

Record and reflect on the key points from your exploration and discussion. Add this to your portfolio.

The Communicating, Connecting, Caring resource contains information that can help you in your explorations, and in meeting your learning needs.

The Power of Apology: communicating effectively

Bearing in mind a real or potential situation you could encounter, read the NES FOCUS article "The Power of Apology".

Reflect on the impact of what you have read. Identify:

  • how this approach could help you in situations where you are communicating difficult information.
  • a difficult work situation where an apology would be an appropriate response and practice how you would deal with this. You may want to do this with a colleague.

Record your reflections and your potential response to a difficult situation for your portfolio.

Revisit this activity and your portfolio entries as you develop in your role at 3, 6, and 12 months.

Portfolio: interpersonal skills

Having worked through a selection of the activities in this section, you should summarise your learning, highlighting how this may affect your future practice. You can share your findings with your mentor.  

Add an alert to your Flying Start NHS® portfolio and/or make a date in your diary to revisit Communication Skills.