What Are Social Skills and Why Are They So Important?
As a human, you’re a social being. Therefore, communicating with others is necessary. It allows you to survive, grow, nourish yourself from other points of view and live in harmony. In order to do this, you need to know how to relate and to have a series of social skills at your disposal. That means you’ll be able to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts.
However, what exactly are social skills? Some define them as those behavioral and communication traits that make you succeed in life. Nevertheless, rather than success, we should talk about well-being and knowing how to live in harmony. Furthermore, sharing experiences, communicating effectively, and shaping a kind of social cohesion where agreements are reached and well-being is shaped. This directly impacts your professional and personal life, as well as your health.
“What really matters for success, character, happiness, and life-long achievement is a definite set of emotional skills -your emotional intelligence- not just purely cognitive abilities that are measured by conventional IQ tests.”
– Daniel Goleman –
Professor David Deming, a doctor in education and economics from Harvard University, conducted an interesting study in which he concluded that we’ve reached a point in our society where, to have a job or to aspire to a position of relevance, you need more than technical skills. As a matter of fact, social skills are a fundamental pillar in any scenario. Therefore, they’re of great value in the world of organizations.
In this article, we’re going to take a look into these social skills that decisively condition your way of relating to the world and, consequently, have an impact on many aspects of your daily life.
Definition of social skills
Social skills are a set of behaviors that allow you to interact and relate to others in an effective and satisfactory way. One interesting aspect about them is that they can be learned, strengthened, and developed day by day with practice. However, some of them are pretty complex so not too easy to learn, but not impossible either.
One important aspect to be taken into account is that culture and sociodemographic variables are essential in order to train and evaluate your social skills. That’s because, depending on where you live, your habits and ways of relating to each other may be different.
It’s not only important to have a good repertoire of social skills. In fact, you have to know when and where to put them into practice. This is known as social competence.
Having social skills helps you avoid anxiety in difficult or new social situations. They facilitate your emotional communication, problem-solving, and relationships with others, as long as they’re adapted to the context.
“The emotionally intelligent person has abilities in four areas: identifying emotions, using emotions, understanding emotions, and regulating emotions.”
If you lack certain social skills, you’ll cope with situations in a passive way. This means you’ll tend to avoid them and accede to the demands of others. However, you could also fall into patterns of aggressiveness, imposing criteria on and infringing the rights of others.
Types of social skills
There are a large number of social skills. Nevertheless, at a general level, we can distinguish between two types. In fact, they encompass and organize the rest. These are basic social skills and complex social skills. Let’s take a look at them.
- Listening. Hearing isn’t the same as listening. In fact, it’s only when you’re able to actively, closely, and empathetically attend to those in front of you, that you take the first step along the road to successful social interactions. Furthermore, this dimension, no matter how basic it may seem to you, is something in which you tend to often fail.
- Starting a conversation. As curious as it may be, knowing how to correctly begin a conversation says a lot about you. This skill requires a sense of ease, courtesy, and closeness with whom you’re communicating. In addition, it requires positivity and the kinds of communicative skills where you don’t appear threatening or insecure, but quite the opposite.
- Asking a question. Knowing how to ask means knowing how to make a claim and being sufficiently assertive. This social competence is one of the first things that children are taught in the classroom. In fact, it’s the one that can help you the most in your day-to-day life, in almost any scenario.
- Giving thanks. Have you ever met someone who’s unable to say thank you? Knowing how to recognize the other person is a basic dynamic in any personal or professional relationship. It involves civility and respect and should never be forgotten.
- Introducing yourself and other people. You do it with your friends and in family contexts and also in the work or academic environment. Indeed, knowing how to introduce yourself or introduce others is an extremely important basic skill.
- Making appointments. The ability to make future appointments with others is an extremely useful skill when it comes to managing your everyday life in relation to other people. From making an appointment with the doctor to meeting a client in order to close a sale, these are necessary and useful actions.
In order to develop these complex social skills, you must first learn the basic ones. Each situation you find yourself in, depending on its characteristics and level of difficulty, will demand one or the other,
- Empathy and emotional intelligence. Today, these skills are essential in any dynamic and circumstance. They’re skills that nourish your relationships. Therefore, you must know how to practice them effectively.
- Assertiveness. In the complex world of social relationships, knowing how to defend yourself with respect, talk about your needs, communicate, listen, and attend to the rights of others are highly valuable skills.
- The ability to define a problem, negotiate and evaluate solutions. This dimension is something that you should practice daily and maximize. In this way, you’ll be able to reach agreements more easily, negotiate, and set goals where both parties win.
- Ask for help. Being aware that you don’t know everything, that you need advice, support, or other dimensions is an act of maturity. Indeed, knowing how to ask for help effectively is an example of having a good command of social skills.
- Persuade others. Persuasion doesn’t mean manipulation. It means knowing how to argue, connect, and reach an understanding where you make the other see that a certain behavior or act could be more beneficial. Thus, creating an impact and doing it with respect is an art that’s well worth learning.
- Self-affirmation. Being sure of your own decisions and beliefs, as well as being able to defend them and claim your own rights, are necessary skills for survival in society.
Why do some people lack social skills?
Like all kinds of behavior, social skills are closely related to the personal characteristics of each individual. In fact, your social behavior is forged in your childhood. They originate from your relationship with your family and social environment.
Throughout childhood you shape your way of thinking, feeling, and acting, in the face of the various circumstances of life. In this sense, your parents play a fundamental role in the development of your social skills. That’s because they teach you how to ‘be’ and how to behave.
Your parents are the figures from your childhood who teach you to feel secure and confident, to express yourself appropriately, and to be understanding, respectful, assertive, etc.
Consequently, if from a young age, you learned to feel shame instead of security, anger instead of understanding, or selfishness instead of empathy, it’s highly likely that, in adulthood, you won’t have the social skills necessary to relate properly.
Furthermore, if your environment didn’t demonstrate adequate social behaviors, you won’t have a reference to guide you towards that end. Nevertheless, despite this fact, there’s good news. Indeed, it’s never too late to start developing your social skills. Like all behavior, they can be learned and enhanced.
Why is good management of social skills so important?
As you can see, the issue of social skills is present in your daily life, both due to their presence and their absence, in family and work environments and among friends. Learning and developing these skills in yourself is essential to achieve optimal and satisfying relationships with others.
There are many benefits that you’ll obtain with their implementation. For instance, you won’t be prevented from achieving your objectives, and you’ll know how to express yourself, taking into account the interests, needs, and feelings of others. Social skills also help you to obtain what you want, to communicate satisfactorily with others, and facilitate good self-esteem, among other aspects.