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15 Social Skills That Will Make You Successful In Every Aspect Of Life

15 Social Skills That Will Make You Successful In Every Aspect Of Life

The academics taught you how to learn from a book; other experts or experiences to achieve success. Do you remember any professor telling you how to cope with a conflict, deal with your emotions, or “feel for others”. No? Thought so!

Here’s a real secret to success that you may or may not already know: It’s not all about what you know when it comes to being a credible and reputable expert in your field. There are many secrets to success that go beyond the typical goal-achieving attribute.

Social skills are one of the most important contributing factors to success. This isn’t something you want to gain just to improve your personal relationships. Social skills contribute to a variety of other aspects of life including your health, profession, spirituality, education, and more.

According to Stanford Social Innovation Review, social competencies can be learned and developed with practice, the same way a 20 year old develops fluent language skills through training and practice. Here is a guide on how to hone some of those crucial social skills needed for success…

1. Optimism

Now, you’re thinking, “Wait, this isn’t a social skill”. In reality, optimism can work for personal, social, and several other areas of life. Positivity works like a magnet that attracts any and all. People are naturally drawn towards positivity and optimism because the attitude makes them feel great about themselves, as well as life. Clearly, the opposite can be said for negative people.

Think about a co-worker/friend who is always upbeat and energetic with an unwavering smile on her face. Now, think about another person who does exactly the opposite, complaining about the work, complaining about the people around, backbiting, and occasionally snapping at you as a consequence of a “bad mood”. Which co-worker or friend’s company would you prefer?

How to foster it: Positivity and negativity derive from thoughts, which eventually become feelings and then turn into actions or behavior. To remove the roots of negativity you need to stop feeding and watering it. Whenever a worthless, negativity crosses your mind, replace it with a positive one instead. You can also nourish your positivity by choosing to be with people who remain positive most of the time. You’ll find that it catches on like a virus—a good one in this case!

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2. Compassion

The feeling of compassion is defined as a “deep awareness of the suffering of another, coupled with a wish to relieve it”. This is another social skill that allows you to naturally feel for others and have a deep desire to help them out.

How to foster it: To learn compassion, you need to carefully listen when someone tells you about a problem or a suffering of another. Try to relate the problem they are describe to a similar situation you once had. Next, try to find ways you can help either by pointing out your own solutions to a previous, similar problem or suggesting something new. Get involved with the sufferer, whenever possible. Doing charity work for organizations such as Red Cross is another way to cultivate compassion.

3. Politeness

Mannerism or politeness is a trait your teachers, parents, or the society may have taught since the day you were born. This is exactly why you stay at the back of line when someone is in front of you. Or, act differently at a funeral as compared to the way you would at a party. Clearly, this attribute can be learned.

How to foster it: Making an extra effort to be polite shouldn’t be too difficult if you are careful about what you say before you say it. Think twice about your words before you say them and always avoid negative emotions or words. Encourage yourself to speak politely by using words such as, “please” “thank you” “sorry” and “excuse me” often. Your sugar-coated responses will eventually kick-in and you will get into the habit of being extra polite every time.

4. Emotional Intelligence

Writing a paragraph for this vast topic won’t be enough. For starters, emotional intelligence deals with knowing exactly how to act and react emotionally to a given situation, or the emotions of other.

How to foster it: You can learn more about emotional intelligence and how to foster it using psychologist Daniel Goleman’s, “mixed model”. This speaks of five key areas that improve emotional intelligence.

5. Discipline

Discipline teaches you to behave in a manner that is in accordance with a set of rules, customs, laws, policies, or other guidelines. A disciplined person willingly complies with a systematic method in a given environment. This teaches self-control that promotes acceptance by other members of the society.

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How to foster it: According to Forbes, a proven method to gaining self-discipline is by allowing yourself breaks and treating yourself with rewards after long periods of success. Don’t wait for something to “feel right.” Change your routine, push yourself hard, and most importantly, step out of your comfort zone.

6. Diligence

As the great Benjamin Franklin once said, “Diligence is the mother of all good luck”. Giving your work due diligence is the only way to receive credibility for what you do. People know when you have worked really hard to obtain something and sometimes it is just that trait that wins the hearts of many.

How to foster it: Simple. Tell yourself that there are no shortcuts in life and nothing comes by easily. At the end of every day, you can use a diary to log any tasks that you have achieved which contribute to a long-term goal. Have at least two or three such tasks on your list every day.

7. Patience

Most of the daily nuisances we face are in some way or the other related to people. Got stuck in traffic? There could be too many people in the cars — or the city. The internet won’t work? It could be due to a fault at the main server, which eventually a bunch people need to fix. Human error is natural, but it doesn’t mean that you find someone to place the blame on.

How to foster it: As Oprah blog says, patience is a skill – and very much a social skill. Instead of playing the blame game, practice patience by using meditative techniques. Before exploding into a fit of anger, take a few seconds to think about what is making you so mad. After identifying the trigger, take deep slow breathes, one at a time. Close your eyes while you do this and count to 10. Think of the moment as an activity that is “testing” your patience and in order to pass the test, you need to react in the most sensible and constructive manner. Visualize that ideal reaction and try it out every time.

8. Affability

It goes without saying that in order to be social, you need to learn sociability. To be specific, affability deals with how well you get along with people. Are you a cave-seeking hermit? Or do you love hanging out with people, laughing, and chatting about anything that concerns “life”?

According to Stephen Elliot’s (the author of Social Skills Improvement System-Class wide Intervention Program) statement on newsvanderbilt.edu, “If we increase social skills, we see commensurate increases in academic learning. That doesn’t mean that social skills make you smarter; it means that these skills make you more amenable to learning.” Social people always have “a friend or two” who is more than willing to help. Even a random stranger you met only once could teach you something that could come in handy later on in life.

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How to foster it: The best way to learn affability is to throw yourself to people whenever and wherever possible. Get into the habit of having a conversation with anyone you meet be it in a restaurant, a bus station, or your workplace. Give a compliment, ask polite and relevant questions, and when they have something to say, listen attentively and respond appropriately. Keep practicing!

9. Listen

Successful people are not just great talkers. They are also great listeners who give equal importance to what the other has to say. Without the ability to listen carefully, you won’t be able to learn, exchange information, or understand a constructive criticism.

How to foster it: Practice turn-taking habits. For example, if you are conversing with someone, don’t try to dominate the conversation by being the only one who has something to say. Notice the amount of input you are giving in to a conversation versus what the other person is pitching in. If you tend to run into conversations where 80% of the input is given by you, you need to stay quiet and listen more often.

10. Forgiveness

To make peace with the pain can be tricky at times. However, successful people try not to take things to the heart. Bearing grudges not only increases stress which is harmful to health, but also reduces unforeseen opportunities for possible gains through the relationship.

How to foster it: Think about where they are coming from. Have you ever been in a similar situation where you were unjust to someone important to you? Imagine how you would feel if they hadn’t forgiven you for it. It didn’t make them weak, but rather strong, right? This is exactly why you also need to learn to forgive others.

11. Resilience

The quality to bounce right back up every time someone, or something, tries to knock you down is called resilience. Resilience goes one step beyond “motivation”. It is the power to survive and thrive no matter how testing an environment is. Failure is only valuable feedback, not a dead end.

How to foster it: The American Psychological Association claims that resilience can be learned by cultivating strong relationships. For example, a network of family and friends will always be there to support you through the most difficult times.

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12. Responsibility

It’s easy to shrug off a problem and say, “I don’t know. It wasn’t me”. Successful people own their problems and mistakes, take responsibility for their own actions — even if it wasn’t a direct liability, and work towards betterment.

How to foster it: Own your actions, by first realizing what you are directly responsible for. This could be your homework, housework, a job, bills, taxes, trash and more. Once you have accepted this as your responsibility, admit your fault at every failing. Finally, own it by correcting your mistake.

13. Leadership

It won’t take a couple of sentences to explain leadership skills or how to cultivate it. However, we have good news: Stewart Freidman, the author of Leading the Life you Want, believes leaders are born, not made which is contrary to popular belief.

How to foster it: According to Steward Freidman, you need to first “discover what’s uniquely you”. The next step is to harness your passion, skills, and interest aligning values, aligning life’s boundaries, and embracing change. Read more on how to do so here.

14. Asking For Help

You may have expected “helping others”, which is indeed a necessary trait to do what comes next: asking for help.

How to foster it: Successful people don’t hesitate to solicit a helping hand. Of course, this goes both ways. This particular social skill not only improves your relationship, but also allows opening many opportunities for success through another assistance.

15. Honesty

Politeness can at times come into conflict with the desire to be honest. How can we overcome this dilemma?

How to foster it: The trick is to balance both. While being polite might mean giving false, incomplete, or inaccurate information, speaking your mind would deem you “rude”. However, being overly polite all the time would give the image of a fake or deceitful person. The trick is to be polite even when you are trying to be honest. Start on a positive note then follow with the negative news. For example, instead of throwing an abrupt “no”, you can say, “Umm, I would love to help, but currently ….”

Featured photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/davefayram/ via flickr.com

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

You know how this looks:

  • Parents constantly comparing children.
  • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Adultery…
  • And many others.

For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

How to fix a dysfunctional family

In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

Dysfunctional… Or just average?

Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of interest and time spent together
  • Sexism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Unequal or unfair treatment
  • Disrespect towards boundaries
  • Control Issues
  • Jealousy
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

How to turn it around

When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

Correction is possible

In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

Verbalize it.

All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

Putting it to work in real life

In real life it would be something like this:

“OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

Or:

“Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

Or:

“Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

This is what you have to remember:

1-Stop.

2-Why it’s wrong?

3-What you need.

And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

It’s a family thing

A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

In other words, you will need cooperation…

So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

It’s not a free-for-all battle

In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

The method

1. Drop the ego

Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

2. Not blame, but responsibility

When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

You will do something like this:

“Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

What happened here?

We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

3. Doing the work

What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

“When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

Love is all you need

You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

And what happens if it simply is not there?

What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

There is only one thing you can do:

To break away.

Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

“We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

Putting distance

So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

What do I mean?

Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

I choose my peace of mind.

And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

How to prevent it

There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

  • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
  • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

Priorities and clear thought

You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

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