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

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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?

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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 July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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