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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?

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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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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

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Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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