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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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