Your skills are what set you apart from the competition. Depending on your industry, you might need hard skills like social media management or user experience design skills. Or, you might find that soft skills like negotiating and a high work ethic will get you far. No matter what industry you're in, social skills are always going to be important.
People who are good at social skills, such as communication and emotional intelligence, tend to have more successful careers. In 2018, 42% of all workers held jobs in which social skills are the most important. What follows is a guide to developing the most important social skills for developing your career.
Everyone could benefit from improving their social skills no matter who you are or how confident you feel. While I have learned many skills during my time as an entrepreneur and founder, I believe that nothing would have been possible had I not worked on cultivating my social skills. Improve your skills and change your life by following these tips.
What Are Social Skills?
Social skills are the abilities we use to communicate with other people. Our tone, body language, and written communication (including emails) all fall under this umbrella. When we communicate with others—whether at work or with family and friends—we’re developing our social skills.
Your social skillset encompasses countless different skills. These are just a few examples:
Effective communication involves the ability to get your point across clearly and concisely. It also means being able to receive information in a way that ensures you understand exactly what’s being said to you.
Being able to handle conflict is an important skill for anyone to possess. We all have disagreements at times, but being able to resolve them peacefully will keep both parties satisfied.
Active listening is the ability to listen to another person in a way that allows them to know they’re being heard. This can include open body language, nodding, and verbal acknowledgments.
If you genuinely understand the feelings of others, it makes it easier to connect with them and build a relationship. Empathy means taking into account other people’s sensitivities and avoiding stepping on toes.
Not everyone is good at working with others. It’s important to learn how to work as part of a team, sharing equal responsibility of the work and uniting towards a common goal.
Why Are Social Skills Important?
When you have social skills, you develop the ability to connect with others, interact and build relationships. This is an essential component for success in all areas of life, not just your career.
Many doors will open and more opportunities will present themselves when you can effectively communicate with others by understanding their needs, desires and concerns. Being social is important, and it can open a whole world of possibility. Here's why you should work on your social skills:
When you have good social skills, you become a better communicator. You learn how to communicate your wants and needs to those around you rather than waiting for them to read your mind and give you what I want. I know how to make requests in a way that acknowledges the other person’s time and expertise, rather than demanding or hinting at what I want.
Not only will your relationships improve when you have good social skills, but they may even grow. The better we are at working with others, the more that people are drawn to us. I've been able to open countless doors because I took the time to establish good relationships with the right people.
Access to a wealth of information
Through close relationships, you can also learn valuable information. I've learned how to ask and how to listen from people with different areas of expertise. When you have good social skills, you gain new ideas, techniques, and perspectives that can enhance your own.
The ability to help others
It’s not always about what we can do for ourselves—sometimes the path to success lies in what we can do for others. I share my perspective and help others succeed; this helps me succeed too. A rising tide lifts all boats. It’s been my experience that if you help other people, they will help you when you need it.
Conflict hurts everyone involved, which is why the ability to resolve it is such a crucial part of being a leader. By developing my social skills and minimizing conflict in my relationships, I have been able to become a more effective leader. This allows my teams and I to remain united in achieving a common goal instead of getting sidetracked with minor disagreements.
How To Improve Social Skills
There are a few ways you can learn how to develop your social skills. This includes:
- Look for areas of growth
We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Start by determining where there’s room for improvement in your professional life and practice those skills. For example, if networking isn’t your strong suit, attend events and give yourself the goal of talking to at least 10 people. The more you practice, the better you’ll become.
- Solicit feedback
Asking for feedback is a great way to find out if you are improving in areas you’re interested in. You can ask your colleagues to give you regular feedback on how you’re doing and what they think your priorities should be.
- Seek out mentors
Seek out people who have the qualities you want to possess and learn from them. Anyone in your life can be a mentor if they possess the social skills you’d like to have for yourself. Ask them questions about how they nurture these skills and find ways to practice them yourself.
- Practice civil discourse
Civil discourse is a powerful social skill. Practice it by engaging in difficult conversations with honesty, respect, and structure. Listen to others with an open mind, and try not to interrupt while they're speaking.
- Keep on track
Improving your social skills requires continuous effort. Evaluate your skills and look for ways to enhance them by observing others who are great communicators and by learning from them.
- Play to your strengths
Don’t ignore the social skills you already have. Find ways to use them on a regular basis to strengthen them even further. People will respect you for your strengths and become more willing to forgive your weaknesses.
- Target your weaknesses
Don't give up on a skill you want to attain simply because you are unfamiliar with it. Make a list of the skills you want but don't have and make a goal for yourself of improving each of them, however slowly.