Social Skills and the importance of developing them
Definition of Social Skills
Social skills are the techniques used to communicate and interact with people either verbally or through gestures. The way we communicate is very important and can helps others interpret a situation. The majority of communication is through our body language, tone of voice and reactions, all these are a part of our social skills.
The importance of social skills
Your social skills can help you in a number of ways. For example, meeting new people at school, college university or work or in your personal relationships. Social skills start to develop from birth and will continue throughout your life. Some people are very good at meeting new people or facing new situations and others struggle. The teenage years are typically the most difficult time for a number of reasons; peer pressure and establishing your own adult identity as well as the body, especially the brain, undergoing profound change are all influencing factors.
As human beings we typically need interaction with others and if we struggle to make or retain effective relationships, we can suffer emotionally.
Can they be developed?
Like any other skills, social skills can be learned and developed. The key is self reflection, understanding how you react especially under the stress of meeting new people or new situations can really help.
Some factors to consider are listed below:
- Staying calm in social situations is a skill that can be developed. Breathing and giving yourself time to adapt to a situation can really help; first impressions do matter so take a breath and say “hello” with a smile.
- To convey your message effectively you need to relax and focus more on delivering your message. Take a breath and think before you speak.
- Learn to polish your listening skills. When communicating with someone actively listen to them to learn what they have to say. This involves participating in the conversation, asking relevant questions if necessary or at least maintaining comfortable eye contact.
- Reflecting gestures, interest, language, tone and speech is a way to engage in a meaningful conversation. You don’t have to mimic someone but mirroring and matching maintains connection.
- Limit personal views and self-disclosure. It is good to talk about yourself a bit but not every conversation should have your personal input.
- Part of the social training pack is maintaining eye contact with the person you are talking to. Do not stare them but do look at them; not maintaining eye contact can show lack of interest.
Benefits of developing social skills
Social skills are goal directed. A person may use more than one type of behaviour in a social situation for the same goal; for example, eye contact, listening, mirroring posture. Remember that social skills are more than just verbal communication so our behaviours are the best judge of what we wish to communicate.
Having well developed social skills can solve social problems. It can give you an control over stressful situations and help you develop more meaningful relationships. For example:
- Better relationships: it is easier to get along with people when you develop good social skills. You can make more friends or get along better in school or work. Once you learn to control the stress in your life, it is easier to take advantage of the opportunities in front of you.
- Communication: teamwork is an important aspect of social skills so learning to work with others not only benefits you, it benefits to the team too. The key to good teamwork is being a good communicator, being clear is what you say but more importantly, listening to others.
- Good social skills will help you avoid people you don’t like: If you know how to communicate, you can take more control over situations and people you wish to avoid.
The benefits of developing your social skills are potentially massive, it requires you to be honest with yourself and try to understand who you are. Any development will take time and practice, changes will not happen overnight. This is where having a mentor can really help you. They will be able to see you as others do and point you at areas which may need developing.