Social Skills

Social Skills lead to success and happiness

The art of relationships is, in large part, skill in managing emotions in others. These are the abilities that undergird popularity, leadership, and interpersonal effectiveness. People who excel in these skills do well at anything that relies on interacting smoothly with others; they are social stars.  — Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence pp.43-44

Knowing how to get along with other people, how to build strong friendships, and how to A group of students lay on the grass with legs up along a brick effectively in groups are some of the most important skills you can have.  We sometimes consider these a gift.  People say things like: “Richard is shy. Bob is very outgoing. Andy is a born leader.” There is no doubt that some people seem to learn these social skills with little effort.

The students in the picture have clearly developed strong friendships this year. One came up with the idea for the picture. Perhaps others suggested they all wear jeans and the same sort of shoes. It is obvious they are all enjoying themselves. Perhaps, ten years from now they will still be in touch with each other.

Howard Gardner calls this area “Interpersonal Intelligence.” In his book, Multiple Intelligences, he writes:

Interpersonal Intelligence is the ability to understand other people: what motivates them, how they work, how to work cooperatively with them. Successful salespeople, politicians, teachers, clinicians, and religious leaders are all likely to be individuals with high degrees of interpersonal intelligence.  p. 9

We can all improve our social skills

But we must understand that we can all learn to improve in this area. Richard may be shy but while he may never be the most popular person in the group, he can certainly learn to meet people and make friends.  Others who wish they were more like Andy can learn leadership skills. This section of the website will include many suggestions to help you do this.

Why are Social Skills Important?

What are your goals in life? Do they include getting a job where you enjoy your work and feel respected? Do they include making good friends? Do they include getting married and having a family? All of these involve the ability to work well with other people.

Students may think that making top grades will be most helpful to them in their future career. Grades are helpful for students trying to get into graduate school, medical school, law school, etc. But when company recruiters  interview students, they rarely ask about grades. They are more concerned with your social skills, your ability to work with others, and your leadership skills. They are interested in what activities and school organizations you were part of and what kind of leadership positions you held.

Some people say they don’t need social skills. They don’t want to work for anyone else. They will start their own business and work alone. They still need to learn interpersonal skills to attract and keep customers.  Teachers need these skills to work with students, parents, other teachers, and principals. Parents need these skills to deal with their children.

Students need these skills to interact effectively with their parents, their professors, and with other students.

Daniel Goleman in his book, Social Intelligence, makes the startling statement that social skills even change our brains and affects our health.

To a surprising extent our relationships mold not just our experience but our biology. The brain-to-brain link allows our strongest relationships to shape us on matters as benign as whether we laugh at the same jokes or as profound as which genes are (or are not) activated in T-cells, the immune system’s foot soldiers in the constant battle against invading bacteria and viruses.

That link is a double-edged sword: nourishing relationships have a beneficial impact on our health, while toxic relationships can act like slow poison in our bodies. …

Our social interactions even play a role in reshaping our brains though ‘neuroplasticity’ which means that repeated experiences sculpt the shape, size, and number of neurons and their synaptic connections.  pp. 5,11

This section of the website is divided into two main sections, Building Friendships and  Interpersonal Skills. Each is subdivided into five topics.  If you find a section is especially helpful, it is a good idea to return to it several times.

Interpersonal Skills

Many people assume that only freshmen worry about making friends. But I have read many websites for students looking for advice. College students at all levels are asking these questions. They ask basic questions about where to find friends and how to start a conversation.

Some people don’t  worry. The extroverts among us make more friends in a couple of hours on their first day than many of us make in the first several months. But we can all develop better social Skills

Group Skills help us work with other people

While the focus in this section is on working with others in student organizations and later on, in the workplace, we work with other people in many situations. In high school, most students had a certain circle of friends and certain groups you were part of. Choosing a group to join when you don’t know any of the members can be a big step. And, for those who might need leadership skills for a planned career, you might want to learn and practice these skills while you are in college.

What is most important in this area is that NOW is the TIME. Learning new skills involves making mistakes at first. It is much better to work on developing these skills in college, along with others trying to develop these skills. You might be surprised to learn how helpful this will be in getting the job you want and in getting recognition and promotions, even if you do not look forward to a leadership position. The skills of working well with others is always helpful.

They don’t teach these skills in college

When we were in Kindergarten, learning to get along with others well was an important part of the curriculum. In Elementary School and even Middle School, your teachers may have encouraged students to treat each other politely, not to be a bully, not to “put people down”, not to make fun of other people. But, even though social skills are extremely important for future success, schools rarely make any further attempts to help students in this area.

Even in business classes, they don’t really teach you to work well with other people.  They rarely teach leadership skills. They must assume that if you are the kind of person the company wants to hire, you will know these things are important and you will have the initiative to learn them on your own.

So if nobody teaches this, how can we learn it?

1. Read books on social skills. Read the information in this website.

2. Observe others who have excellent social or leadership skills.

3. Make the decision to improve. You might practice alone, then with your roommate or friends. Then set out on your own and try acting like someone with good social skills.

4. Continue to evaluate your efforts and look for ways to improve.

Links:    Individual Relationships                               Group Relationships

  1.  Starting with Yourself                              1.   Group Participation
  2.  Making New Friends                                 2.  Team Building
  3.  Romantic Relationships                          3.   Leadership Skills


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