The ability to process and respond to social information requires a host of unique social skills. Being a good social-communicator requires both factual and intuitive knowledge about the rules of social interaction. Much of this knowledge about the rules of social skills is applied subconsciously to our interactions. We don’t typically review social skill rules out loud before we engage in social interactions - we just go use them! Having challenges in the area of social communication can be especially confusing and overwhelming because of the intuitive knowledge that is required of us. For example, having difficulties with a math problem is more clear. We can see the numbers, try to solve the equation, and prove that it’s right or wrong. With social skills, there is little concrete information to grab onto in the moment. However, abstract social concepts can be broken down into smaller concrete steps which can help us understand what social skills to use in a given situation, and why the social skill should be used. Check out these top 5 social skills that effective social communicators have:
- Verbal Communication: Verbal communication might be the most obvious of social skills. When we think of social interactions, we often think first of speaking with others. But what’s really involved when it comes to conversation skills? We need to know how to: take turns, respond to conversation openers, handle shifts in topics, request clarification, repair communication breakdowns, ask questions, make supportive comments, interrupt appropriately, and provide background information. Verbal communication is a foundational skill for effective social interaction.
- Non-Verbal Communication: While verbal communication might be the most obvious social skill, non-verbal communication is equally as necessary. We are constantly presented with non-verbal signals from others, and we are expected to understand these signals and use them ourselves. We need to be able to understand: body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, personal space, posture, humor feedback and emotions. These are all non-verbal elements of communication that can be learned and practiced to increase our effectiveness as social communicators.
- Perspective Taking: Perspective taking is the practice of considering the thoughts, emotions, beliefs, prior knowledge, motives, and intentions of our communication partners and ourselves. Understanding others’ perspectives allows us to figure out the actual meaning behind a message being communicated. For example, if I’m having a conversation with a friend, I might notice non-verbal cues that send a message like yawning. Perspective taking allows me to go one step further by applying my prior knowledge to the situation. My friend has been at work all day, she didn’t get much sleep last night, and I can infer that she would appreciate ending the conversation in order to go take a nap. Considering other people's perspectives during social interactions is a vital social skill necessary for competent social communication.
- Problem Solving: Social problems come up in one way or another in all relationships. There is no avoiding problems, but we can learn to solve social problems effectively with the intention of finding solutions that work for everyone. Problem solving is an essential social skill that involves: giving and receiving criticism, using kind words, identifying others’ perspectives, allowing for opinions that are different from our own, discussing the problem, listening to the other person, finding mutually beneficial solutions, and accepting outcomes graciously. Problem solving and conflict management is an area that many people struggle with. With practice, the social skill of problem solving can become as simple and fluid as any of the other skills we need to be effective social communicators.
- Self Awareness: Being consciously aware of our own thoughts, emotions, and behaviors helps to bind all of these social skills together. Learning about ourselves allows for growth, and can make a significant positive impact on the relationships in our lives. We can self-monitor our verbal and non-verbal communication during conversations, and begin to understand our own strengths and difficulties, and how this may impact our ability to be effective social communicators.
Social skills are essential for all of us. We need a solid foundation of social skills in order to be effective social communicators in our school, work, home, and social lives. Most of the time, social skills are learned implicitly, but the abstract concept of social communication can be broken down into concrete steps that can be taught and learned. Learning these social skills can provide you with valuable knowledge that will positively impact your life in all areas.
Are any of the above social skills areas that you struggle with? If you are feeling like you need a refresher on these skills, or want to increase your self-awareness when it comes to social skills, let’s chat today!