Ask anyone in 2020 about essential “social skills” and you will probably get a list back about social media rules, which online social networks are best and the most common ways to build your network. That, however, is NOT what this post is about. We spend so much time fixated on social media that we forget to focus on the more important elements of being “social.” Rewind the clock back just a few short years ago and “social skills” were defined as the set of proper techniques and practices we used to develop a relationship with other people.
Very often, business owners, managers, entrepreneurs, and C-level people will be so focused on business, they forget about the impact of the proper use of social skills. The results can get ugly and lead to lost business, an irritated customer and failed opportunity. Social skills, if applied improperly, can lead to social kills. Regardless of whether you have 30 years of experience in the business world or are just starting out, make sure you are following the 10 Essential Social Skills:
1. Maintain eye contact.
Head up and out of your phone, tablet, iPod or laptop. When I visit my doctor’s office, I have noticed more increasingly as I talk about my history, instead of meeting me with his eyes, he is so focused on taking notes on his PC about my answers, he forgets that I am a part of the conversation. I realize that he is trying to make sure he takes proper notes to document my “history” but a simple glance up from the screen would be nice. Don’t forget, you are dealing with people. Eye contact during conversation is a great social skill to possess.
2. Use proper body language.
It’s not what you say, but how you say it. Non-verbal clues can provide plenty of information and make you appear to be not interested in what someone is communicating. Remain focused and open to communication. Arms folded, legs crossed, body turned away, and so many non-verbal clues are a turn off to others. Watch what you are saying when you are saying nothing at all.
3. Know the difference between being assertive and being aggressive.
It’s ok to share your opinion and to be passionate about what you are discussing, but be careful not to step over the line and project your opinion in a way that makes the person you are communicating with feel like they are wrong. If you are bordering on offensive or insulting, you are heading into the aggressive zone.
4. Select effective communication channels.
There are a variety of ways in which you can communicate with someone. Make sure you are using the proper channel. For example, never have a conflict or present an argument via email or social media. There is no emotion in email and you are opening up a can of worms since emotion, empathy, and feelings are hard to share through a computer. Know when face to face is better than a phone call. Even the improper use of a comma can drastically change the meaning of a sentence. There is a big difference between these two sentences. “Learn how to cut, marinate, and cook friends.” versus, “Learn how to cut, marinate, and cook, friends.”
5. Flexibility and cooperation are essential social skills.
Get rid of the attitude that your way is the right way and the only way. Although you may feel as though your way is the best way, remaining flexible and open to another solution is always a good guideline to follow. Keep in mind that you will need other people in order to get anywhere in life. An open willingness to share ideas with others should also be coupled with a flexible mindset as well.
6. Accept criticism without being defensive.
When presented with an opposing view or when being critiqued, don’t immediately go on the defensive. Listen to what is being said and absorb the information, especially if being presented by someone more experienced than you. Although you may not have asked for the critique, be open to what is being said. Criticism is not easy to hear, especially if it is not warranted, but “Social Skills 101” says to keep your head in the game and listen up and be accepting.
7. Remain positive at all times.
Several chapters in my book, Nice Guys Finish First, provide clear proof between having a positive attitude and being highly successful. The same applies here. Highly social people tend to be very positive as well, making them much more likely to be successful as well. Who wants to be around a negative attitude? Positive people are attractive and are going places in life. Although positive people have their ups and downs in life as well, positive people don’t wallow in self-pity, doubt, and negativity.
8. Be teachable and be a good student.
Entrepreneurs are constantly learning. They look for avenues to get things done effectively and efficiently. Be teachable and never stop learning from others. As a part of developing great social skills, being teachable makes you humble, hungry and thirsty for knowledge and keeps you asking questions. Experts love to answer questions about what made them an expert. Ask questions (but don’t be annoying), be trainable and be social.
9. Show respect for others.
No matter your position in business or in life, showing respect is the ultimate sign of regard. When you respect someone you are showing you care, admire and honor their position. Never feel as though you are “better” than anyone else or that your experience or knowledge is above others. Staying humble while being mindful is a great social skill to possess.
10. Be human, after all, it’s what makes you unique.
Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” Bask in the glory of being you and know that no one can be better at it than you. People like you for you and you do not need to be or act like anyone else. That doesn’t mean you should be brash, arrogant and unwilling to compromise; continue to be flexible, happy and positive. Be the best YOU possible and people will want to be around you and share you with the world.
The above list of 10 essential social skills may seem like they are common sense, but you would be surprised at the amount of uncommon sense infecting the workplace today. And the nice part about this list is that its reach is far more than in business. Follow these social skills in every aspect of your life and you will discover that success will find you.