Social Emotional Skills: Definition and How To Practice Them

Updated February 3, 2023

Two people hold a conversation while walking through an office.

Technical skills aren't the only competencies that affect performance in the workplace. Professional success also depends on a range of social and emotional skills that can help you relate to others. If you want to improve your effectiveness at work, it might be helpful to learn more about these skills and how to improve them.

In this article, we discuss what social-emotional skills are, explain why they're important and describe how you can practice them in the workplace.

What are social-emotional skills?

Social-emotional skills are soft skills that allow individuals to relate to others. They're often vital in collaborative work environments. These are some examples of social-emotional skills:

  • Confidence

  • Conflict resolution

  • Verbal communication

  • Empathy

  • Integrity

  • Self-awareness

  • Emotional self-regulation

  • Perseverance

  • Leadership

Related: What Is Emotional Intelligence? Definition, Key Elements and Examples

Why are social-emotional skills important?

Here are some of the many benefits of enhancing your social-emotional skills:

  • Understanding others' emotions: Being able to better understand the emotions of others can help you react more appropriately to their feelings. Practice can make you more aware of how to respond to emotionally challenging situations.

  • Interpreting your own thoughts and feelings: Strong social-emotional skills can help you recognize your thoughts and feelings, making it easier to overcome challenging emotions. If you've been feeling increasingly sad over the course of the workweek, social-emotional skills can help you identify stressors or anxieties to determine where those emotions are coming from.

  • Demonstrating emotions in a healthy way: Being conscious of your emotions can help you cope with high-stress situations and maintain a professional demeanor. For example, social-emotional skills can help you to determine which emotions are appropriate to express while you receive feedback on your job performance.

  • Building stronger relationships: Social-emotional skills can help you relate to others, leading to improved relationships. If you take the time to regulate your behavior and empathize with others, you can improve your ability to collaborate and make friends.

  • Experiencing more satisfaction at work: Interpersonal relationships are a major part of many office environments. Improving your social and emotional skills can help you work more effectively with others and improve your overall work experience.

Related: The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

How to practice social-emotional skills in the workplace

Here are some ways you can practice social-emotional skills while working:

1. Practice listening to coworkers

Sometimes, a colleague might need a moment to talk about an issue or just tell you about their day. When this happens, listen intently and try to gauge their emotions. This can help you strengthen your emotional awareness and allow you to respond to their needs more directly.

For example, if your coworker is telling you about a hard day, listen carefully and consider offering help if possible. This can show them that you have the ability to listen and comprehend their emotions. It also demonstrates that you also know how to respond to them in a professional and mature manner.

Related: Social Skills: What They Are and 9 Ways To Develop Them

2. Verbalize how you're feeling

If you're having trouble understanding your feelings or emotions during a workday, consider talking about them out loud. Whether you're telling someone else or just telling yourself, describing your emotions verbally can help you process and manage them. For example, if your workday seems normal but you're feeling anxious or stressed, consider talking to a colleague about those emotions. Processing them verbally might allow you to better understand why you're feeling the way you do.

Related: Emotional Management Skills: What They Are and How To Develop Them

3. Accept emotions and check behaviors

This two-step process entails first accepting and understanding the emotions behind a behavior or action, then checking to make sure that behavior was an acceptable response to the situation. If you're analyzing yourself, this process can be a great way to manage your emotions at work if you're feeling stressed or anxious. If you're analyzing a coworker's response to a situation, accepting their emotions can be an important first step before approaching them in a respectful manner.

As an example, let's say you respond to a coworker's email accepting to do extra work, even though you're feeling stressed. First, process and accept your emotions. You're feeling stressed and it's okay to admit that. Next, analyze your behavior and choices. Even though you were feeling stressed, you still made the professional decision to respond to your coworker's email instead of ignoring it.

Related: Emotional Intelligence in Leadership: What It Looks Like

4. Focus on empathy

If you're frustrated with a colleague at work, consider looking at the situation from their perspective. This can make you more empathetic and help you understand their actions. For example, if a coworker is often late, you might consider the reasons behind their behavior. Whether they have a family at home, work a second job at night or simply have trouble waking up in the morning, looking at the situation from your colleague's perspective can strengthen your empathetic skills, allowing you to better understand your coworker and your own emotions.

Related: How To Be Empathetic in the Workplace in 7 Steps

5. Set goals

If you're having trouble completing your work throughout the day, consider setting small goals for yourself. Achieving goals can help you better understand how emotions directly affect your workplace productivity and efficiency. If you have a large project to complete by the end of the day, set small, easily achievable goals throughout the day to complete the project in manageable sections. After you achieve each one of these small goals, take a moment to analyze how you feel. It's possible achieving the first goal feels good and makes the next goal seem easier to complete.

Related: Emotional Intelligence at Work: 4 Easy Ways To Build Your EQ [Video + Transcript]

6. Maintain a positive mindset

If you struggle to keep a positive attitude as you work, consider analyzing those emotions and providing counterpoints. This can help you improve your workplace attitude and possibly boost your productivity at the same time. One way to do this is to write out a list reflecting on the positive aspects of your job or current project. Whether it's your salary, your friendly coworkers or your inspiring manager, finding the positive aspects of your job can help you look forward to the day while strengthening your social-emotional skills.


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