Career Development

Social Skills: Definition and Examples

March 15, 2019

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Social skills are essential in building both personal and professional relationships. Demonstrating strong interpersonal skills can help you accomplish career goals, contribute to company achievements, perform well during the hiring process, expand your professional network and much more.

Understanding and improving your social skills will support your efforts in every area of life. In this article, we will discuss what social skills are, why they are important and how you can improve them with examples.

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What are social skills?

Social skills, also known as interpersonal or soft skills, are used to communicate with others. There are several types of communication we use on a daily basis including verbal, nonverbal, written and visual.

Verbal skills involve the spoken language, while nonverbal communication includes body language, facial expressions and eye contact. Any time you interact with another person, you’re using social skills in some way. Strong social skills can help you build and maintain successful relationships both professionally and personally.

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Why social skills are important

Social skills are important because they help you build, maintain and grow relationships with colleagues, clients and new contacts alike. They are important to maintain and improve no matter your position, industry or experience level.

Investing in relationships is beneficial for your career in many ways, some of which include:

  • Gaining ideas, information, techniques and perspectives from people with different areas of expertise
  • Providing your own perspective for the benefit of others
  • Accomplishing tasks and working together towards a shared goal
  • Providing mutual support for difficult or hard-to-navigate situations
  • Expanding your network to learn about and pursue new opportunities
  • Gaining feedback and referrals from people who can personally attest to your work, skills and qualities (and for whom you can do the same)
  • Making the workplace more enjoyable

It is also important to display your social skills during the hiring process. Being able to work and build relationships with others effectively is a crucial quality employers look for in candidates. It can also show your fitness for their company culture.

To show social skills on your cover letter, provide an example of a time you worked with others to achieve a goal that drove success for your team or organization. On your resume, list specific, measurable achievements that you can elaborate on how you used your social skills to get it done during your interview. During the interview, use the STAR method for behavioral interview questions to explain times you have found success using social skills.

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Six examples of social skills

Here are a few examples of qualities you can build to increase your social skills:

Effective communication

The ability to communicate effectively with others is a core social skill. If you have strong communication skills, you’ll be able to share your thoughts and ideas clearly with others. Effective communicators make good leaders because they can easily explain projects and goals in an easy-to-understand way.

Conflict resolution

Disagreements and dissatisfaction can arise in any situation. Conflict resolution is the ability to get to the source of the problem and find a workable solution. If you have good conflict resolution skills, you may be well-suited to a position in HR, where you can address disagreements between employees. You might also enjoy a customer service role where you will resolve conflicts for clients about a company’s products, services or policies.

Active listening

Active listening is the ability to pay close attention to a person who is communicating with you. Active listeners are typically well-regarded by their coworkers due to the attention and respect they offer others. You can increase your listening skills by focusing on the speaker, avoiding distractions, and by preparing questions, comments or ideas to respond.

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and identify with the feelings of another person. If you have empathy, others will be more likely to confide in you. Being more empathetic takes a conscious effort to carefully consider how others feel. If you strengthen your empathy and rapport with others, you’ll be able to build stronger relationships, which can be beneficial in many ways.

Relationship management

Relationship management is the ability to maintain relationships and build key connections. For example, if you have a job in customer service, you might be responsible for relationship management between your company and a specific set of clients. Executives at organizations manage relationships with stakeholders and investors. This is a useful social skills in a variety of roles.

Respect

A key aspect of respect is knowing when to initiate communication and respond. In a team or group setting, allowing others to speak without interruption is seen as a necessary communication skill tied to respectfulness. Respectfully communicating also means using your time with someone else wisely—staying on topic, asking clear questions and responding fully to any questions you’ve been asked.

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How to improve social skills

There are several ways to improve your social skills. Here are just a few ways you can begin:

  • Get feedback. It can be helpful to ask trusted friends, mentors or managers to provide you with honest feedback about your areas for improvement. Use this feedback to start setting measurable goals toward having a strong, well-rounded set of social skills.

  • Set goals. After identifying areas for improvement, use the SMART goals framework to work toward building interpersonal skills in a specific, measurable way.

  • Find resources. There are countless classes, guides, books and more both online and off. While you can certainly pay for an e-book or class, there are also many free resources you can consume. You can also find focused resources on topics such as body language or negotiations.

  • Identify areas for practice. Once you have learned tactics and tips for improving your social skills, put them into practice at home and at work. You can also look for volunteer opportunities or extra-curricular activities for which you can practice interpersonal skills with less pressure.

If you’re looking for soft skills that will improve your employability and help you excel in nearly any job, social skills are a great place to start. The best way to improve your social skills is to put your learning into practice. A background demonstrating success with social skills will serve you well in many areas of life.

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