What are Social Skills? Definition and Examples

Jennifer Herrity

Updated August 16, 2022

Published March 15, 2019

Jennifer Herrity is a seasoned career services professional with 12+ years of experience in career coaching, recruiting and leadership roles with the purpose of helping others to find their best-fit jobs. She helps people navigate the job search process through one-on-one career coaching, webinars, workshops, articles and career advice videos on Indeed's YouTube channel.

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 and expand your professional network. Understanding and improving your social skills can benefit you in every area of life.

In this article, we discuss social skills and why they're important, and we offer examples of social skills and tips to help you improve your skills.

What are social skills?

Social skills are used to communicate with others daily in a variety of ways including verbal, nonverbal, written and visual. Social skills are also referred to as “interpersonal” or “soft skills.”

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 professionally and personally.

Read more: 23 Social Work Skills To Highlight on Your Resume (With Examples)

Why social skills are important

Social skills are important because they can help you communicate more effectively and efficiently and, as a result, help you build, maintain and grow relationships with colleagues, clients and new contacts. These skills are important to maintain and improve no matter your position, industry or experience level.

Benefits of social skills

There are several advantages of having well-developed social skills for both your personal and professional relationships. With solid social skills, you increase your opportunity to:

  • Communicate your needs and wants clearly and effectively

  • Have better—and potentially more—relationships

  • Navigate tricky social situations

  • Be considered for career opportunities

  • Feel happier

Advantages to your career

Developing your social skills benefits your career. Social skills allow you the opportunity to:

  • Gain ideas, information, techniques and perspectives from people with different areas of expertise

  • Provide your own perspective for the benefit of others

  • Accomplish tasks and collaborate with others toward a shared goal

  • Provide mutual support for difficult or hard-to-navigate situations

  • Expand your network to learn about and pursue new opportunities

  • Get personalized feedback and referrals

  • Make the workplace more enjoyable

Related: Social Skills Training and How It Can Benefit You

Six examples of important social skills

Here are important social skills you can develop to facilitate better interactions in your workplace:

1. 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 explain projects and goals in an easy-to-understand way.

Read more: How To Become an Effective Communicator

2. 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. Good conflict resolution skills are important in any job, but they might be particularly well-suited for a position in HR, where you’ll often address disagreements between employees or in a customer service role, where you resolve conflicts for clients about a company’s products, services or policies.

Read more: 9 Key Steps for Conflict Resolution at Work

3. 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 waiting to prepare your response only after the other person is finished (rather than while they are speaking).

Read more: How To Improve Your Listening Skills

4. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and identify with the feelings of another person. If you have empathy, others will often 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 can build stronger, more respectful and open relationships.

Read more: How To Be Empathetic in the Workplace

5. Relationship management

Relationship management is the ability to maintain healthy relationships and build key connections. For example, if you have a job in customer service, you might be responsible for nurturing the relationship between your company and a specific set of clients. Executives at organizations manage partnerships with stakeholders and investors. This social skill allows professional relationships to flourish and all parties involved can benefit.

Related: Relationship Building Skills: Definitions and Examples

6. Respect

A key aspect of respect is knowing when and how to initiate communication and respond. In a team or group setting, allowing others to speak without interruption is a necessary communication skill that shows respect.

Respectfully communicating can also mean using your time with someone else wisely—staying on topic, asking clear questions and responding fully to any questions you’ve been asked.

Read more: 9 Key Social Skills To Develop For Career Success

How to improve your social skills

There are several ways to improve your social skills. Start by:

1. Getting feedback

Ask trusted friends, mentors or managers to provide you with honest feedback about your areas for improvement.

Related: 4 Ways Feedback Improved Performance in the Workplace

2. Setting goals

Use this feedback to start setting measurable goals to build your social skills. The SMART goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based) framework might be helpful to track your progress.

Read more: 15 Tips for Goal Setting

3. Finding resources

There are several social skill-building classes, guides, books and other tools available—both paid and free. You can search for general social skills lessons or specific skill courses, such as body language or charisma.

4. Identify areas for practice

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

Related: 10 Ways To Develop Your Social Skills (And Why It’s Important)

How to demonstrate your social skills in job search

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 and it can show your fitness for their company culture.

To show social skills in 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, then you can elaborate on how you used your social skills to reach your goals during your interview.

Use the STAR method for behavioral interview questions to explain times you have found success using social skills.

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