Being a mother of five children, I spent many hours thinking and praying over my children. One of the areas where I spent time developing my kids was the area of social skills. What are social skills? A definition from Wikipedia states “A social skill is any competence facilitating interaction and communication with others where social rules and relations are created, communicated, and changed in verbal and nonverbal ways. The process of learning these skills is called socialization. Lack of such skills can cause social awkwardness.” From an article in Skills You Need the explanation is “Social skills are the skills we use to communicate and interact with each other, both verbally and non-verbally, through gestures, body language and our personal appearance. Human beings are sociable creatures and we have developed many ways to communicate our messages, thoughts and feelings with others.” As a mother and fellow human being, I believe it is critically important to notice what social skills we have and which ones we might still need to develop. My efforts to grow sociable children was matched by my own efforts to mature my own skills.
Some people have work skills and academic knowledge, but not social skills to propel them to success. Some negative social behavior actually repels people. Some people lack self-awareness to identify what is repulsive to others. Some know, but don’t care. Some fail to weigh the cost of not caring about their interaction with others. One thing that might be true of people who need social skill work is that they are lonely.
As a mother I kept an eye on my children’s relationships. I wanted them to be healthy in their family relationships, their friendships as well as their dealings with strangers. As they grew we created environments for them to practice maturing in these areas. Their daddy and I praised their strong areas and attempted to guide behaviors that they needed to adjust. Children who struggle with social skills are more likely to have unhealthy addictive tendencies, legal trouble and broad relationship problems.
Social skills are basically interpersonal skills.
What social skills do we all need? Creating a list in response to this question might be rather infinite. For brevity, this list identifies many of the pertinent ones we need as children and certainly, as grownups. Do you have these twenty social skills? Feel free to add more skills that you think are helpful.
- Listening – Sometimes you have to take a vow of silence. Sometimes you have to quiet your thoughts to listen to the thoughts of others. Listening gives perspective that you cannot reach alone. Listening is also a gift, a kindness and a gesture of respect.
- Conversation skills – Identifying questions to ask and questions not to ask requires strategy and discernment. Identifying how to navigate a conversation, regurgitate information back, and make eye contact are critical skills.
- Empathy or sympathy or social perceptiveness. Whether you are parenting or just working on yourself, determining how to respond to the sadness, disappointment or crisis in others is highly important. This will be a skill that is needed frequently in life. For example, when we would pull up to someone’s house to take a meal after someone had died, I would quiz my children. “What do you do or say? What do you not do or say?” The same when encountering a person in a visitation line or at a hospital. It is helpful to plan ahead what words you will use. As a suggestion from someone who has experienced losing someone they love, it is heart warming thing to offer your favorite memory of the person who has been lost. In fact this is a great idea even when you think of something in the future beyond the time of loss. Often it is just best to give a big hug and just say, “I am so sorry!” Sometimes less is best.
- Enthusiasm – Don’t we all love this? Enthusiasm is often accompanied by a happy disposition or a Pollyanna approach to any difficulty. We could all enjoy more increased excitement or passion.
- Cooperation – Doing what is needed or asked for is really a key quality in getting along. Knowing how to be the one in charge as well as the very best helper is so important. I actually guided my children to practice changing roles. For example, there really cannot be two people in charge of moving furniture. This is parallel to so many other situations where one needs to guide and everyone else needs to support as a team.
- Boundaries physically (like personal space), emotionally and relationally. Sometimes this means you have to practice assertiveness. Communicate your boundaries kindly, but firmly.
- Networking – This is the secret sauce to so many amazing stories in our lives. I would even say that networking is an invaluable tool for saving money and solving problems.
- Positive teasing – Contrasted with teasing that is hurtful. Not to be confused with flattery.
- Follow directions – Yes. Follow directions in contrast with always trying to do it another way. You know these people. They are not surrounded by friends. Some might consider them difficult or ornery or stubborn or downright impossible. Certainly, they are not leadership material.
- Responding to crisis – Learning to act correctly and with the appropriate timing.
- Responding to winning/losing – Learning this early will give you a buffer from a lifetime of over reacting and just having bad sportsmanship. Losing is never fun, but it happens. It is best to keep perspective. Plan your response ahead so you will be prepared. In my experience, I have had many opportunities to practice losing. Lose graciously. Congratulate your opponent. If you did your best, that was all you could do. Remember to respond kindly when you are the winner. Remember how it feels to be the loser.
- Welcoming new people – Life reminds us that it is quite important to look outside of ourselves. Look for new people. You might remember being new somewhere or at some time. What was done for you? Or what do you wish had been done. Lean into the Bible’s directive of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.
- Being new – This is mirroring number 12. Anticipate being new. Prepare conversation starters appropriate to the situation. Identify realistic expectations.
- Kindness – Best stated in Is Kindness Your Superpower? Kindness daily is the way to live.
- Manners – Much to learn here.
- Likability – Working toward being pleasing, easy to get along with
- Hygiene – This isn’t hard. Clean means showered and groomed. Brush your teeth. Do what is necessary to have clean breath. Do your laundry so your clothes don’t smell. Change your sheets once a week and your towels at least twice a week for the same reason. Keep your spaces clean. Basic everyday habits and routines will ensure proper hygiene. My mother used to say, “Clean doesn’t cost. Be clean.”
- Nurture – Plan for nourishment, further other’s development, encourage and cultivate your family and those in your sphere of influence. Take care of people. Especially take care of those who have taken care of you like your parents and grandparents.
- Negotiation (We might have overdone the training in our children in this area.) Anticipation.
- Serving others. Compassion.
Social skills according to Mind Valley can roughly be divided into:
- Survival. Listening, rewarding yourself, ignoring distractions, and following directions.
- Interpersonal. Empathy, politeness, sharing, and conversation are all interpersonal skills.
- Problem-solving. Decision-making, accepting consequences, the ability to apologize and ask for help.
- Conflict-resolution. Dealing with peer pressure, omissions, accusations, and loss.
What are the advantages of having highly developed social skills?
- A larger community
- More friends
- Communication is more clear. People understand what you need and want. They feel you have
- More grace extended to you when you make a mistake or are accused of making a mistake.
- Enjoy social settings. Less dread of social settings. You have friendships established or you easily interact with new people. You are thinking more about them than your feelings of awkwardness.
- Overall happiness
If you are a parent, guiding your child to develop sociability through these skills is invaluable. Truly, we are all on a journey to grow in some of these areas. Some of the about attributes come naturally while others are just difficult. What needs to be done if I have a deficit in social skills? Work on having a better self image. Start smiling and practicing open body language. Just relax. Be yourself. Enjoy others.
Am I self aware? Do I need to ask for input from those who are closest to me? If you would like to increase your sociability, ask a close family member or friend to help you evaluate your strengths.
Practice one new area where you want to make changes.
Do one thing different today. By embracing your every day you will grow.
Read more on intentional parenting in one of my two books:
Nurturing My Nest: Intentional Parenting and Custom Built Homeschooling https://nurturingmynest.com/books
Hum of the Home: Routines and Rhythms of Homemaking https://nurturingmynest.com/books
Join my husband and me for a conversation on this topic on our podcast Embrace Your Everyday.