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Friday, April 29, 2011

Right social skills are essential to succeed in workplace

Tiziana Casciaro, a professor at Harvard Business School, says, "People who lack social competence end up looking like they lack other competencies too." And in today’s world where technical skills are given more importance than social skills, seeking expert coaching to improve on them is a worthwhile investment.

The kind of relations an individual develops and maintains at his workplace defines his professional success. The way the person relates himself to others has a direct impact on his emotional state and hence his performance.

The social relationships of a person determine the quality of life he can have. Good relationships make life more fulfilling and complete. Social support is necessary to accomplish tasks, succeed and grow.

Especially at the workplace, the relationships between the team members, managers and clients decide the future of not just the individuals but also of their teams and the organisation on the whole.

With businesses getting more global today, the need to improve one’s social skills is more than ever before. This begins with working on one’s communication skills, a vital aspect of social skills.

To make interactions effective or build good relationships, communication skills are very important. It is observed that while some people lack proper communication skills, some others have the necessary skills but lack the confidence to exercise them. In either case, the individual can improve by trial and error and repeated practice.

Some areas linked to communication that one has to work on are:

• Conversation skills
• Nonverbal communication skills
• Assertiveness
• Likeability

Good conversation skills are not just about using the right words; they are more about following the right norms of conversation. The best way to pick up conversation skills are by observing people; understanding what keeps a person interested in the talk and what turns him off from it.

Based on this information, you can shape your conversation to influence the other person. Reading books that deal with human nature and behaviour is also helpful.

Nonverbal skills: Nonverbal communication includes facial expressions, gestures and body language. While words express what you want to say, nonverbal cues can suggest what you mean to say. They inform your subjects about your emotional state, your attitude towards them and the subject of discussion and your knowledge on the topic. So, to create the right kind of impact on the other person, they should match your words.

The best way to improve nonverbal skills is by seeking feedback from friends and mentors and following their suggestions to improve.

Assertiveness: This is an important aspect of conversation in the context of building relationships and social skills. It is important that you project a right image of yourself, speak out your mind honestly and express yourself appropriately. You should express your needs, limitations, feelings, expectations and fears, while respecting those of others. Your approach should be non-threatening and non-judgemental.

Assertiveness can be a bit difficult to learn and can slip into aggressive or passive styles. Experimenting and learning from the outcome is the way to learn this skill.

Likeability factor: Likeability is another important aspect of social skills. It adds up to your ability to get along with others, make friends and resolve conflict. Executive coach Susan Hodgkinson says, "The people who are likeable actually care about other people and care about the connections they make."

Listening to others is the best way to express that you care about them. Then comes extending support. "Recognise what you’re trying to get done and who you are trying to get it done with. Then think beyond your own stuff to what the other people want," advises Hodgkinson. This approach makes others like you and willing to support you. But make sure you do not compromise this skill with assertiveness.

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Photo credit: Free Digital Photos

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