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careersCompanies look for people who remain calm and effective under pressure and empathise with clients and team members in pursuit of the best possible results. Such individuals have exceptional social skills that enable them to act with grace in stressful situations, listen and communicate effectively, admit their mistakes and learn from them, respond well to criticism and show high self and situational awareness.

Therefore, as your career advances, improving your social skills is as important as building your technical skills. Social skills allow you to instantly ‘read’ someone and communicate with them in the best possible way and help you navigate everyday interactions, such as holding conversations, forming and maintaining relationships, asking for help, instructing others, listening and thinking critically.

If you avoid social situations, preferring to work on your own, it will negatively affect your performance, especially when you participate in group projects and pair work, and will limit your opportunities to learn from others and share your knowledge and skills.

Social skills are not the same as behaviour. Rather, they are components of behaviour that help an individual understand and adapt across a variety of social settings. Hill Walker, a leading educationist, defined social skills as “a set of competencies that a) allow an individual to initiate and maintain positive social relationships; b) contribute to peer acceptance; and c) allow an individual to cope effectively with the larger social environment.”

Social skills can also be defined within the context of social and emotional learning – recognising and managing our emotions, establishing positive relationships, making responsible decisions and handling challenging situations constructively and ethically.* These are essentially people skills, sometimes referred to as ‘emotional intelligence’.

Science tells us that social connections make us happier and healthier; with the holiday season here, this is the best time to get out there and practise and improve your social skills.

– Fauzia Kerai Khan

The writer is Chief Consultant, i&b Consulting, Training,e-learning. fauzia@iandbconsulting.com

*Building Academic Success on Social and Emotional Learning: What Does the Research Say? by Zins, Weissbert, Wang, & Walberg.

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on December 21, 2014.