The growing body of research on the advantages of having strong emotional intelligence shows the benefits of being socially skilled. You may feel that you’re just not one of those people who knows how best to act in social situations and are therefore doomed to a life of awkwardness. But no matter how weak you think your social skills are, it takes most people only a few minor adjustments to strengthen and expand them.
Being socially skilled buys you all kinds of advantages in life, from better relationships to more success at work. Knowing that you know how to act in social situations also becomes a positive aspect of your identity. You will feel less frightened by the prospect of interacting with strangers, for example, if you feel that you can rely on your communication abilities.
As a topic in psychology, most of the research on social skills focuses on training people with psychological disorders such as autism or schizophrenia to better interact with others. Beyond the training of these groups, there’s a surprising gap in the literature. But one report by University of Wisconsin rehabilitation counselor and educator Brian Phillips and co-authors (2014), addressed social skills in the area of vocational rehabilitation, and it provides a basis for understanding social skill building more generally.
According to Phillips et al, “All work is social” (p. 386). They interviewed vocational rehabilitation staff working in public agencies to find out their perceptions of the most important social skills that their clients needed to learn. The list that emerged from these interviews forms the basis for the following 6 tips, which can well apply to anyone who wants to get more comfortable—or get ahead:
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Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne 2015
Phillips, B. N., Kaseroff, A. A., Fleming, A. R., & Huck, G. E. (2014). Work-related social skills: Definitions and interventions in public vocational rehabilitation. Rehabilitation Psychology, 59(4), 386-398. doi:10.1037/rep0000011