Social Skills: Definition and Examples

Updated August 12, 2022

Social skills are not only necessary in your personal life but also vital for career growth. Showing strong social skills can help you stand out during the hiring process, expand your personal and professional network, accomplish career goals such as getting a promotion and much more. In this article, we discuss what social skills are, why they are important, how you can improve them and examples of social skills.

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What are social skills?

We use social skills to communicate with others in several ways, such as verbal, nonverbal, written and visual communication. Social skills are also referred to as interpersonal or soft skills. We constantly use our social skills throughout the day when ordering food, greeting a coworker, giving a presentation, taking part in a meeting and much more.

People think verbal communication skills are the most important social skill, as people talk to each other every day. But there are many different types of nonverbal communication as well. They include the use of body language, facial expressions, eye contact and gestures. With nonverbal communication, we may communicate something without even realizing it.

Read More: What Are Channels of Communication? (With Benefits and Tips)

Why are social skills important?

Social skills are important because they help you communicate effectively. Good communication is necessary to build, maintain and grow relationships with people in your personal and professional life. Even if you typically work alone, you will need good social skills in every position and industry.

Besides creating and maintaining relationships with people, social skills are important in the workplace as you can use them in the following ways:

  • Make the workplace more enjoyable and friendly

  • Offer your perspective in meetings or one-on-one conversations

  • Exchange ideas, information and techniques with colleagues

  • Learn fresh ways of doing things from people with different areas of expertise

  • Provide mutual support through difficult situations

  • Network for new opportunities

  • Relate to a variety of people better

  • Get feedback to help you constantly improve

  • Gain referrals from past clients or customers that can attest to your skills

Although interviews can be nerve-wracking, it is important to exemplify your social skills during the hiring process as well, to show potential employers that you are a good fit for their team. Engaging in conversation, asking questions, maintaining eye contact or ensuring your body language expresses interest are great ways to show your social skills.

However, before you make it to the interview, you must have a strong resume or cover letter. You can exemplify your social skills on paper by writing a unique cover letter for every position you apply for. Include details about the specific job to show that you are engaged in the position. List measurable achievements on your resume that you can use to refer to your social skills, such as building a client base of over 100 people.

Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

Examples of useful social skills

Here are some examples of social skills that are useful in the workplace for facilitating better interactions:

  • Conflict resolution: Even with strong social skills, conflicts may arise in the workplace. Having good conflict resolution skills helps you resolve disagreements before they escalate. This is an especially useful skill for HR employees that need to be neutral and frequently help solve employee disagreements.

  • Effective communication: Effective communication is vital in building and strengthening relationships. By sharing your thoughts, ideas and feelings with someone, you encourage them to do the same. Those with effective communication skills make outstanding leaders, as they can communicate with many people in a way that's easy to understand.

  • Active listening: Nobody wants to talk to someone who isn't listening, so it's important that you always pay attention to the person communicating with you. You can show that you're actively listening by asking questions when appropriate, nodding along with the conversation and avoiding distractions such as looking at your phone.

  • Empathy: A big part of having strong social skills is the ability to be empathetic. This means you can understand and identify with how another person is feeling. Expressing empathy is a great way to build and strengthen relationships, as it's more likely for people to confide in you.

  • Relationship management: Relationships with anyone in your personal or professional life need constant work to maintain them. Reaching out to clients you haven't heard from in a while, talking to your staff or colleague about their weekend or meeting with coworkers outside of work are all great ways to manage relationships.

  • Respect: You can only build and maintain relationships if there is mutual respect. Allowing others to speak when in a meeting, knowing when to start communication and responding to questions people ask you are great ways to show respect for your coworkers and friends.

Related: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

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How to improve your social skills

Some people are naturally more sociable than others, but building up your social skills is always possible. Here are some ways you can improve your social skills:

1. Show interest in others

You likely spend most of your time with your colleagues, so getting to know them personally and professionally can help you work together more efficiently. You can do this by showing interest in what others have to say. Take turns when talking to someone, don't just focus on what you want to say. A great way to show interest is to ask open-ended questions, as it encourages the other person to talk.

2. Improve your body language

A big part of having good social skills is being aware of your body language. Having open body language will encourage others to approach you and show managers you are confident and interested in your work. You can do this by standing or sitting up straight, avoiding crossing your arms and maintaining eye contact with the person talking to you.

3. Create social goals

Having goals at work is great, as you can constantly work towards becoming a better you. If you struggle with your social skills, start by creating small goals, such as attending a work event. Work up to bigger goals when you're ready.

4. Get feedback

It may be hard for you to tell whether your social skills are improving without receiving feedback. Talk to someone you can trust for an honest answer, such as your close friends, managers, family or a mentor, to see if what you're doing is working and adjust accordingly.

5. Invite someone new out

Meeting new people can be challenging, but it's essential if you want to build up a powerful network of people in your professional and personal life. Start by inviting a coworker to lunch, dinner or coffee so you can get to know them outside of the work environment. Connecting with someone one-on-one is much easier than in a group.

6. Keep up with current events

If you have never met or talked to a person before, finding common ground can be tough. Small talk by discussing current trends, news stories or events can be a great way to start the conversation until you find a common interest.

7. Offer genuine compliments

Another great way to start a conversation with someone is to compliment them. You can compliment your coworker on their recent promotion, presentation or achievement. Complimenting people will show them you are friendly and open to further communication.

Read More: How To Praise Someone Professionally

8. Seek resources for developing social skills

There are plenty of influential books, courses, videos, articles and more about developing social skills. Many of these resources are free, but if not, consider them an investment in your future. Using these resources helps you learn specific social skills that you can apply to your personal and professional life.

9. Eliminate negative thoughts

If you are uncomfortable socializing, you may have negative thoughts about the experience. Identify your negative beliefs and replace them with positive ones. For example, if you're worried about embarrassing yourself at a lunch meeting, think about how the lunch meeting will improve your relationship. Even if you do have an embarrassing moment when socializing with coworkers or friends, no one else will likely remember it, so neither should you. Don't let negative thoughts hold you back from excelling.

Read More: How to Maintain a Positive Attitude at Work and Home

10. Speak in a clear, acceptable tone

If you are looking to strengthen your verbal social skills, it is important that you improve the way you speak. When having a conversation with someone, especially with a group of people, you need to speak clearly. If you're nervous, you may find yourself speaking quickly or mumbling. Try to slow down and enunciate your words to improve your communication. Similarly, speaking in an acceptable tone is important and varies depending on the environment. Try to match the tone of people around you so you aren't speaking too loudly and disrupting other people or so soft that people can't hear you.

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