LIFE SKILLS

We often feel misunderstood, our words or attitudes seem not to reach others, and sometimes we just can’t clearly communicate what we want. Somewhere in your life, you’ve felt that way, everybody does eventually. All of this is a social behaviour that most of us believe has been learned naturally, but it’s not totally true and it can be learned and trained at any time in your life.

This social behaviour includes a series of factors (from us and others) and it has a great influence in the way we communicate and the way others understand us.

There are several factors, starting with the cognitive factor, the most rational one (we try to interpret what was really said and what it meant, as well as we try to find a better way to say something), the emotional factor (which is often undervalued), the motivational factor (our expectations about one situation will influence it more than we actually think) and the behavioural one, the most automated of all.

These factors interact with one another to promote your relationship with the rest of the world, they influence one another and produce an important final result which could, or could not, be suitable for you. It is important to know this and be ready to change whatever you need, but for that, you must have a larger understanding about social skills.

It is important to know that this kind of skill is totally related with the perception and understanding you have from the world around you, the way you integrate that information and, in the end, your response to it. Thus, we can describe social skills as an evaluation of our social behaviour as suitable or unsuitable, according to different factors, like age and culture.

The adolescence is especially complicated in this matter and each one of us should help the teenager developing his competences, supporting him in his natural efforts to gain autonomy, promoting his participation in different activities, helping him to make his own decisions and interfering in the family one’s, hearing him and stimulating his critical judgment. We must encourage a teenager to conclude the tasks he or she began, persisting, even when he/she finds obstacles in his/her way.

The best way to work these competences is always picking the best situations in which a person displayed the right attitude and try and broaden that attitude and those abilities to other situations, where he (or she) has more difficulties.

Promoting social behaviour modification

It’s important to promote this modification as soon as possible, so that the child or teenager for whom we are responsible, grows up with a notion of these skills, which will allow him or her to improve them. Thus, here are the 5 major points that require work.

Interpersonal communication, verbal and non-verbal. This is, without a doubt, one of the most important social skills and you should work at it everyday. The verbal communication always has to be consistent with the non-verbal one, which consists of the signals you, many times unconsciously, send to other people. If you are having a nice conversation, perhaps, you could show a smile, it could turn the relationship more solid and trustworthy and the person you’re talking to will tend to smile to you in return.

Your body posture may also tell a lot about you. For a more observant interpreter it may tell him that you’re nervous or insecure, which may be an adverse situation at a job interview, for example. You should demonstrate a relaxed posture, a slight smile, being discrete and speak in a calm and clear way. You should not interrupt the person who is talking to you, neither impose your beliefs and/or opinions.

It’s also important that you keep a habit for active listening, or in other words, you need to keep an open mind and carefully hear other people and observe their reactions, their facial expressions and body posture. You must be observant and at the smallest sign of misunderstanding, you should, without questioning the person, find other words to explain your topic, making sure the other person feels good about talking to you.

Assertiveness promotion. This is a category that could fit in the interpersonal communication, yet, I choose to separate it due to being something so specific and so important for our development. I will not dwell on the subject, since it has been addressed before, in another article, I just want to remind you of the importance of assertiveness in our interaction with other people. You should try to recognize and after that, eliminate the non-assertive behaviour and reactions, promoting the valorization of our rights and others’. This is extremely positive, it will help you be heard and it will decrease your anxiety during some situations.

Ability of solving problems. Developing your ability of solving problems allows you to minimize impulsive and inadequate answers and promoting logical thought and planning ability. Thus, when you are faced with a problem, you should, at first, try focusing on understanding all parts of it, then evaluate the choices and possibilities you might have, trying to anticipate the consequences of each one of those. After a careful analysis, you will choose the best option (with the higher benefits and least losses). In the end, it is important to reevaluate all process, before the definitive decisions. That´s the way you evolve and develop this capacity.

Cognitive Restructuring and Emotional Management. This is, generally, a complicated point in the skills acquisition, because it’s too hard for a human being to control his own emotions. It begins the moment you try to determine the distance between what you have now and your goals. When you realize you’re too far away from them, you get frustrated, depressed and anxious, a lot of questions about your capacities start popping up on your mind and it affects your self-esteem. The establishment of small goals will help you through this stage.

On the other side, when you realize your goal will be too easy to reach, it will not have such a positive effect as you may think. When it happens, you tend to stay calmer and take less efforts to do anything. So, along the way, you will be bored and apathetic and this kind of attitude will limit your growth. If it’s really easy to reach that goal, why can’t you establish a new one? Something bigger, more challenging, that makes you develop your abilities even further.

As you can see, developing your personal and emotional skills is a slow and somewhat complex process. One that should be started as soon as possible. If you feel you aren’t always at your best, this is the time. And remember, some exterior help is extremely important in this moment. Do not hesitate asking for help.

Ki Magazine – No. 12

July 2014

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