A voluminous number of studies have established fairly definitively that there is a clear correlation between an employee’s social skills and their success on the job, despite the fact that employees’ underdeveloped social skills continue to challenge many companies.
There is, of course, the instinctual feel regarding an employee’s skills in interacting with others, but knowing the importance of these skills employees and their managers now face the challenge of understanding the components that comprise them.
In this article, Fast Company columnist Judith Humphrey identifies five worth understanding and assessing.
Expressing appreciation of others
The first is the expression of appreciation for others. It almost doesn’t matter how high one is on the corporate ladder, the fact is that we all feel a little better when others seem appreciative of our efforts and for the very fact that we are around. The employee who can demonstrate such appreciation consistently to co-workers, clients and other stakeholders already has an important key foundation for exceptional social skills.
The second, perhaps also obvious but worth careful component of social skills, is listening. Communication in the workforce, like communication outside of it, is a two-way undertaking. But it breaks down when words communicated are not fully absorbed. Any employee with developed social skills, we are reminded, must exemplify developed listening skills.
That sounds easy enough, but it actually involves both practice and a conscious ongoing dedication to it. This article cites a Harvard University Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab study that found that we spend about 60 percent of our time in conversations speaking about ourselves and much of the rest pondering our responses or next statements.
The listening part of conversations is poor, in part, because too little time is dedicated to it in a typical conversation.
But one can be simultaneously appreciative of others and tuned in to hearing their words and still be missing some key social skills essential for high-level functionality. The third important social skill is enthusiasm. Enthusiasm, it is often said, is infectious. But this is no cliché.
It also happens to be important and true. We really do draw inspiration from the enthusiasm from others. When enthusiasm is pervasive in an organization, it spreads. When it’s lacking, it can bring down just about everyone.
Part of that enthusiasm, the fourth skill cited in this Fast Company article, is conveyed in one’s body language when communicating. “Look others in the eye and show warmth,” Humphrey reminds us. Sounds easy enough, but like most social skills it is something easy to overlook and requires conscious ongoing awareness and self-assessment.
The final skill, closely resembling the first, is gratitude. “This last but equally important skill is to thank others for what they have given or done with you,” the author writes.