Emotional Competence 6: Essential Social Skills

The last of the competencies outlined in Daniel Goleman’s book(1) is the second and final of the social competencies; Social Skills.

Social skills are very complex because there is always a variable which is beyond our own control – other people. Yes, this is also true for empathy which we talked about in the last article, but in the area of social skills as outlined by Goleman there is a difference. In empathy, it’s all about our feelings towards/about the other person; we are simply understanding/supporting them in a more passive sense. The subtle difference in social skills is that we’re attempting to influence them in some active way – and that is ultimately under their control, not ours.

Goleman describes social skills as, ‘Adeptness at inducing desirable responses in others’, and lists several specific skills. As in the last article, I’ve listed them here and expanded and explained them in more depth. I’ve also reordered the list to attempt to make them flow more sequentially.

  • Building bonds: Nurturing instrumental relationships. I believe this is fundamental to all of the other skills so have put it first. People don’t want to talk to you and aren’t influenced to your way of thinking unless they like you. To quote Theodore Roosevelt, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. Creating rapport with others is essential to ‘get on the same page’ as them, so that they feel understood and respected. There are many aspects to creating effective, deep rapport and I teach these on many of my trainings. One subset of this fundamental skill is the next competency;
  • Communication: Listening openly and sending convincing messages. Reflective or Active listening is a core skill. It involves being able to accurately interpret what people think and feel and to let them know that you understand that, too. Sending the message “Yeah, I understand and honour what you’re saying and where you’re coming from”, enables relationships to grow and opens up the other person to the next skill;
  • Influence: Wielding effective tactics for persuasion. To influence a person there are lots of variables, not least those mentioned above. There is also a need to influence and perhaps change their values and beliefs, so they are more aligned to yours or those of the group. Influencing a person’s values and beliefs can be a deeply meaningful experience for you both. It is also very dangerous ground to be treading if you don’t know how! Again, these are skills you can learn. Doing this enables you to begin to lead more effectively, which brings us to;
  • Leadership. Inspiring and guiding individuals and groups. Leadership is paradoxical. Good leaders are ‘situational and functional’, meaning a good leader can give power away to others more suited to the specific task at hand; something that ‘command and control’ type of leaders (Theory X leadership) would find almost impossible to do. You’ll see here that leadership is a massive concept, far beyond this short description. The Unleashing Leadership training spends three full days on the topic and could go way longer than that!
  • Collaboration and cooperation: Working with others toward shared goals. Note Goleman’s phrasing, “working with others”. Collaborating means working alongside people, getting your own hands dirty, doing your fair share of the graft. Cooperating means to be able to listen, understand and see things from many perspectives.
  • Change catalyst: Initiating or managing change. This involves being able to identify the ‘structure’ of a situation and recognise the key leverage point for effective change. As a coach, that is precisely what I do. This is what differentiates a bad coach from a good coach.
  • Conflict management: Negotiating and resolving disagreements. Managing conflicts firstly involves being able to identify what kind of conflict is happening. Because there are many different types of conflict and so many variables, it’s a subject way beyond the scope of this article. To find out more, contact me and ask about the Effective Workplace Communication and Conflict Resolution workshops I run in the corporate environment.
  • Team capabilities: Creating group synergy in pursuing collective goals. Working with teams and groups is also a complex area. Managing a team dynamic is complex and involves primarily getting everyone involved and motivated in the same direction. Clarifying everyone’s understanding of ‘collective goals’ is also essential.

I hope you’ll realise from following these six articles in the Emotional Competence series that everything starts with you. The self-management skills are fundamental and everything else is reliant on you being in a good place, mentally and emotionally.

If you have any questions or enquiries about coaching or training for you or your group/organisation, drop me a line, alan@optimum-mind.com

Did you like this article? If so, remember to share it with your friends and colleagues. After all, sharing good stuff is good emotional competence!

  • ‘Working With Emotional Intelligence’ – Daniel Goleman

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