What are they?
As defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning or CASEL, relationship, or interpersonal skills are “the ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups.” Relationship skills are imperative for people to have in both a personal and professional setting. It is impossible to go about daily life without interacting with people. Despite how necessary these skills are, they’re rarely taught in professional or educational institutions.
How are Relationship Skills taught?
Traditionally, parents are the ones expected to teach their kids how to act and play with others, this usually boils down to phrases like “play nice” and “use your words.” This is better than nothing but very watered down, which is fine as a child but as these children grow up they usually need to learn how to behave through trial and error. For some, this is not a problem. But if someone does have problems interacting with others, they are rarely told how they can remedy this. Organizations such as CASEL and Leading Edge seek to remedy this by giving guidelines on how to interact with people. Mainly in a professional setting, but schools like Polk Elementary and sites like pbisworld.com have ways on how children can learn and use relationship skills too.
Three Key Skills
Communication: One of the most basic forms of human interaction is through verbal and non-verbal communication. Communication is very important to have when it comes to sharpening your relationship skills. Verbal communication seems simple enough (recall the classic “use your words” strategy), but there is more that contributes to how ones’ words are perceived. First off, vocabulary. Be aware of your audience when choosing your words since certain situations can call for different phrasing. For example, you answer differently when your boss asks how your day is going than when your best friend does. It is best to be aware of how you would want to be addressed in a personal versus professional setting, but to also be aware of how your audience may feel as well. For example, if you are discussing a topic that you know much about with someone with similar knowledge, you may want to use jargon more freely as to not seem like your belittling them. Likewise, if you are discussing this same topic with someone who has expressed that they are new to this topic, sticking to simpler or more general terms may be better to avoid seeming like you are lording your knowledge over them.
Social engagement: This topic seems easy enough but many people, especially younger folk, have trouble staying engaged, especially when participating in social situations they do not particularly enjoy. The best way to improve social engagement is to be a tad bit more attentive to the group you are interacting with, whether you are the audience or speaker. In either case, it is good to be aware of things like non-verbal cues. Is your audience on their phones? Is the speaker fidgeting or pausing in unexpected places? It is important to give a speaker your attention, even if you don’t think you “need” to listen to them. If you are currently preoccupied with something that needs to be handled in a timely manner, then you could politely make them aware of this. However, if you have time to listen to them, or need to in a particular situation, you should give them all of your attention.
Relationship building: Sometimes people prioritize certain relationships or relationships with certain people over others. This is a personal decision, but it can cause other relationships to fall by the wayside. If you’re interacting with someone, be it a family member, friend or coworker, it’s important to cultivate these relationships to avoid miscommunication or conflict. Ways to build relationships are relatively consistent among different relationships with small differences. One popular technique is quality time; asking people small things about their personality such as likes and dislikes which allows you to learn about the person you’re building a relationship with. You can also ask them about how they feel about certain things that happen within your relationship. Some people are not completely open with personal information, so this may not be the best option for all people. Instead, you could spend time with them, go to events that involve common interests and the like.
Why it’s beneficial
Despite being one of the most frequently used skills in society, there are few clear cut lessons on how to improve interpersonal or relationship skills. It is nearly impossible to go long periods of time without interacting with other people. It is necessary to do so in both educational and professional settings. By using Social Emotional Learning, people can find ways of improving their interpersonal skills, which will assist them in a professional setting, and allow them to communicate and socialize with their peers efficiently. Similarly, in a personal setting, it allows people to understand each other easier and find ways to strengthen bonds.