At The End Of the Day, It All Comes Down To Social Skills

Emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills and communication skills are words you often see in management articles. These articles often talk about how social skills can help you going from being a good manager to being a great manager. For a long time, and as much as I find these articles interesting, I thought they were not pertinent to me. After all, I am not a manager (yet ☺), so how can these tips apply to me?

But after listening podcasts, and reading magazines, blog articles and books on different topics, a pattern started to emerge. The technical aspect was most of the time different, but the core of the message was almost every time the same. To be great at whatever you do, you need to use, and or develop your social skills. Otherwise, you will only stay a good web developer, designer, or marketer.

After this “AHA” moment, I decided to look deeper into what I thought were the important social skills.

Respect

Respect is the cornerstone of every relationship. It influences its outcome but also the process leading to the outcome. However, respect does not mean agreement, and people tend to forget about that. You can disagree with one’s opinion, idea or ideology but still respect the person as an individual.

Defining what respect is can be hard; respect is relative to a context and a situation. Yet, we can safely say that respect starts with humility. By considering every individual as important as you, regardless of education, job title, or experience, it will be easier for you to show respect.

Respect will help you avoid the pitfalls of overconfidence.

Active Communication

Today, in our hyper-connected society, people often think they do communicate with each other. “Look, I posted a picture on Instagram”, “Look at my Snapchat?”, 
“-
Paul: I went to San Francisco this weekend it was amazing! 
-
John: Yeah.. San Francisco is amazing, I remember when I went there 2 years ago I had so much fun […]” and it goes on and on. The problem in these types of behavior is that communication is a one-way street. Each individual tries to tell how awesome his / her story is.

Yet, communication is, and should always be, a 2 ways street. The central point of a communication is the message. If instead of sending feedback for the message you just received you are sending a new message, you end up having multiple unproductive conversations. And each time you recenter the conversation on yourself, instead of the message, you are creating a new conversation.

This type of conversation can be both tiresome (I need to use my energy each time to (re)take the lead of the conversation) and frustrating (I end up feeling that the person in front of me did not listen or fully got the message I communicated).

Conducting active conversation involves active listening. Without the latter, it will be hard to accomplish the former

Judith Glasser (a neuroscientist) explains the power of conversation in the innovation process [Podcast]

Active Listening

For anyone who wonders, active listening is the act of centering your attention on one’s message and responding by showing empathy.

Active listening is maybe one of the most difficult skill to develop. It requires a full set of skills: concentration, humility, patience, and empathy. It also requires an alignment between your personal attitude and the set of skills you need to leverage.

Yet making active listening a habit is critical for 2 reasons. First, it allows you to achieve active conversation, which will ultimately enhance your creativity. Second, active listening helps you to develop genuine relationships and partnerships with people, which will help you to create a supporting network of people.

Social Awareness

I hesitated between the term social awareness and the word empathy, but I liked social awareness better. Empathy focuses on one’s understanding of the feelings of an individual. On the other side, social awareness focuses on being aware and understanding the behaviors, the feelings, the problems, and the attitudes of a social group.

Empathy: understanding and entering into another’s feelings — WordNet

This aspect of one’s set of social skills is important (and not just for managers). By developing social awareness you will develop a better understanding of your target customer, your target users, etc.

In the case of a designer, social awareness will help to develop better and more relevant design. For a product manager, it will help to create more suitable products for a specific target customer.

To develop social awareness you first need to forget all the prejudices you have on certain social groups. You need to stay open-minded. Then, do some research (primary and/or secondary) on the social group you are working with. You can even start hanging out with this social group (if you are not already doing it). It will help you get “real-life” information.