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Part 5: The case of Emotional Intelligence – “Social Skills”

 

What is it?

Last but not least, Social Skills! This is where everything comes together: your self-awareness, your self-regulation, your empathy and also your ability to remind yourself of the goal you are trying to achieve. 

Social skills come handy in every situation: life, work, one to one and groups, in your home country, and abroad. 

While we may be generally good at social skills in non-conflict situations, we could find ourselves losing our “touch” when exposed to stressful occasions, tense conversations or disagreement. 

In fact, “Social situations are the largest trigger of emotions in human beings”, V. Urch Druskat, Ph.D

As well, different cultural backgrounds usually amplify contrasts and escalate conflicts. Living away from home emphasizes the need for social skills, the ability to relate to people from different upbringings and cultures, and the sensitivity to adjust our communication style depending on whom we are interacting with. Welcome to the global world!

Global leaders with excellent social skills are seen as inspirational leaders, influencers, effective conflicts resolvers, great team builders, and as coaches and mentors for their people. 

 

The Tool

How do we improve Social Skills?  Here are some good practices:

+ Find opportunities to be social

When we move abroad (and in every new environment), we may have to overcome the initial anxiety of being “the new kid on the block”. You need to be very intentional about finding social opportunities and opening up to people you do not know. In the beginning, defining a specific goal can help. For example, “I want to have a chat with at least one new person everyday”; “I want to have lunch with one of my team members at least once a week”; “I will participate to at least one network event every month”.

+ Take a step-by-step approach

For some people being social is more difficult than for others. If you are an introvert, please do not punish yourself for that: take things gradually, set goals that feel a bit challenging but achievable, find a peer or a friend to go with you. Start with something you enjoy doing such an activity, a sport, a cultural interest that can be also a social opportunity. It will get easier!

+ Be curious

Open up, ask questions, show genuine interest in others and listen to their stories. If it is difficult for you to share things about yourself, let them talk. Use breathing to self-regulate, stay relaxed and attentive. And, if the person you are talking to doesn’t awaken your curiosity, just move on. 

Be generous

Give people positive feedback and sincere compliments. In a work setting, you could be noticing something about a coworker that you admire (e.g. the way they present, their organization skills, their body language or attitude); let them know. People like to be “seen”!

In a social situation, it could be about sharing what you appreciate about the host country (e.g. the history, traditions, food…) and about the locals. Just ask yourself “What do I value about this country, culture, place, people? Then, share with others. 

Be aware of differences

Be aware of differences and respect them. It is possible that you may not like some aspects of the host country, and that’s ok! What’s not ok is to criticize such differences. You may think, “Who would do that?”. Well, it can happen that we judge others without realizing it. We fall into this trap because “we are conditioned to see the world in our own culture (…) that it is difficult to imagine that another culture would do things differently” (“The culture map”, A. Meyer). When you travel or relocate to a new country, ask yourself “How do I do this? And how do they do it? This is a key question to unveil differences and to start opening a dialogue about how to best work and live together. 

Watch out:

Be aware of your body language

What you say should be supported by the way you say it: your tone of voice, body language and other non-verbal clues. These signs can provide plenty of information and make others think that you are not interested in them or what they say. Observe your body, the position of your head, arms and legs. Do they convey openness? Are you maintaining eye contact? Are you using an amicable tone of voice? Observe others’ body language: what can you learn or unlearn from them?

 

So, what are you willing to try first? What is your plan to improve your social skills?

Please let me know. I am all ears!

 

Bests,

Laura

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