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Why you need social skills

Anita D'Souza | November 08, 2005

Jayant Shah, an MBA from a prestigious college, is witty and intelligent. When he landed a job, his colleagues liked him at his first job. Initially, at least.

However, as they got to know him better, they realised he wasn't that much fun after all.

He would waltz into work late, argue with his seniors and crack nasty jokes about his colleagues. He would never be on time for meetings and would then rush for the only chair that was vacant, even if it was meant for the CEO.

Eventually, his colleagues started avoiding him. His seniors were wary of him. It became a Herculean task for him to get the smallest things done; no one wanted to cooperate with him. He became isolated and slowly went into depression. Finally, he started wondering if something was wrong with him.

Sounds familiar?

Jayant is a classic example of social skills gone wrong.

Social skills and business etiquette -- the same thing?

No, they are not.

Business etiquette means polishing one's manners to suit the professional work environment.

Social skills are the ability to interpret situations correctly and behave accordingly. They are the base on which manners are formed. Without social skills, it is virtually impossible to have any kind of etiquette or manners.

When do we start developing these skills?

We begin developing our social skills from the time we are born. An infant gives his first social smile when he or she is around three months old.

From then on, it is a never-ending journey. As we grow older, we learn how to interact with family and friends. We also learn of or are faced with the problems associated with poor social skills.

Surviving in the corporate jungle

It is estimated that more than 80 percent of the people who are fired get the pink slip because of their lack of social skills. While instances of employee immaturity or lack of appropriate social skills are not difficult to locate, suggestions from seniors as to where or how to enhance work ethics and/ or maturity levels (often discussed as social skills or getting along with others) in their subordinates are not as easy to find.

In spite of the lessons we learn at home, in the playground or at college, the corporate jungle is another game altogether.

If one is not equipped with all the necessary social skills by now, things can be tough. In the corporate world, the small fish have to learn to live with the sharks and survive. More important, they have to learn to perform.

Good social skills at work

Lisa (name changed) an ex-colleague of mine, joined the organisation six months before I did, at the same level, along with a team of five trainers.

Her qualifications and experience were similar to what all of us had. Surprisingly, within a span of a year, she moved from the post of senior trainer to assistant manager and had bypassed three levels. How did she do it?

She had excellent people or social skills and she knew six to seven languages with native fluency. "Different strokes for different folks," was her favourite one-liner. She spoke with grace and confidence to everyone from the watchman to the director, customising her technique to suit whoever she was dealing with.

Everybody knew who Lisa was. She commanded awe and respect in the organisation. She also had a good dress sense, smiled a lot and looked into peoples' eyes while speaking. Her tone was soft, yet confident. She was poised and no crisis was big enough to ruffle her feathers. She was able to handle the most trying and seemingly impossible situations with a kind of ease most people would kill to have. She knew what she wanted and got it.

This is a classic example of social skills at its best and most refined form.

Why do most people have trouble with social skills?

It is usually due to various reasons such as depression, rejection, anxiety, aggression, loneliness, etc.

So, how do you develop these skills? Are we born with them? Can you be trained in social skills?

Yes, yes and yes.

We are born with some skills, we develop others depending on the circumstances and opportunities that life presents us with. The more complex ones can be learnt through training programmes.

Part II: 7 ways to improve your social skills

Anita D'Souza is an MBA in Human Resources from the Welingkar's Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai University. She has 10 years of work experience and is currently a Corporate Trainer and Instructional Designer with Godrej Lawkim ITES division.

Share your comments

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Read what others have to say:

Number of User Comments: 8

Sub: Compliments

It was really an interesting as well as very practicle article. Learned a lot. Thanks, its easy to ignore or underestimate the importance of such ...

Posted by Rishi

Sub: I agree, but some live only asking help

I agree with most of the things, But some people, they just ask for help, eat your time with nothing but a smile and a ...

Posted by Cyber citizen

Sub: re

it might work , perhaps. but i'd never really adopt to such a mechanical approach of being caring ,confidant and etc just to make sure ...

Posted by Amalendu

Sub: Smile of Lisa

Story is good and inspiring as well but Lisa smiling a lot dose not make sense to me. Smile when required ans in amount that ...

Posted by C.J. Singh

Sub: Social skills

Hi there, I work for an MNC.All my colleagues are always back biting and saying nasty thing abt others at the back.I neither enjoy it ...

Posted by Navneet


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