Socio-emotional skills act as a link between the regulation of emotions and communication. They are an aspect that, historically, was little worked on in school even though they are something fundamental for us to be socially adjusted as adults.
There are many skills of this type, all of which are very useful and need to be strengthened to be able to relate in a well-adapted manner with the social environment.
We will look more deeply into this concept, as well as discover a few useful socio-emotional skills and work with them.
What are Social-Emotional Skills?
We could define social-emotional skills as those learned behaviors that we carry out when we interact with other people, and that is useful to express our feelings, attitudes, opinions, and defend our rights.
For example, these include self-knowledge, self-control, empathy, and the ability to collaborate with others.
Developing these skills is very important since they contribute to our assertive and functional relationship with others, as well as help us achieve our goals in a social context from which we cannot be separated.
While there is no strict classification of the types of social-emotional skills, we can classify them into more fundamental and more complex skills.
The basic ones could be understood as relatively simple, but fundamental to acquire more complex skills.
Among them, we could highlight being able to listen, maintain a conversation, assertiveness, to thank, to present oneself. In contrast, in the complex ones, we would have to take the initiative, establish objectives, or solve conflicts.
Social-Emotional Skills in Childhood
Social-emotional skills can be worked on at any age. However, it is during childhood that it is most productive to acquire them.
It is well known that when we are children, it is easier for us to automate according to what type of behavior and to acquire new knowledge.
Among these behaviors and knowledge, social-emotional skills can be included, and that is why childhood is such an appropriate time to be able to teach them.
In addition to the family environment, school exerts a significant influence on the individual’s behavior and personality. It is in this place where not only new academic knowledge is acquired, but also where the various social-emotional skills can be put into practice, especially by interacting with the rest of one’s peers.
Not acquiring social-emotional skills such as self-control, assertive communication, conflict resolution, or empathy can be a problem for the child once he or she is an adult.
In maturity, it is very good to have in-depth knowledge of a particular subject. Still, it is not very useful if you do not have the socio-emotional skills to express yourself or relate to others.
Key Social-Emotional Skills
Self-knowledge means the ability to know oneself, both cognitively and emotionally.
It is the ability to know what we are feeling at any given moment, to make realistic assessments about our skills, and to know what we are good at and what we are struggling with.
In this ability, aspects related to emotional intelligence are mixed, specifically the intrapersonal type and metacognition cognitive aspects.
Closely related to self-knowledge, we understand emotional self-management as the ability to identify our emotions and use them as triggers to reach an objective.
It is learning to be aware of the need to delay rewards to achieve our goals and developing perseverance to tolerate frustration.
We can manage both positive and negative emotions. If we are happy, we can use that positive mood to continue studying for a test or talk to a friend.
If we are angry, instead of taking it out on someone close, we can manage it by channeling our anger by going for a run or, if we know someone who can hear us, by talking to them so we can vent quietly.
Resilience is a fundamental capacity in every person since it is what makes us suffer more or less in the face of a situation that is adverse to us, such as severe, stressful, or traumatic events.
This ability is fundamental insofar as no one has a perfect life. We all go through ups and downs at some point in our lives. So it is necessary to learn how to manage them and, to the extent that it is in our hands, to learn how to cope with them.
For example, having a good resistance is synonymous with the fact that, in case our parents’ divorce, we do not break up with our partner or that our sisters tend to exacerbate our existence.
We will have and recover the physical and mental energy to overcome the difficult time.
Tenacity or perseverance is the ability to keep working towards a goal we have set ourselves in the medium or long term. Persistence is when, despite not having the desired results, we continue working to achieve our goal.
Empathy is widely known as the ability to put oneself in the place of others and to synchronize with their emotions. It is experiencing what others are feeling and is clearly a capacity closely related to emotional intelligence, of an interpersonal nature.
Social awareness is the understanding that others are also feeling things and being able to adopt different perspectives when interacting with them.
To be socially aware is to understand that we are not alone in the world and that, just as others have obligations and rights, so do we.
Collaboration is the ability to coordinate with others to achieve a common goal, beneficial to all. It is not only about achieving a specific goal, such as working in a workgroup to obtain an approval or to finish a project, but also about collaborating to be able to have an adequate coexistence. It is to cooperate so that we all feel well together.
Responsible Decision Making
Although it is perhaps still complicated during childhood, educating in the right decision-making can be a fundamental aspect for the child, once he or she has reached adulthood, to behave in a controlled and well-adapted fashion.
Throughout life, there are many situations in which we have to decide which path to take. One may involve more risks than the other, but also more benefits.
Learning to make the right decisions, based on more or less objective criteria and not on impulses, can be an excellent way to avoid disappointment in the future.
Good decision-making is deciding not to start smoking when a friend invites us to have a cigarette or choosing to avoid drinking alcohol during the week. In these decisions, the decision to have good health has taken precedence over social pressure.
Assertive communication is a very useful style of communication for any situation since it is learning to communicate what we want to say without any hindrance. Everyone has the right to express themselves and, as long as it is done with respect and tolerance, everyone can assert their opinion.
Social-emotional skills have a component clearly related to emotions and used for social purposes. The most useful purpose of these is their application in relating to others.
Learning to present oneself, talk to others, and interact in a friendly way are fundamental aspects if one wants to have an adaptive relationship and be a socially adjusted individual.
We cannot have friends if our communicative and relational style is passive-aggressive, or does not encourage a good conversation.
How to Develop Them?
It is very important to focus on enhancing social-emotional skills during childhood. Whether in the family or at school, children must learn how to relate to others in an adjusted way, as well as knowing how to manage their emotions for beneficial purposes, such as achieving goals.
Empathy and collaboration are skills that should have some priority over tenacity or resilience, especially during adolescence.
Education must focus on and have, as its primary function, the social adaptation of the individual. This involves fostering their integration into society, interacting with others, developing different ways of feeling, thinking, and acting.
All of this is fundamental to end up being a well-adjusted individual when he or she reaches adulthood.
But although we should try to encourage as many social-emotional skills as possible, the work of teaching should indeed be focused on those skills that are most likely to be useful in the life of the individual, both in the short and long term.