Life skills refer to a set of certain psychological and interpersonal skills that are necessary for better participation in everyday life. These skills help people to think critically, make informed decisions, solve difficult problems, and maintain healthy relationships.
What Are Life Skills?
Also known as psychosocial competency, these are the skills that enable us to cope with various life challenges through positive and adaptive behavior. Although the set of skills may change depending on the culture and society, these help a person to function properly and productively and make contributions to their communities. Some of the most essential life skills that have become an important part of everyday life include –
- Effective communication
- Interpersonal skills
- Decision-making and Problem-solving
- Creative and critical thinking
- Self-awareness and empathy
- Emotional intelligence
- Time management
- Information technology
- Handling criticism
- Stress management
According to a recent 2020 study 1 , life skills are abilities that enable us to have a flexible mindset so that we can easily adjust to different situations. It also allows us to be more optimistic and look towards the solutions rather than dwell on the problems. Another 2016 study 2 found that life skills training can have a positive impact on the mental health of adolescents. “Research shows that mental health promotion is more effective when a person is taught skills of coping, adaptability, and flexibility early in life,” adds the study. Further research shows that psychosocial competency is also associated with increased physical activity (cardiorespiratory fitness 3 ) and significantly improved emotional intelligence 4 . Another 2017 study 5 explains that it refers to “abilities required to provide the basis for proper stress management and manifestation of positive behaviors.” The study found that such skills result in better interpersonal skills, healthier acceptance in social responsibilities, higher decision-making ability, and better social behavior, critical thinking, participation in activities, safety points and mental health status.
Understanding Life Skills
Psychological competence makes an individual capable of effectively dealing with every difficulty and challenge of life. A person’s mental well-being displays how one can behave positively while communicating with others, with his/her culture, even the environment. People’s psychological ability plays a significant role in promoting their physical, mental, and social well-being, but their relevance is uncertain at an older age. Life skills are considered to be a group of psychological and interpersonal skills that are interconnected with each other. These skills are mostly based on executive functions and allow an individual to gain social, cognitive, and emotional capabilities of solving difficult problems and achieving success. These skills vary by culture and people’s age. Young people are expected to adopt less strong skills than mature adults. A 2017 research paper 6 estimated the prevalence of having low life skills during adolescence to be 29.4%. Certain skills are specially designed for working environments. The term describes certain basic skills acquired through life experiences and learning that provide essential knowledge about how people can effectively handle every situation, interact with others, identify and process their emotions.
According to a 2012 research paper 7 , life skills approaches are extremely beneficial for educating the youth about health-related issues such as drugs and alcohol abuse, impacts of other tobacco products, pregnancy-related problems, nutrition, prevention of life-threatening diseases, and sexually transmitted disease infections. A 2010 study 8 has shown that education programs related to these skills are capable of preventing school dropout cases and violence among young people. These skills bring numerous benefits to an individual’s life as well as positively affect employability and wider society.
Types Of Life Skills
The relevance of certain life skills depends on people’s life circumstances that include culture, belief, geographical location etc. Though there is no definite list of such skills, there are certain skills essential for success, healthy societies, and employable individuals. These skills touch upon such issues that are real, topical, fairly sensitive, often controversial, and ultimately moral.
The following are some of the crucial skills that one should learn to perform better in everyday life:
1. Effective Communication
The capability of communicating effectively is extremely important to life and work. Communication is a process that people use to convey information to others. A 2007 research study 9 suggested that effective communication teaches one to avoid conflicts and decrease adverse consequences if they occur. Communication skill is extremely essential to perform better in a workplace. Effective communication with employers, colleagues, customers, and clients often results in several beneficial outcomes.
2. Interpersonal skills
Interpersonal skills help people to create positive and healthy relationships with others that they interact with. Interpersonal skills sometimes refer to employability skills. It is another essential skill for the workplace as most job profiles require interaction with different clients and customers. According to a 2004 study 10 , one of the great benefits of interpersonal skills is that they can always be learned and improved upon with conscious effort.
Decision-making is considered to be a catch-all skill as it is associated with many other abilities. The way of approaching a decision is extremely critical in all aspects of life. Research 11 has shown that decision making skill provides knowledge on how one can deal constructively with his/her decisions. It is one of the skills that are essential both in and out of the workplace. Firm decision-making requires a certain confidence level. It also helps one to avoid any second-guessing circumstances.
Finding and implementing the best possible solution is of great importance. Nothing is more helpful than a measured approach in this process. Studies 12 have explained that the process of problem-solving refers to a process of resolving a known difficulty. Similar to decision-making skills, problem-solving allows one to constructively deal with difficult situations. An individual can be able to observe the problem from every angle without any emotional perspective.
5. Creative and critical thinking
Creative thinking refers to the ability to think outside the box. It often includes lateral thinking, a capability to perceive obvious patterns. A 2007 study mentioned that creative thinking embodies a relaxed, open, and playful approach. It helps an individual to form a fresh and unorthodox perspective. Your ability to think creatively can make you more productive and efficient. This skill is not only limited to some people as anyone can nurture and develop it.
Critical thinking refers to the ability to think precisely and rationally. It allows one to identify and understand the logical connection between ideas. A 2014 research paper 13 defined critical thinking as the mental process of actively and skillfully perceiving, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating the collected information. It helps an individual in analyzing various information and experiencing it objectively.
6. Self-awareness and empathy
Research has suggested that self-awareness portrays the recognition of people’s characters, strengths, weaknesses, desires, and perspectives. It helps people to understand their reason for stress and how they can cope with it. Being self-aware evaluates what an individual excels at and what he/she needs to include. It points out the spaces for improvement also.
One needs to understand and care about other people’s emotions, needs, and feelings to build successful relationships with loved ones or the society at large. A 2017 research study 14 explained that empathy plays a critical role in interpersonal and societal circumstances. This skill is extremely well-valued in workplaces as it leads to strong workplace relationships and collaborations.
7. Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence refers to the capability of people to understand the emotions of them and others. This skill helps people to know how they can manage, respond, and apply those emotions. A 2009 study has shown that emotional intelligence allows one to build stronger relationships and achieve personal and professional goals. It allows a person to connect with his/her emotions, make informed decisions, and turn intentions into actions.
Read More About Emotional Intelligence Here.
8. Time management
Time management is something that helps a person in every facet of life. It makes one stay disciplined and focused on achieving goals. It teaches how one can manage time effectively, meet deadlines, organize works, set goals, and plan productively. According to a 2012 research paper, proper time management skill always results in contentment and satisfaction in daily life. Employers generally look for people who are good at self-management and meeting deadlines.
A 2013 research paper 15 suggested that resilience refers to the effective adaptation in the face of stress and adversity. It is considered to be the ability to cope with failures and learning from them. Thus, developing resilience is very crucial to achieve success. One needs to understand and consider the fact that failures are parts of a learning process. Failures may seem inevitable when someone experiences new challenges but it is extremely beneficial to learn and grow.
Self-management is considered to be the ability to regulate and control one’s thoughts, feelings, actions, and behaviors. Studies suggested that it teaches certain steps, strategies, and skills that individuals can use toward the achievement of goals. It increases one’s productivity level, improves performance, and makes one achieve life goals. Purposeful self-management skill ensures that people seek opportunities to achieve success.
Read More About Types Of Life Skills Here
Importance Of Teaching Life Skills
There are a bunch of psychological and interpersonal skills that are learned by an individual throughout life to enhance his/her lifestyle positively. Learning and teaching a life skill is a mandatory and extremely important part of growing. The importance of teaching these skills is about developing the ability of people to adapt to all kinds of circumstances and succeed in life. Lack of life skills often leads to failure in career and personal lives. Proper knowledge about such skills builds confidence in people and provides the tools that are essential for improvement. Here’s why teaching life skills is important:
1. Developing leadership qualities
It is one of the most important parts of teaching people about life skills. These skills develop leadership qualities in a person. It teaches how one can lead a team effectively, be a good team player also, and maintain friendly relationships with other team members. It improves their self-awareness and time management abilities & develops a greater sense of appreciation for others.
2. Building confidence and positivity
These skills add a sense of confidence to people. It teaches them about how they can make beneficial decisions that can increase their sense of responsibility for what they do. People understand stress management and problem-solving as well as how they can maintain positive attitudes towards others. Confidence and positivity are something that transforms a child into a grown-up mature adult.
3. Having better perspective
These skills help an individual to learn how one can gain confidence, be empathetic towards others, and develop self-confidence. Such traits offer them a better perspective on their different life situations and experiences. A person can act individually even in difficult situations and make important decisions without anyone’s help. These skills articulate people’s opinions and arguments.
4. Creating networks
Teaching children about these skills often results in them becoming effective communicators and building stronger relationships. Communication and networking skills are the two specific abilities that help them to shine in every field of their life and build essential contacts with important people that can help them to grow furthermore.
5. Becoming responsible towards the society
These skills increase cultural awareness and develop the responsibility of a citizen in a person that makes the process of cooperation easier. It allows people to respect the diversity that flourishes the creativity and imagination skills in them. The ability to network and empathize with various people creates resolutions rather than resentments. It introduces people to social and political issues at an early age.
How To Improve Life Skills
Though there is no definite process of learning and improving life skills, one can learn these skills without even knowing it. Different types of experiences expose people to different challenges and problems that help them to develop these skills for achieving life goals. Some of the ways one can improve such skills to boost their performances and relationships are:
1. Practice, practice, practice
Try to be cautious about observing people’s body language during communication. Feedback is extremely beneficial for one’s improvement. Never hesitate to ask for feedback on your performance. Think about how you can use those inputs to improve your performance. Look for new opportunities always.
2. Be a good learner
One can become a great leader and a great team player, whether in the workplace or in their personal life, only by becoming a great learner. The process of learning prepares an individual for new challenges and keeps the mind sharp. Be with those people who have a desire to work hard and grow. You can learn a lot of things from them as well as they will positively inspire you.
3. Improve interpersonal abilities
Interpersonal relationship building often includes negotiation, teamwork, effective communication, and empathy. Practicing communication, active listening to understand how you can respond correctly with your thoughts and perspectives.
4. Learn from a professional
Consider learning from a professional if you want to master any specific skill. A professional can give you focused and dedicated attention that will make the skills easy for you to learn. A coach can help you to reach your goals more quickly.
Develop Life Skills From An Early Age
Life skills are extremely crucial in every aspect of life. It prepares an individual to deal with significant life changes successfully. Teaching life skills at an early age develops a sense of self-confidence in children and gives them a strong voice to speak for themselves in their community and society at large. It helps people to face difficult challenges and utilize new opportunities in life by developing their expertise and experiences.
Life Skills At A Glance
- Life skills refer to a set of certain psychological and interpersonal skills that are necessary for better participation in everyday life.
- Psychological competence makes an individual capable of effectively dealing with every difficulty and challenge of life.
- The relevance of certain life skills depends on people’s life circumstances that include culture, belief, geographical location etc.
- Learning and teaching a life skill is a mandatory and extremely important part of growing.
- Life skills are extremely crucial in every aspect of life.
- Tiwari, P., Naik, P. R., Nirgude, A. S., & Datta, A. (2020). Effectiveness of life skills health education program: A quasi-experimental study among school students of South India. Journal of education and health promotion, 9, 336. https://doi.org/10.4103/jehp.jehp_564_20
- Jamali, S., Sabokdast, S., Sharif Nia, H., Goudarzian, A. H., Beik, S., & Allen, K. A. (2016). The Effect of Life Skills Training on Mental Health of Iranian Middle School Students: A Preliminary Study. Iranian journal of psychiatry, 11(4), 269–272.
- Young, D. R., Phillips, J. A., Yu, T., & Haythornthwaite, J. A. (2006). Effects of a life skills intervention for increasing physical activity in adolescent girls. Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine, 160(12), 1255–1261. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpedi.160.12.1255
- Lolaty, H. A., Ghahari, S., Tirgari, A., & Fard, J. H. (2012). The effect of life skills training on emotional intelligence of the medical sciences students in iran. Indian journal of psychological medicine, 34(4), 350–354. https://doi.org/10.4103/0253-7176.108217
- Rezayat, A. A., Niroumand, S., Shiehzadeh, E., Saghebi, A., Oskooie, R. R., & Dadgarmoghaddam, M. (2017). Assessment of life skills of medical students in Mashhad, Iran, in 2015. Electronic physician, 9(10), 5536–5540. https://doi.org/10.19082/5536
- Steptoe, A., & Wardle, J. (2017). Life skills, wealth, health, and wellbeing in later life. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114(17), 4354–4359. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1616011114
- Sahebalzamani, M., Farahani, H., & Feizi, F. (2012). Efficacy of life skills training on general health in students. Iranian journal of nursing and midwifery research, 17(7), 553–555.
- Srikala, B., & Kishore, K. K. (2010). Empowering adolescents with life skills education in schools – School mental health program: Does it work?. Indian journal of psychiatry, 52(4), 344–349. https://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5545.74310
- Developing Effective Communication Skills. (2007). Journal of oncology practice, 3(6), 314–317. https://doi.org/10.1200/JOP.0766501
- McConnell C. R. (2004). Interpersonal skills. What they are, how to improve them, and how to apply them. The health care manager, 23(2), 177–187. https://doi.org/10.1097/00126450-200404000-00012
- Walker, D. (1987). Improving Decision-Making Skills. Research and Extension | Kansas State University. https://www.ksre.k-state.edu/historicpublications/pubs/MF873.pdf
- DeLuca, V. W. (1991). Implementing technology education problem-solving activities. Journal of Technology Education, 2(2). https://doi.org/10.21061/jte.v2i2.a.2
- Papathanasiou, I. V., Kleisiaris, C. F., Fradelos, E. C., Kakou, K., & Kourkouta, L. (2014). Critical thinking: the development of an essential skill for nursing students. Acta informatica medica : AIM : journal of the Society for Medical Informatics of Bosnia & Herzegovina : casopis Drustva za medicinsku informatiku BiH, 22(4), 283–286. https://doi.org/10.5455/aim.2014.22.283-286
- Riess H. (2017). The Science of Empathy. Journal of patient experience, 4(2), 74–77. https://doi.org/10.1177/2374373517699267
- Wu, G., Feder, A., Cohen, H., Kim, J. J., Calderon, S., Charney, D. S., & Mathé, A. A. (2013). Understanding resilience. Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience, 7, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2013.00010