A set of psychological and interpersonal skills interconnected with each other are known as life skills. These life skills help us to develop adaptive and positive behavior to cope with the challenges of life.
Defining Life Skills
The mental well-being of people shows how positively and adaptively they can behave when interacting with others, with their cultures, and with their environments. An individual can learn to deal with difficult challenges effectively with the help of life skills or psychosocial competency. The term is used for describing a bunch of basic social, cognitive, and interpersonal capabilities 1 acquired through direct life experiences or learning. These skills are mostly based on certain executive functions and enable individuals to effectively handle issues that they encounter in their everyday life.
Among this group of essential skills, certain capabilities are specially designed for performing better in a working environment and some provide extremely crucial knowledge about dealing with every situation effectively, interacting with others, identifying and processing emotions. A 2012 study 2 has shown that people can educate the youth about various health-related issues with the help of different life skill approaches. A 2010 research paper 3 has reported that education about these skills can prevent school dropout cases and violence among young people.
Types Of Life Skills
Although there is no comprehensive list of such skills, certain skills are essential for living a productive and satisfying life. The relevance of these skills depends on people’s life circumstances that include culture, belief, geographical location, and the like. Some of the most important life skills that one should learn to perform better in everyday life include:
1. Effective Communication
It refers to the process of exchanging knowledge, ideas, perspectives, information, thoughts in the best possible manner. One can communicate both verbally and non-verbally. Effective communication is more about listening than talking, it is more than just exchanging information. It does not only help one to understand the words the other person is saying but also the emotions the speaker is trying to convey. A 2010 research paper has described communication as an art and process of creating and sharing ideas. Effective communication depends largely on the richness of these ideas. Communication is all about expressing one’s desires, feelings, needs, and also fears. It is not a very difficult thing to do, but communicating effectively sets an individual apart from the rest of other people.
Effective communication requires learning certain important aspects such as –
- Good presentation skill
- Public speaking
- Written communication
- Body language
- Nonverbal communication
- Active listening skill
It doesn’t matter whether someone is communicating with his/her family, friends, colleagues, or clients, learning these skills can deepen both personal and professional connections. Excessive stress, lack of focus, out-of-control emotions, negative and inconsistent body language may create barriers to effective communication. This skill also provides knowledge about the difference between face-to-face communication, digital communication, and phone communication.
2. Interpersonal skills
Interpersonal relationships refer to the strong association between people based on inference, love, solidarity, common business interactions, and other social commitments. These relationships can be of great importance for one’s mental and social well-being. Such skills involve qualities and behaviors that people exhibit while communicating with others. Lack of interpersonal skills often leads to conflicts with people and makes it critical to be good at getting along with others. A 2004 research paper 4 explained that one has to work conscientiously to develop this competence by doing the right things repeatedly until they become ingrained. Good interpersonal skills add smoothness and pleasantness to the normal regular interactions. It allows people to build better and long-lasting relationships both personally and professionally.
Interpersonal skills include certain other significant life skills also as most of the important skills are interlinked with each other. Interpersonal skills consist of:
- Nonverbal and verbal communication
- Conflict management
- Leadership skills
- Good listening skills
- Positive Attitude
Making good decisions is a skill that people must learn. This skill is not something with which people are innately born. Decision making skill is a step-by-step process that one can ascertain from different life experiences. In a simple sense, it is about selecting one course of action from several alternatives. It is one of the skills that are essential both in and out of the workplace. According to research 5 , it is extremely important to understand the environment, its limitations, opportunities, and the possibilities for change for making beneficial decisions. One needs to make decisions that can be well-implemented on a personal and organizational level. Firm decision-making requires a certain level of intellect and confidence.
It also helps one to avoid any situations that may lead to second-guessing. These skills include a few other skills such as –
- Time management
- Creative thinking
- Logical reasoning
Problem-solving is a soft skill that can’t be learned through education or training. Studies have explained that the process of problem-solving refers to a process of resolving a known difficulty. It requires quick identification and understanding of the issue and implementation of a solution. Stressful situations and unresolved significant problems can have consequences for health. The primary step to solve a problem is to identify it and determine the root that causes it. Finding and implementing multiple solutions can lead to various opportunities.
Problem-solving skill helps one to evaluate situations and divide them into manageable facts. This skill is not an impossible challenge rather it discovers certain strengths and capabilities in people that they might never have known before. Problem-solving skill includes certain other important skills as well that are:
- Active listening
- Creative thinking
- Time management
5. Creative thinking
Thinking creatively consists of four components, namely fluency, flexibility, elaboration & originality. Thinking creatively adds value to people’s lives and makes them more confident and reliable. A 2008 research paper 6 explained that this skill requires some risk-taking as there is a chance that people may make mistakes or not come up with an answer at all. One needs to be prepared to cope with the resultant risk and confusion. The ability of employees to think creatively makes an organization and department more productive. This skill is not limited to only artists, anyone can nurture and develop it. One can be a creative thinker by developing creative courage, adopting leadership qualities, listening to feedback and utilizing those in work, considering the obvious solution, brainstorming other solutions, and apply those.
6. Critical thinking
A 2007 study 7 has described critical thinking as a type of skillful and responsible thinking that is conducive to good judgment. It takes significant time, enough practice, and a lot of patience to be a critical thinker. In a simple sense, critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information and make a reasonable judgment. A critical thinker is capable of recognizing the factors that influence values, the media, and peer pressure. He/she can draw meaningful conclusions from a bunch of information. One has to be an active learner and not a passive recipient of information to adopt this skill. Being objective is an essential quality to be a successful critical thinker. Another quality of critical thinkers is that they work in groups but solve problems independently. Some significant steps to be a successful critical thinker include –
- Identifying the problem
- Investigating the opinions and arguments
- Evaluating information factually
- Being open-minded
- Communicating the findings and outcomes
Most people tend to believe that they are self-aware while true self-awareness is an exceptionally rare quality. Self-awareness refers to the capability of focusing on oneself and how an individual’s actions, emotions, thoughts, feelings align or not align with the internal standard. According to a 2016 research paper 8 , the concept of self-awareness is generally related to positive psychological well-being. This skill makes people more confident and creative, helps them to make better decisions, build healthy relationships, and interact more effectively. This skill often includes –
- Interpersonal skills
- Effective communication skills
- The skill of developing empathy
According to a recent study 9 , empathy is described as the emotional appreciation of another person’s feelings. This study states that empathy plays a key role in the understanding of people’s feelings, sufferings, and behaviors with a significant link to compassion. This skill involves other’s perspectives, enabling prosocial and helping behavior that comes from within a person. It requires immense patience to express genuine concern for another person and help them to solve their issues. The process of communication becomes one-way traffic without empathy. Empathy development in people makes them more cooperative and helps them to connect with others and make moral decisions.
Read More About Empathy Here.
It’s a kind of thinking skill that makes people improvise, adapt to new situations, and shift strategies to achieve success. As the world is constantly and rapidly changing, adjustment and adaptation are extremely important for success. Thus, the most essential characteristic a person requires to have is flexibility. It helps develop a mindset of readiness, reduces unnecessary stress, and exposes new experiences. Flexibility includes certain important aspects as well. They are:
- Creative thinking
10. Emotional intelligence
A 2009 research paper has suggested that emotional intelligence refers to the capability of identifying, accessing, and managing the emotions of one’s self, of others, and of groups. The development of emotional intelligence helps an individual to become more productive and successful at what he/she does and helps others become more productive and successful too. Being academically brilliant is not enough for people to achieve success in life, one needs to adopt this skill to manage stress and emotions. Emotional intelligence is often associated with four attributes such as –
- Social and self-awareness
- Maintaining relationships
Read More About Emotional Intelligence Here.
11. Time management
A 2011 study has mentioned that proper time management skill always results in contentment and satisfaction in daily life. The ability to manage time effectively is extremely crucial for people. Proficiency in this skill leads to improved efficiency and productivity. These skills create an extremely positive impact on personal and professional life. It also helps one to eliminate excessive stress, offers extra time, introduces more beneficial opportunities, and provides the ability to realize the goals. A person’s happiness depends on how he/she manages the time beneficially.
Read More About Time management Here.
Assertiveness refers to the ability to stand up for oneself and protect their and other people’s rights in a positive and effective way. But it doesn’t include any kind of aggressive or insulting behavior. This skill helps a person to put across his/her perspective across without letting down others or becoming upset with themselves. Studies 10 suggested that it allows people to have meaningful and productive communication in their personal life and at the workplace. This skill is related to the following –
A 2013 research paper 11 has defined resilience as a successful adaptation that relies on effective responses to environmental challenges and ultimate resistance to the deleterious effects of stress. In a simple sense, resilience refers to something that offers people the psychological strength to deal with stress and hardship. Resilient people are more likely to handle adversity and develop their lives after a struggle. This skill helps one to face life’s difficulties effectively instead of falling into despair and adapting certain unhealthy coping strategies.
14. Handling criticism
People need to accept the fact that nobody is perfect and at times they can make mistakes. However, it is essential to accept constructive criticism positively. One can develop and improve professionally only by feedback and criticism. These specific skills include –
- Good communication skills
- Listening skills
- Desire for improvement
The definition of self-management has its roots in the emotional intelligence theory in which the capability may also be referred to as self-regulation. Self-management is considered to be people’s ability to manage their behaviors, emotions, thoughts in a conscious and productive way. Research has suggested that self-Management involves doing something different now in order to accomplish a goal later. Strong self-management skill teaches one to act according to different situations. It makes people understand their personal responsibility in different aspects of life. These specific skills include few significant attributes such as –
- Time management
- Stress management
- Goal setting
One needs to get along with others in life. The skill to cooperate is very important in life as our communal development relies on our ability to collaborate as a family unit, work as a team, and as contributing members of society. It is also important in the workplace as employees have to perform in other collaborative settings. Cooperation skill requires a person to improve:
- Conflict management skills
- Emotional intelligence
- Interpersonal skills
- Decision making
- Creative and critical thinking
- Communication skills
- Leadership skills
Learning Life Skills
The interpersonal capabilities termed ‘life skills’ help people to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and even the opportunities available for them. Life skills contribute hugely to the basic education process that includes gender equality, democracy, quality and equality of education system, child care and protection, the importance of peace, the quality of life, good citizenship, and the value of lifelong learning. Thus, it is extremely important to learn these skills to adapt to all circumstances and succeed in the renaissance and prosperity of society.
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- 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 [↩]
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- Sutton A. (2016). Measuring the Effects of Self-Awareness: Construction of the Self-Awareness Outcomes Questionnaire. Europe’s journal of psychology, 12(4), 645–658. https://doi.org/10.5964/ejop.v12i4.1178 [↩]
- Hardee J. T. (2003). An Overview of Empathy. The Permanente Journal, 7(4), 51–54. [↩]
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- 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 [↩]