Which are the critical life skills one really needs to learn to be able to live a successful and meaningful life?
Photo credit: College female student by Shutterstock
Trying to answer this question has been the key driver of this multi-part guide designed to question our conservative assumption about what schooling should really be about and to explore the skills that, if mastered early in life, could truly make a big difference in how we could live it thereafter.
In Part III of this guide to what you really need to learn to be successful in life, I have moved on to explore those that I would label "social" critical skills.
These are vital skills needed to interact, collaborate, help and get things done together with other human beings.
I have decided to include only five skills/sections inside this and the next upcoming Parts of this guide, as in the two preceding ones Part I - Part II I realized that I do prefer to go more for quality than for quantity, and prefer therefore to limit the number of skills I cover in each part so that I can curate them better by devoting to them more attention and time.
In this Part III, I have included the following new life critical skills:
21. How to Recognize Negative People
22. How to Collaborate / Cooperate
23. How to Share
24. How to Be Social
25. How To Listen
Here all the details:
21) How to Recognize Negative People
Definition:"the ability to rapidly identify individuals that have a high potential of negatively influencing you and your life." Source: Robin Good
"knowing how to recognize and stay clear of troublesome people." Source: Robin Good
Backgrounder:Negative people are the most destructive, negative force you can find during the course of your lifetime. Living or being physically nearby negative people can be a very destructive experience that can permanently limit your abilities to think clearly, to be motivated, to be calm and rational and even to recover from physical illnesses. Negative people do not present themselves with the typical traits of a destructive or negative person but instead they are very skilled in appearing as people who appear to love who you are, what you do and who apparently want to be close to you in your journey toward success. In reality these people share very little affinity and intellectual abilities with you and are there only to lure you into accepting them into your close circle of friends, so that they can do even more damage to you. Negative people most typical tactics are to slowly and unsuspectedly bring in confusion, false alarms, as well as to discredit you and other good people in public, to slow down good, beneficial initiatives, to dump down new promising projects and to systematically break good communications by introducing conflicting, misleading or irrelevant stuff. The greatest skill they have is that they can do all of this without ever appearing as being your enemies.
How-to:To identify negative people from which you should steer away instantly, is not too difficult. Here a few simple rules I have learned in my life that have helped me greatly in avoiding negative, destructive people. Here's what I suggest you to keep under check:
- Their response reaction time. Do they reply promptly to your questions or are there long silences or pauses before they answer back?
- Whether they go straight to the point, or they start running in circles around it, while often taking side tracks and de-tours from the topic at hand.
- Their ability to be precise and to respect appointments, agreements, and the like without coming up with last minute surprises and justifications.
- How much they are complaining, lamenting and talking negatively about other things vs. how much they spend talking about desirable, positive and admirable things.
- Their responsibility awareness level. Are they taking responsibility for the situation around them and for the negative aspects of it, or are they always blaming external factors and circumstances?
- When they get into an accident who do they blame? Do they take responsibility for their action or they blame always some external force? Do they play constantly the victim game or do they take responsibility for what happens to them?
- What have they built? Created? Brought to conclusion with success? What are the great things they have done so far in their lives?
- What do they really know about you and about your ethics, goals and mission? Are they curious to discover them or does it appear as if they had always known them?
- How much do they encourage and support your efforts, good work and achievements? Do they understand what you are really doing? How do they contribute to help you succeed?
- Can they have a deep and open intellectual discourse with you or are they are at much higher ease in talking about light issues, gossiping and generalizing what happens around them?
Suggested Reading:Book: Controlling People: How to Recognize, Understand, and Deal with People Who Try to Control You by Patricia Evans, 2003
- Book: Attracting Terrific People: How To Find - And Keep - The People Who Bring Your Life Joy by Lillian Glass, 1998
- Book: Toxic Men: 10 Ways to Identify, Deal with, and Heal from the Men Who Make Your Life Miserable by Lillian Glass, 2010
- Book: I Thought I Was the Crazy One: 201 Ways to Identify and Deal with Toxic People by Amorah, 2003
- Article: How to Identify and Get Rid of Toxic People in Your Life by Natasha L. Hollerup, April 2007 - Yahoo Voices
- Article: Dealing with Negative People by Raj Raghunathan, March 2013 - Psychology Today
- Article: 7 Simple Tips To Deal With Negative People by Celestine Chua, May 2011 - Zenhabits
- Article: 9 Helpful Tips To Deal With Negative People by Celestine Chua, 2014 - Lifehack
22. How to Collaborate / Cooperate
"Working together to create value while sharing virtual and physical space." Source: Evan Rosen
"Working together while seeking a common goal." Source: Robin Good
"Collaboration: an act or instance of working or acting together for a common purpose or benefit; joint action." Source: Dictionary Reference
"Cooperation: To work or act together toward a common end or purpose." Source: The FreeDictionary
"Cooperation: Voluntary arrangement in which two or more entities engage in a mutually beneficial exchange instead of competing." Source: Business Dictionary
Backgrounder:"The word 'collaborate' is derived from the Latin collaborare - to labour together. It means 'to co-operate; esp. in literary, artistic, or scientific work' (Onions, 1973). A collaborator is one who works in conjunction with another or others." Source: Why Should Students Collaborate? by Peter Skillen, January 2011 - Cooperative Catalyst
Collaboration helps individuals achieve goals that would be otherwise much more difficult to obtain or even to dream of as it provides the opportunity to pull and mesh together multiple skills, experiences and intellectual abilities coming from the diverse individuals collaborating together. As learning really flourishes when there is an abundance of diversity of viewpoints and data, so collaboration opportunities and potential rest in the diversity of opinions and ideas that a diversified group of individuals working together can create. Collaborating with others is an opportunity to realize goals that would be otherwise very difficult if not impossible to achieve by acting individually. By collaborating with others one has the opportunity to access a greater set of skills, experiences, resources and ideas available than if working all by oneself. It is also much easier to confront and compare different viewpoints, to question and verify the solidity of each and to mix and mashup valuable solutions and ideas. One of the greater obstacles to good collaboration is any limit or imposed obstacle that handicaps the ease with which people collaborating can exchange ideas, information and viewpoints effortlessly. Another potential barrier to effective collaboration are concerns that individuals within a group may have about the ownership of authorship of the results they produce by working together. The clearer it is made how contributions to a collaborative project will be credited and rewarded , the easier it will be to obtain other people contributions to it.
How-to:To collaborate effectively with others you needs to become rapidly an "active member" of the group you want to be part of. To do so you need to take an active stance to fully understand the group key reason d'etre and its main goals. Only by doing this you can effectively contribute and help the group achieve its goal(s).
"Being an active member means that you not only participate in conversations, meetings and interactions passively, but that you actively contribute to group discussions, decisions and practical work. In other words, your key goal to collaborate effectively should be the one of creating and sharing new materials that add extra value to those already shared by those collaborating with you." Source: Comment by JosÃ© Ballarin to Collaboration What Does It Really Mean? by Carlos Dominguez, 2011 - Cisco Blogs
To make your collaboration effective it is also very important that you:
- establish clear goals and objectives for the group to reach
- define roles, responsibilities and policies to execute collaborative work before starting
- do not hold on to, keep secret or hide any relevant information
- share in a systematic and organized way as not to interrupt or become an hindrance for others
- ask and understand rules of the group before taking decisions that may disrupt it
- be very respectful of the other group members, and of their opinions, suggestions and contributions
Suggested Reading / Videos:Video: The New Power of Collaboration by Howard Rheingold, 2005 - TED Howard Rheingold talks about the coming world of collaboration, participatory media and collective action -- and how Wikipedia is really an outgrowth of our natural human instinct to work as a group. Duration: 19':34"
- Book: Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Build Common Ground, and Reap Big Results by Morten Hansen, 2009
- Book: Collaborating Effectively by Harvard Business Review, 2011
- Book: The Culture of Collaboration by Evan Rosen, 2009
- Book: Collaborate: The Art of We by Dan Sanker, 2012
- Book: Collaboration What Makes It Work, Paul Mattessich, 2001
- PDF: Bioteaming Manifesto, Ken Thompson and Robin Good, 2005
Tools & Resources:
23. How to Share
Definition:"Use, occupy, or enjoy (something) jointly with another or others." Source: Google
"the joint use of a resource or space." "giving something as an outright gift.." "Sharing disjoints the connection between usage and ownership of a product.." Source: Wikipedia
Backgrounder:Why to share is important:a) Sharing physical things and resources allows to make a more efficient use of them while increasing other people well being.
b) Sharing information and knowledge allows us to communicate, to be informed and to learn from each other in an ongoing iterative process. Sharing information is a critical factor in helping an organization or community evolve, rapidly adapt and become more efficient at surviving and at overcoming new unforeseen obstacles.
c) As David Gurteen suggests"To get most things done in an organisation today requires a collaborative effort. If you try to work alone - you are likely to fail - you need not only the input from other people but their support and buy-in. Being open with them; sharing with them, helps you achieve your objectives." Source: Creating a Knowledge Sharing Culture by David Gurteen, February 1999 - Gurteen
d) Sharing, is also essential to foster collaboration and trust among groups of people or organizations working together.
e) Sharing is vital to the learning process."one of the most profound key accelerators for one's learning is that one of sharing your knowledge out there, in the open, and the more, the better, allowing others to benefit from it, contrasting it, challenging it, reframing it... ...knowledge sharing is innate to our human nature of wanting to connect and collaborate with others. We, human beings, are social beings, and as such have been bound to share what we know with others, so that our learning curve never becomes flat. On the contrary." Source: Why Do I Share My Knowledge? by Luis Suarez, May 2014 - Elsua
f) Sharing and collaboration have given shape to free technologies and open-source software tools that are used by tens of millions of people today. (i.e.: Wikipedia, Apache server software, Linux operating system).
g) By sharing the things you know with others, you benefit initially by the mental effort you need to make in order to organize, sort through, and be able to introduce and explain to others the specifics of what you are sharing. This simple act of reviewing and writing down what you want to share gives greater clarity to your idea and helps you shape it and improve it.
h) When you share with others you also benefit and learn from the feedback, comments, criticism and ideas that will come from those with whom you have decided to share your work or ideas with
i) And when it comes to sharing it is not just "big ideas" and important data that we should be addressing. Little details, how we do certain things, which tools or procedures we use, can be as useful and life-transforming for others as it has been for you. Sharing tips, little details and simple things that can significantly improve how to get things done is very valuable.
To those objecting to sharing for fear of others stealing their ideas, these are generally people who have not successfully created anything before and therefore who have not yet realized what a distance there is between an idea and its effective execution, and who have not witnessed how beneficial it can be to share ideas about a project early in the development or planning stages to get alternative viewpoints, feedback ideas and criticism that can save an entrepreneur, writer or artist, months of useless work. Today, the greatest obstacles to effective sharing are represented by organizational policies and technology choices limiting most collaborative and sharing efforts by handicapping them at their roots as well as intellectual property and copyright laws."One sure way [to handicap sharing initiatives] is to create a situation where in order for one person to succeed the other has to lose." Source: The Incentive Question or Why People Share Knowledge by Nancy Dixon, March 2009 - Conversation Matters
How-to:Today there are dozens of tools, services and organizations that can help you to start sharing. From Wikipedia, to Couchsurfing, Airbnb, car-pooling, the sharing of software, music, books and physical spaces we are in the most conscious sharing time that humanity has known in history. Never before so many people, organizations, researchers, professors, universities, scientists and companies have so actively shared their knowledge, discoveries and data to:
To start sharing mindfully it is not so much a matter of how to do it. Nowadays that's pretty simple stuff. The issue is whether there are deep motivations and a culture that appreciates and believes in collaboration and sharing for growth. At the individual level, the first place where to start sharing, can be achieved by simply informing others on what your plans are and updating them on your progress. A good second step is to learn to share work with others early in the process and not simply at the end. By sharing your work early you can get early feedback, notice problems, issues and misunderstandings much earlier and avoid yourself painful and time consuming revisions later. The earlier you share progress with others the earlier you can find out whether you are moving onto the right track. Further on you can consider sharing resources that you may have in abundance but which you are not using fully. These may include food, shelter, energy, connectivity, transportation means, clothes among others. The most valuable thing you can share with anyone, individual or group, is your personal, undivided and sustained, agenda-free attention.
- help others improve
- gain respect and recognition from others
- learn from other people feedback, criticism and suggestions
Suggested Reading / Videos:Video: Should You Share Your Idea? Duration: 2':00"
- Book: Value of Sharing: The Story of the Mayo Brothers by Spencer Johnson, 1978
- Article: Creating a Knowledge Sharing Culture by David Gurteen, February 1999 - Gurteen
- Paper: Sharing Nicely, on shareable goods and the emergence of sharing as a modality of economic production by Yochai Benkler, 2004
Tools & Resources:
24. How to Be Social
Definition:"Relating to or involving activities in which people spend time talking to each other or doing enjoyable things with each other." Source: Merriam-Webster
Backgrounder:Human beings are social animals and to live well while achieving their maximum potential they need to dedicate part of their lives to social activities. In order to collaborate, cooperate, talk and listen to others you must to develop social skills. For example the ones that will want other people to stay around you and listen to what you have to stay."Knowing how to be more social can open up so many opportunities both in your private life and in business. Being social helps you build rapport with others around you and generally makes others want to spend more time with you." Source: How to Be More Social by Caroline Moore
How-to:In order to be social you need to expose yourself to the opportunity of meeting and exchanging with others. If you close yourself inside your home it is very difficult to further develop your social skills and abilities. Good steps one can easily take in starting to be more social are:a) Introduce yourself. When in presence of others, take a proactive step to introduce yourself to others and to pay greater attention to other people names, stories and interest, rather than to wait for others to do the same with you. b) Get interested in what others are doing. There's no better way to socialize than forgetting about yourself and getting completely interested in what others are into, c) Find a common interest or viewpoint. Better yet is the possibility of finding something that interests (or bothers) the persons you want to socialize with and that also interests you. d) Take time to talk to people you already know. Way too often we take for granted the presence and availability of the people that surround us, but very seldom we spent consistent undivided time with them. Talking and getting to know better people who are already around you is always a good choice. e) Invite people you already know. Be the one to invite people you know to spend some time together with you rather than waiting for them to come always to you first. f) Spend more time with the people you already meet. Invest extra time with the people you meet by making yourself more open and available to these encounters instead of zipping through them as if there was always something more important awaiting you. f) Make an effort to bring new people into the fold. Go out of your way and take some steps to respond to new people who have shown interest in what you do and in exchanging with them. g) Go where the people are. Reserve some time periodically to attend, participate or join public events where you can get to know or meet new people that are interested in things you care about. i) Treat other people well and compliment them. For however obvious this advice may appear, it is important to consciously make an effort to treat and compliment the people we want to socialize with to establish a positive, relaxed and trusted setting.
Suggested Reading / Videos:Video: How To Be Sociable, 1951
- Website: How To Be More Social
- Book: Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness: A Books on Prescription Title by Gillian Butler, 2009
- Book: How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships by Leil Lowndes, 2013
- Book: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, 2010
25. How To Listen
Definition:"The ability to read in between words and to understand what the other person is trying to communicate to you." Source: Robin Good
"To pay attention to someone or something in order to hear what is being said, sung, played, etc." "to hear something with thoughtful attention: to give consideration" Source: Merriam Webster
Backgrounder:Why listening is so important: Just like for reading it is not sufficient to be able to recognize and being able to properly pronounce the words printed on a page, being able to hear words said by others does not make one capable of true "listening". Listening is a critical life skills as it provides you with the ability to truly communicate and exchange with other human beings. Most people speak in turn to each other without really ever communicating anything. Effective communication entails that there is a process of transmission, reception and understanding on the part of the receiver. But this is rarely what is happening in many verbal exchanges where each party interest is the one of self-affirmation. Listening on the other hand involves a process of opening, questioning and of true embracement of other people's ideas and viewpoints. Listening offers the ability to learn, empathize and contribute to work done in collaboration with others. True listening helps to establish trust between individuals. The listening process involves five stages:
Active listening is a particular communication technique that requires the listener to provide feedback on what he or she hears to the speaker.
- remembering, and
- Stop talking altogether. The first thing to do in order to start listening is to be really quiet and to make a conscious effort to focus on the other person and the message being communicated.
- Suspend your personal agenda. If you really want to listen, don't be waiting for the other to finish so that you can contribute your version, advice or ideas. Just tune in to the listening part and when the other stops, try to summarize what they have said.
- Take in, capture, offer maximum attention. Be attentive, look in the eyes, don't get easily distracted and be as focused as you can on the information you are receiving. If useful, take notes.
- Be patient. Do not interrupt. Just be silent throughout while another person is speaking to you.
- Help the speaker and remove distractions. Make the speaker feel at ease and safe.
- Don't draw conclusions. Don't judge. Don't judge means not to "react" by immediately giving your judgement or opinion to what has been said, but to rather try to make sure you have understood what was communicated and to acknowledge it openly in order to make sure you are not drawing early conclusions.
- Understand. Make sure in every possible way that you have really understood what the speaker really wanted to communicate. Ask and verify this. Don't assume you have just because you have been silently listening. Use "active listening" techniques by way of restating or paraphrasing what the speaker has said, in your own words. The goal of this repetition is to demonstrate to the speaker what message has actually been received by the listener."The ability to actively listen demonstrates sincerity, and that nothing is being assumed or taken for granted. Active listening is most often used to improve personal relationships, reduce misunderstanding and conflicts, strengthen cooperation, and foster understanding." (Source: The Importance of Listening - Boundless)
- Pay attention to non verbal cues. Look at body language and see whether it is saying something contrary or additional to what is being said verbally.
Suggested Reading / Videos:Video: 5 Ways to Listen Better by Julian Treasure, 2011 - TED Duration: 7':46"
- Book: Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone by Mark Goulston, 2009
- Book: The Lost Art of Listening by Michael Nichols, 2011
- Book: Listening: The Forgotten Skill: A Self-Teaching Guide by Madelyn Burley Allen, 1995
- Book: Why Don't We Listen Better? Communicating & Connecting in Relationships by James Petersen, 2007
- Book: The Art of Active Listening: How to Double Your Communication Skills in 30 Days by Josh Gibson, 2011
- Book: Active Listening 101: How to Turn Down Your Volume to Turn Up Your Communication Skills by Emilia Hardman, 2012
End of Part III See Part I: What We Really Need To Learn To Be Successful In Life - Part I And Part II: What You Really Need To Learn To Be Successful In Life - Part II
Originally written and curated by Robin Good and first published on MasterNewMedia on Tuesday May 13th 2014 as What We Really Need To Learn To Be Successful In Life - Part III.
Photo credits: How to Recognize Negative People - Man taking off a mask by Shutterstock How to Collaborate - Rowing team by Shutterstock How to Share - Kids sharing a drink by Shutterstock How to Be Social - Friends gathering together by Shutterstock How To Listen - Woman having a job interview by Shutterstock