Developing Skills Through Personality Insights

Since early 2020, young people’s wellbeing has been challenged. This can now be reversed. Developing skills, such as stress management, resilience, perseverance, empathy and self-control, through social-emotional learning, is known to improve wellbeing, significantly.

Developing an awareness and understanding of themselves, helps young people improve these social-emotional skills, which can make or break the success of their relationships and future decision-making in important interactions such as work experience, job interviews, teamwork and even leadership roles.

  • The Need State

Preparing young people for the challenges post education.

Research study after research study has shown young people’s wellbeing (defined as self reported life satisfaction) falls during their teenage years.

One 2019 survey of 45,000 young people in the UK found self-reported life satisfaction falls by over 20% from age 8 to age 16, and as much as 26% among girls. In the US, multiple reports (such as this example from McGraw Hill) have emerged of students returning to high school with mental scars from a year or more of remote learning because of the pandemic.

And it is not only in the West that this is a major societal issue. Looking on a global scale at wellbeing alongside social-emotional capabilities, the countries scoring lowest on these two metrics – with the notable exception of Australia – are almost all in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. Latin American and African countries do not fare much better.

  • In India, 95% of teenagers report feeling stressed, according to Cigna – the highest in the region.
  • 32% of 15-24 year-olds in Indonesia reported lower mental health as friendships failed during pandemic-enforced social separation, says U-Report Indonesia.
  • UNICEF research in 2020 found more than one in ten young people in China felt the need for mental health counselling. Even in Japan the OECD reports a quarter of students say they are not satisfied with their lives – ahead of only three other countries worldwide.

Drilling down into the details, in September 2021 the OECD released the most comprehensive global survey on social-emotional skills to date, collecting information from 60,000 students, their parents and teachers across ten locations in the US, Canada, Colombia, Portugal, Finland, Turkey, Russia, South Korea and China. The results were stark:

  • 15 year-olds reported lower social-emotional skills than 10 year olds in 15 out of the 17 skills studied.
  • This is consistent across genders and socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Only Tolerance and Assertiveness were found to increase slightly during the early teenage years.
  • The decline is greater for girls across most of the 17 skills.
  • Solution

What are Social-Emotional Skills?

‘Social-emotional learning,’ or SEL, is the process by which individuals learn and apply cognitive, social and emotional skills needed to succeed in educational settings, work, and their community.

Several sectors, including education, use the umbrella term
‘social-emotional skills’ or ‘soft skills’ to refer to a broad set of cognitive, social and emotional competencies that affect how children and young adults interact with each other, solve problems, make decisions, and feel about themselves.

The term ‘social-emotional skills’ is often used in the context of formal and non-formal education programming. The term ‘soft skills’ is also used, especially in the context of workforce development programs and higher education. However, this is becoming less popular due to the negative connotations sometimes associated with the word ‘soft’.

The last 18 months have seen a renewed interest in social-emotional learning to develop ‘life’ skills, due to the overwhelming impact of the pandemic on student wellbeing.

The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for greater innovation in SEL delivery, and the education sector has recognised the pressing need to equip young people with the social-emotional skills required to boost cognitive wellbeing and meet life challenges – at home, with peers, at school and in the future workplace.

Social-emotional learning is not new to education. The concept of a holistic curriculum is over 2,000 years old but today it is more relevant than ever. Purposeful SEL must meet young people’s modern needs, be sensitive to their unique life stages and adopts pedagogical pathways that are inclusive, leaving no child or young adult behind.

The long-term benefits of good social-emotional skill development among teenagers are very clear:

  • Higher academic attainment (according to Public Health England)
  • More success in competitive situations such as job interviews and university applications (Careers & Enterprise Company)
  • Better life choices (Gallup)
  • Higher productivity in work (Society for Research in Child Development)
  • Greater life satisfaction
  • Definition

Defining Social-Emotional Skills

There are many SEL frameworks and associated social-emotional skills schemas in use, and there is a lot of consistency between them. The focus is on skillsets built around how we think, communicate and behave in different situations, and the potential to improve outcomes both for ourselves and others involved in a given situation.

These essential skillsets include:

Self Awareness:
Understanding my emotions, thoughts and values, and how they influence behaviour.

Managing Feelings:
Being aware of a range of emotions, and managing how they impact me and others.

Being Adaptable:
Being able to adapt my thinking and communication, to achieve positive outcomes.

Setting myself achievable goals.

Stress Management:
Managing my stress in different situations.

Time Management:
Managing my time, so I don’t disappoint myself or others.

Understanding others’ thoughts and feelings and considering their points of view.

Being respectful of others, regardless of any difference.

Willingness to Change:
Being willing to change my own thoughts and behaviours.

Active Listening:
Listening to others without interruption, showing I am taking in the information. 

Processing Information:
Taking the time to consider what someone is trying to tell me.

Speaking Formally:
Speaking formally to others, eg. giving a presentation or in an interview.

Speaking Informally:
Using the correct language and tone to get myself heard.

Writing Formally:
Using appropriate language and tone when writing formally, eg. a job application. 

Writing Informally:
Using appropriate language and tone when writing informally, eg. text message.

Conflict Management:
Being able to reduce conflict when there is a disagreement, for the benefit of all. 

Creative Thinking:
Being able to see things in different ways to find solutions to problems.

Critical Thinking:
Being able to consider and analyse what I’ve heard, so I can make my own judgement.

Effective Teamwork:
Playing an effective role within a group, in order to achieve a common goal.

Keep going, on something worthwhile, even when things get hard.

Having trust in myself, regardless of what others may think.

Staying Positive:
Maintaining a positive attitude and believing things will work out well.