Soft skills and emotional intelligence quickly climb the ranks of important and sought-after abilities across industries.

Technology and business practices continue to evolve so rapidly that set skills take a backseat to the ability to learn new ones constantly. As a result, businesses are placing an increased emphasis on fluid intelligence and other soft skills that people demonstrate.

From teamwork to curiosity to work ethic to empathy, today’s most qualified candidate is better at reading a room than reading a textbook.

Research suggests that some of these skills can perhaps be taught, or fostered, from an early age (and through far more specific educational programs than previously thought.

In particular, social-emotional learning is an emerging trend that’s enjoying as much popularity with large companies as it is with small experimental schools. Here’s why.

What is Social-Emotional Learning?

This new term is defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) as “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

Once thought to be secondary skills that people either did or didn’t develop, we now see as teachable tools for success. They are known as contributors to a healthier educational climate and across-the-board academic improvement and success.

Social-emotional learning (SEL) uses broad, social and psychological techniques to enable students to solve problems, manage emotions and communicate well–all skills that translate directly to lifelong success at home, in the office and everywhere in between.

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CASEL outlines the primary skills being taught and refined in SEL programs:

1. Relationship Skills

The ability to create healthy, meaningful relationships with a variety of individuals from varying backgrounds.

2. Self-Management

The ability to control emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in the numerous situations a person encounters throughout their life.

3. Self-Awareness

The ability to understand personal emotions and thoughts, and how they lead to particular behaviors.

4. Social Awareness

The ability to see a situation from the perspective of someone else and empathize with that person, including people from different cultures and backgrounds.

5. Responsible Decision-Making

The ability to make healthy decisions about behavior and social interactions based on ethics, safety concerns, and social norms.

Educators believe there are ways to introduce these concepts in the classroom environment from the earliest stages, thus encouraging emotional learning through a social context.

Social-emotional learning focuses on practicing skills associated with emotional quotient (EQ) just as much as traditional educational programs focus on intelligence quotient (IQ). It turns out both are critically important for well-adjusted and successful personal and professional lives.

Teaching Social-Emotional Intelligence To Children

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An increasing number of classrooms are experimenting with SEL programs integrated into the existing curriculum. This includes discussing personal struggles with students as well as crowdsourcing ways to deal with them before acting out practice scenarios to drive the point home.

Students might share an upsetting or edifying incident from their home lives, where other students will indicate if they have had similar experiences and, if so, how they handled it and whether it led to a successful outcome.

Teachers facilitate these discussions much the same way they might use Socratic dialogue in a later-stage literature or philosophy class. Open-ended questions and participation encouragement creates an inherent social component. This enables students to absorb the spectrum of similar and different experiences and participate, both key moments for SEL growth.

Educators and researchers have known for years that emotions can help or hinder a student’s ability to learn and perform well in an academic setting. Recently, an aggregate of 213 different studies showed that students who received SEL-oriented education had achievement scores that averaged 11 percentile points higher than those who did not.

Modern educators no longer believe in making school an isolated destination for learning. Instead,  they recognize the complex relationship between home life, social life, and education.

It’s often impossible for adults to focus well while they worry about outside factors. The same is true for children.

The ability to process, handle and overcome various personal life difficulties is imperative for children. As they navigate their foundational years, how they learn to act in these situations can impact their future ability to:

• Cope with stressors
• Communicate with coworkers
• Succeed in today’s increasingly complex professional environments.

How Social-Emotional Learning Prepares Successful Professionals

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Employers expect a lot of different roles and tasks from their current employees, and that is only growing truer as we look toward the future. Forbes and The Harvard Business Review regularly cite emotional intelligence and modern leadership techniques as key traits that employers search for in candidates. They also note that these characteristics are scarce in many applicant pools.

Multiple studies have found that a focus on social and emotional skills correlates with graduation rates, academic success, career success, mental health, and citizen engagement.

Science shows that social and emotional education is as beneficial as reading, writing, and arithmetic. Learning them is advantageous to virtually every aspect of the human experience.

The World Economic Forum studied current, and future Top 10 Skills cited as most desirable by employers across the globe. In the 2015 study, ‘Emotional Intelligence’ did not crack the Top 10. Consequently, Emotional Intelligence may be the number 6 most important and in-demand trait employers look for.

Creativity, which sat at number 10 in 2015 will ascend to number 3 by 2020. These facts highlight the growing trend toward emotionally-intelligent and creative thinkers in the workforce.

Times Are Changing

Traditional taskmasters and rigid thinkers are falling from favor as new thinking recognizes the importance of flexible and compassionate thinkers.

Employers have also learned of the disconnect between on-paper achievements and real-world problem-solving, decision-making and communication skills.

Workplace satisfaction, collaboration, and mental health continue to rank near the top of employee and employer goals. And consequently, social-emotional learning will continue its rise into the spotlight.

Republished with permission via

Anna Kucirkova

Anna Kucirkova speaks 3 languages has a passion for kids and writing. While she has been to many places in Europe and SE Asia she still wants to explore the rest of the world.