Social skills and money


House MD
Dr. House

So I’ve been hooked on HOUSE lately (“it’s not Lupus!”, tee-hee-hee!). Love the show!

Now, anyone who’s watched at least one episode would know that Dr. House, while a brilliant doctor, is not much of a people-person. In Season 2, a patient comments:

Patient: “House must be a great doctor.”

Dr. Foreman: “Why would you assume that?”

Patient: “When you’re that big a jerk, you’re either great or unemployed.”


Social skills (people skills) are what you use for interacting with other people. They help you distinguish between when to speak and when to keep silent, what to say and how to say it; they also help you “read” the other person by picking up on hidden signals beyond the verbal.

Some very basic social skills include when to say “hi” or knowing what a smile means. Next up are things like how to be tactful or how to have a balanced conversation (taking turns in listening and talking). On top of the scale we have social skills that are far more complex, enabling you to negotiate with or even manipulate others to your advantage.


I know a guy – let’s call him Simon – who is a textbook example of a socially awkward person. Even eye contact is hard for him. Simon is generally a negative person, often complaining and indulging in self-pity. His number of friends is very low, and so is his bank account balance.

Simon says “Right now, I’m just beaten up. But if only I had money… I would be a completely different person. I would be confident and social.”

Unfortunately for Simon, he’s thinking backwards. It’s the improvement of social skills that leads to more money, not the other way around.

“If you struggle financially, upgrade your social skills. Money flows through people.”~ Steve Pavlina

Which is why, in any situation involving more than one person, you need people skills to navigate you. What’s appropriate and what’s not? Should you push your opinion on them? If they are pressuring you into something, how do you back out politely?

Failing to answer those questions might cause hurt feelings. And causing hurt feelings is a big­ no-no since people make buying decisions based on emotion:

We’re not as logical as we’d like to think we are. Most of our decisions are based on deep-rooted emotional motivations, which we then justify with logical processes.~Brian Clark

Harvard asnt. prof. Tiziana Cascario says employees might prefer a co-worker “who is likeable and incompetent than someone who is skilled and obnoxious”. Even hiring managers might prefer applicants with better social than technical skills, reasoning it’s easier to teach a technical skill than to change a behavior.

But it’s not just during the interview that people skills kick in for help. Many people use them to get an interview in the first place. Creating a network, applying politics and even schmoozing are all made possible by your social skills arsenal.

Once you’re hired, prepare to up your game – the office is a social jungle. Good work ethics and actual competence are great, but the corner office (and fat paycheck) is for management positions. And management positions tend to not happen if you lack the people skills needed for providing leadership and communication to your team, all while having your boss like you.

It’s a delicate balance.


But what if you don’t have a boss? What if you run a business? Are social skills as important for entrepreneurs as they are for the nine-to-five gal?

“Social skills are extremely important. Networking is everything in most businesses. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be the one with the social skills; but, you should have a partner or someone [with] good social skills.”“The absolutely worst entrepreneurs out there are people pleasers. So even though social skills are important, being able to say “no” and do it often is a lot more important.”

Src.: forum

True – social skills are not about being a people pleaser, trying to make everyone like you. But social skills are also not about having to choose between being nice or saying “no”. What they are about is saying “no” in a manner that doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings so it doesn’t damage your relationship with the other party.

And you want to have good relationships with the people around you because after all, you don’t live isolated on a desert island. You live in a complex multi-level society full of people. Even thousands of years ago our ancestors have been smart enough to discover that our chances of survival increase dramatically when we create groups, tribes… networks.

Today, too, you are only as strong as your network. People skills give you access to the combined knowledge, contacts, and money of the individuals in your social web. You better be mindful of their feelings!

Of course, it pays to remember that mixing business with emotion is not a good idea. While it’s easier to do business if you are on good terms with your partners, this should not be mistaken for friendship.


Poor people actually have better social skills than rich people. The poor are quicker to pick up social cues, they show greater empathy and have finer understanding for the feelings of others.

How does that happen?

If you are poor, you have limited amounts of money and fewer recourses – e.g., maybe you don’t have a car. So then, what do you do when you have to go to the hospital or go to a job interview and you don’t have a car? You ask a favor from someone who does have a car. But you won’t get that favor if – with or without intent – you piss off that person.

People born into poor families quickly learn that to survive, they have to rely on the help and goodwill of others. To get that help and goodwill, lower-class people have to develop social skills – much unlike the rich who can just wave a crisp fifty-dollar bill and hire someone.

Also, poor families are usually larger: several siblings, lots of cousins, and many in-laws. Which means that not only does a poor family have little resources, but what little they have needs to be divided amongst a larger number of people. According to a Stanford University study from 2007:

“Parents in working-class contexts are relatively more likely to stress to their children that ‘It’s not just about you’ and to emphasize that [..] it is also essential to be aware of the needs of others [..]”Src.:


The same study found that children born into privileged families are less considerate of others. They grow up in a providing environment which insures all their needs are met.

While the offspring of the upper-classes may not necessarily be spoiled by the nice homes, elite schools, and good clothes, these kids get used to a sense of freedom and opportunity. Neither the children nor the parents need to rely on others – or share with them – so they never feel the need to pay attention to their peers.

Speaking of attention, we find another noteworthy difference here. Working-class families encourage kids to blend in, while upper-classes encourage standing out, and they also promote individualism. This finding was supported by a curious experiment involving…

Pens. Three orange and two green pens, to be precise.

When test-subjects were invited to pick one of the five pens, participants with working-class backgrounds consistently picked orange (the more common color), and upper-class went for green (the less common).

Okay, so the rich a bit more self-centered – what a shocker. The question is, is it a bad thing? Are they self-centered because they are rich, or are they rich because they are self-centered? Maybe, when it comes to money, it pays to be oblivious to the needs of others in order to be able to concentrate more on your own needs.

Maybe social skills are not related to how much you make?


Clearly, there are good arguments for how better social skills lead to more money. This one here is one of the finest:

“[A] socially skilled person would also have a better sense of other people’s needs. Better social skills means better empathy and listening skills. So s/he would have an easier time figuring out what to do to create strong value for others, value that people would gladly trade for. [And pay for.] The socially inept person, by contrast, would be more likely to create something that nobody wanted, which can be very discouraging.”~Steve Pavlina,

But if social skills bring money, and if the poor have better social skills, then why are the poor… poor?

Financial success is rarely based on just one single skill. Working-class people may have naturally occurring social skills, but they often lack deep enough technical skills – which puts a stick in their money-making wheels. After all, no matter how good you are with people, you’ve got to know your spelling, how to work on a computer, and preferably something more specific like programming or accounting.

Social skills alone are not enough for your financial success. This works in the same way as a diploma: you can’t graduate with only one subject on it.

Even if that one subjects deserves an A.

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20 thoughts on “Social skills and money”

  1. Вярно е, че богатите всичко получават наготово до голяма степен, но не и тези, които сами са успели да изкарат парите си. Те според мен са развили много силни социални умения. Освен това много от тях са социално ангажирани и са в обсега на медиите, така че искат, не искат, им се налага да изградят поведение, което да ги представи в по-добра светлина. И на тях не им е лесно. А и имат по-многобройно контакти и цял арсенал от хора, които им помагат да са по-изискани. :)

    Рая, поздравления за статията и за приятния стил. Щеше ми се и аз да можех да се изразявам толкова свободно на английски. Макар че напоследък доста често общувам с англичани и се опитвам да разширявам познанията си по езика.

  2. Благодаря, Теди! :)

    Поздравленията обаче са за теб, задето веднага засече единствения аспект, който остана незасегнат в темата: богатите, които сами са станали такива. Или бедните, които са се издърпали то богатство. Мисля, че при тях трябва уникално съчетание както на социални умения, така и на трудолюбие и упоритост.

    Радвам се също, че забелязваш и СТИЛА на писане – отнема ми доста време да го докарам :)

  3. Рая, стилът звучи толкова естествено сякаш не ти коства много усилия. Аз вероятно и да се пробвам няма да ми се получи толкова добре.

  4. Ааааа какви са тези приказки сега! :) Теди, щом си се захванала да правиш блог, значи нещо те е подтикнало, а щом те е подтикнало, значи имаш талант, който иска да се изяви. На мен сегашния ти стил ми харесва, но ако ти държиш да го развиваш – няма таван :) Винаги може още и още.

    Но всичко е просто практика, практика, практика, практика. Practice makes perfect ;)

  5. Хахаха :)) Е чувствам се като идиот сега :))

  6. Права си, че само социалните умения няма да те направят богат, но те ще ти помогнат да стигнеш по-бързо там, където си тръгнал. Може да има и някаква предопределеност от средата в която си израснал, но тези умения се научават, както и всички останали.

    Първоначално, на първата ми работа като експерт потребителски кредити в банка, бях не много социален. Току-що завършил студент да разпитва хора доста по-възрастни хора с доста житейски и трудов опит за това как си харчат парите и какви странични доходи получават, е стресиращо в началото. Постепенно, след като разговаряш със стотици, дори хиляди хора се научаваш на доста социални умения.

    Имам още да се уча, обаче. На нетуоркънг-срещите на Sofia Business Community има доста хора, които непрекъснато обикалят масите и се запознават с всички присъстващи. Аз, все още не съм такъв. Отивам само там, където виждам поне една позната физиономия :)

  7. По скоро ми се искаше да прочета нещо от рода на ” Как да стана финансова акула ” Иначе нещата, които си описала са така, но за определена част от хората…

  8. Ох, сори Тони :) Закачил се е бил някъде в спама. Пренатегнала съм филтрите май :)

    По същество – да, голяма част се научават просто с опита. Както например при бедните семейства :)

  9. Тони, да ти кажа, по-добре, че не си такъв. Свръх-общителните са малко дразнещи. Нали трябва да има баланс във всичко.

  10. Теди, вчера бях на една много добра презентация на Start it Smart в СУ. Лектор беше Христо Попов, който е завършил в Англия и САЩ и е работил там. Казвам го, защото хората завършили образованието си в САЩ са много добър пример за общителни хора, но без да прекаляват.

    Наистина, у нас има един тип хора (свръх-общителните), които са доста дразнещи или поне на мен не ми харесват. Май истината е в баланса. Рая, ето идея за статия-продължение – колко social да сме и къде е границата между социални умения и нахалство :)

  11. Благодаря за идеята, Тони :)

    Всъщност ако си неволно нахален, това означава, че не умееш да усещаш другите хора. Тогава за какви социални умения говорим :) Изобщо не е задължително един социален човек да говори много.

  12. Рая, точно – да си социален и според мен не значи да говориш много и да си набутан навсякъде. Обаче забелязвам, че масово това е представата на хората за социални умения – свръх-общителен, едва ли не нахален и нагъл, навсякъде да се обадиш, с всеки да се запознаеш, да изпъкнеш.
    А според мен идеята е да умееш да се впишеш в средата, да завържеш разговор или какъвто и да е контакт по ненатрапчив начин.

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