You may be a legal adult, but it’s still possible to be blindsided by what life throws at you. And you can’t learn everything about life in a classroom. Don’t stress about what you don’t know. Instead, check out these six life skills to feel more confident whenever life throws you a curveball.
1. Master Managing Your Credit
Even if you’ve completed college courses, it’s rare that you get even education in budgeting and investing. Most people rely on what their parents teach them or absorb over time through life experiences. This can leave you with a patchwork of financial ideas that may not be accurate or suitable for your situation.
Take charge of your finances and know your credit score. Request a copy of your credit report to overview what you owe and how you rate with creditors. You won’t receive a score on your information, but you can typically get yours from your credit card issuer.
If the score you see in front of you is on the low end, don’t despair. You can improve your credit with a bit of effort.
Payment history, credit utilization, credit history, credit mix, and new credit are the five things the reporting bureaus check. If you’ve missed payments, now is the time to get on a consistent payment schedule. Consider a credit builder card if your credit score is on the lower end. These are great entry-level cards that make it easy to enhance your credit report as you build an on-time payment history.
2. Know Basic Income Tax Rules
Many taxpayers use an online tax filing service to complete their annual obligation, while others use the services of a professional. But do you understand how to reduce your owed taxes, so you’re not surprised in April?
In the United States, the tax year follows the calendar year. The prior year’s taxes are owed by April 15 of the year after. Generally, most Americans file income taxes. It’s essential to review the IRS website to determine how and when to file.
To make filing your taxes easy, keep track of your pay stubs, donation receipts, and retirement contribution information. Make sure you choose the filing status best for you for that particular year. Your tax situation may change over time from filing jointly to filing as a head of household or even filing separately.
If you’re filing separately and have kids, agree on which parent is claiming them as dependents for the tax year. If you need personalized help, contact a trusted tax advisor.
3. Negotiate Like a Boss in Life and Work
Negotiation is a skill that will pay dividends every time you use it. You may have heard of tips that tell you, “the person who speaks first loses.” While that may be true, active listening is the most important thing you can do as an aspiring negotiator.
The second most important thing is to keep the other person talking and sharing information. This one-two punch can help you get the information you need to be successful.
Try to pick up on concerns your fellow negotiator may have. Often, people will bring up sticking points that may be important to them throughout a conversation. Once you hear something being repeated, ask probing questions. Start with, “Tell me more about that,” and follow up with, “What would you like to have happened?” Prompts like these can help you gather more information to help you succeed in your negotiation.
Always aim to have both parties leave the negotiation happy. You may win by getting what you want. But everyone should go feeling like they got a good (or at least acceptable) deal. Negotiation takes place everywhere, from the farmer’s market to the boardroom. So invest time in developing the skills you need to navigate any conversation.
4. Network in Social and Professional Settings
For apparent reasons, today’s digital-first culture has put a damper on in-person mingles. Health concerns aside, face-to-face communication is a soft skill becoming increasingly rare. While Zoom calls and texting are effective, nothing beats making an in-person connection.
No matter the setting, make eye contact when greeting new people. Lean in with a firm handshake (or elbow bump) and introduce yourself confidently. Share your name, and be sure to introduce whoever else is with you. Doing so is inclusive and shows that you are courteous to the group. Repeat the words of people you meet and seek a common interest or mutual connection to propel the conversation.
As you chat with your new group, try to give everyone space to speak. Encourage a quiet group member to join in by asking about their perspective on the current conversation. They’ll likely be grateful to be included, and your conversation will be richer with their input.
At the end of your interaction, get contact information in the way that makes the most sense. A simple LinkedIn request or shared contact profile can begin a new friendship or professional connection.
5. Resolve Conflicts With Friends and Colleagues
Conflict, like negotiation, is part of life. While not necessarily harmful, conflict can be uncomfortable. What helps determine if the conflict is productive or a problem is if you understand how to manage it.
You can use a simple process to manage any conflict at work, home, or with friends. Start by projecting a sense of calm and share your understanding of the situation. Avoid using “you” when describing what happened.
Instead, focus on your perspective and how it made you feel. Then, share what you’d like to understand. For example, you can use phrases like, “Can you share with me what happened?”
Once you’ve said your piece, leave plenty of space for the other person to speak, then respond thoughtfully. Hopefully, this approach will allow you to land on a resolution together. Implement the agreed-upon action and avoid re-energizing the original conflict so everyone can move forward.
6. Manage Stress No Matter the Situation
All stress isn’t bad, but sometimes it feels that way. Stress is entirely every day and is your body’s way of responding and adapting to changes. When you think about it, stress can also be a marker for progress in your life. But you should know how to manage it for the benefit of your well-being.
There are three primary ways to manage the stress that are easy to integrate into your routine. First, prioritize sleep. It’s seemingly straightforward, but many people find it challenging to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep. The stress hormone cortisol increases when you skip rest, putting even more pressure on your already stressed body.
Engaging in meaningful relationships is a great way to manage stress. You can do this by having close friendships, a healthy romantic partnership, or a closeness with your family. Having people in your corner gives you opportunities to have deep conversations and a sense of belonging.
Finally, practice gratitude every day by acknowledging all of what’s lovely in your life. Write in a journal or take stock of your blessings; elevate what’s good in your life to bring you peace.
Life doesn’t come with a manual, and some of life’s needs are too important to ignore. With these six tips, you’ll soon be a life skill master with the knowledge to pass on to the next generation.