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Listening

The receiving, retaining and processing of information or ideas
This skill is all about being able to effectively receive information - whether it comes from customers, colleagues or stakeholders.

Initially, the skill steps concentrate on being able to listen effectively to others - including remembering short instructions, understanding why others are communication and recording important information.

Individuals then focus on how they demonstrate that they are listening effectively, thinking about body language, open questioning and summarising and rephrasing.

Beyond that, the focus is on being aware of how they might be being influenced by a speaker, through tone and language.

The final steps are about critical listening - comparing perspectives, identifying biases, evaluating ideas and being objective.

Speaking

The oral transmission of information or ideas
This skill is all about how to communicate effectively with others, being mindful of whether they are talking to customers, colleagues or other stakeholders and in different settings.

Initially, this skill focuses on being able to speak clearly - first with well known individuals and small groups and then with those who are not known.

The next stage is about being an effective speaker by making points logically, by thinking about what listeners already know and using appropriate language, tone and gesture.

Beyond that, individuals focus on speaking engagingly through use of facts and examples, visual aids, and their expression and gesture.

Beyond that stage, speakers will be adaptive to the response of their listeners and ready for different scenarios. The final steps focus on speaking influentially - using structure, examples, facts and vision to persuade listeners.

Problem Solving

The ability to find a solution to a situation or challenge
This skill focuses on how to solve problems, recognising that while part of Problem Solving is technical know-how and experience, there are also transferable tools that individuals can develop and use.

The first steps focus on being able to follow instructions to complete tasks, seeking help and extra information if needed. The next stage focuses on being able to explore problems by creating and assessing different potential solutions. This includes more complex problems, without a simple technical solution.

Beyond this, the focus is on exploring complex solutions - thinking about causes and effects, generating options, and evaluating those options. This extends into analysis using logical reasoning and hypotheses.

Finally, individuals implement strategic plans to solve complex problems, assess their success, and draw out learning for the future.

Creativity

The use of imagination and the generation of new ideas
Creativity is the complement to Problem Solving, and is about generating innovations or ideas which can then be honed through the problem-solving process.

The first few steps focus on the individual's confidence in imagining different situations and sharing their ideas.

The focus is then on generating ideas - using a clear brief, making improvements to something that already exists and combining concepts.

Individuals then apply creativity in the context of their work and their wider life. They can build off this to develop ideas using tools like mind mapping, questioning, and considering different perspectives.

The most advanced steps focus on building effective innovation in group settings and by seeking out varied experiences and stimuli. Finally, individuals support others to innovate, by sharing tools, identifying the right tools for the situation and through coaching.

Staying Positive

The ability to use tactics and strategies to overcome setbacks and achieve goals
This skill is all about individuals being equipped to manage their emotions effectively and being able to remain motivated, and ultimately to motivate others, even when facing setbacks.

The early steps focus on identifying emotions - particularly feeling positive or negative. Building off that is the ability to keep trying - and then staying calm, thinking about what went wrong, and trying to cheer up and encourage others.

The focus then turns to identifying new opportunities in difficult situations, sharing those, and adapting or creating plans accordingly. At more advanced steps, individuals identify and manage risks and gains in opportunities.

Finally, individuals support others to stay positive by managing their own response, helping others to see opportunities and creating plans to achieve them.

Aiming High

The ability to set clear, tangible goals and devise a robust route to achieving them
This skill is about being able to plan effectively - both to achieve organisational goals, and also to set their own personal development targets. Initially, this is about knowing when something is too difficult, and having a sense of what doing well looks like for an individual.

The focus is then about working with care and attention, taking pride in success and having a positive approach to new challenges. Building on this, individuals set goals for themselves, informed by an understanding of what is needed, and then be able to order and prioritise tasks, secure resources and involve others effectively.

At the higher steps, the focus is creating plans informed by an individual's skill set, with clear targets, and building on external views. At the most advanced level, individuals develop long-term strategies. These are informed by an assessment of internal and external factors, structured through regular milestones and feedback loops.

Leadership

Supporting, encouraging and developing others to achieve a shared goal
This skill is relevant not only for individuals in positions of management with formal power, but also for individuals working with peers in teams.

At the earliest stages, the focus is on basic empathy - understanding their own feelings, being able to share them, and recognising the feelings of others. The focus is on managing - dividing up tasks, managing time and sharing resources, managing group discussions and dealing with disagreements.

Beyond that, individuals build their awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses, and those of their teams. This allows them to allocate tasks effectively. They then build techniques to mentor, coach and motivate others. At the highest steps, individuals will be able to reflect on their own leadership style and understand its effect on others.

Ultimately, they should be able to build on their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses, and adapt their leadership style to the situation.

Teamwork

Working cooperatively with others towards achieving a shared goal
This skill applies to working within both formal and informal teams, and also with customers, clients or other stakeholders. Initially, this is about individuals fulfilling expectations around being positive, behaving appropriately, being timely and reliable and taking responsibility. This extends to understanding and respecting diversity of others' cultures, beliefs and backgrounds.

The next steps focus on making a contribution to a team through group decision making recognising the value of others' ideas and encourage others to contribute too.Beyond that, individuals improve their teams through managing conflict and building relationships beyond the immediate team. At the top steps, individuals focus on how they influence their team through suggesting improvements and learning lessons from setbacks.

Ultimately, individuals support the team by evaluating others strengths and weaknesses and bringing in external expertise and relationships.

To achieve Step 1, individuals will be able to recognise positive and negative emotions in others. 

In the previous step, the focus was on individuals being able to identify positive and negative feelings in themselves. For this step, the extension is to recognise them in others too.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to spot positive emotions 
  • How to spot negative emotions 
  • What events might lead others to have positive or negative emotions

Reflection questions

  • How can you tell when someone is feeling positive or negative? 
  • How can you tell what emotions other people are feeling? 
  • Aside from how someone looks, what else might help you to understand how someone is feeling?
  • How can you use your understanding of the situation to help work out how someone is feeling?

What you need to know

How to spot emotions

In the previous step, we looked at the range of different emotions, which we can think of as being broadly positive or negative. 

It is not always easy to tell what emotion someone is feeling, and some people might choose to try to hide how they are feeling for different reasons. However, we can also pick up some clues about how people are feeling:

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Positive emotions

Positive emotions

How you might be able to tell

Happy:

  • Joy
  • Grateful
  • Optimistic 

Happy people tend to smile, and to look at you directly. They might also laugh and seem comfortable. 

Excited: 

  • Amused
  • Energetic 
  • Inspired

People who are excited tend to be very active and look like they have lots of energy, like they want to get on and do something. 

Calm:

  • Kind
  • Loving 
  • Relaxed 

Calm people are likely to have a more neutral facial expression, although they might smile a bit. They seem to be content to stay where they are, rather than having lots of energy to use. 

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Negative emotions

We might also pick up clues for negative emotions that people might be feeling. For example:

Negative emotions

How you might be able to tell

Sad:

  • Disappointed 
  • Tired
  • Fed up

People who are feeling sad are unlikely to be smiling, and might have downturned mouths. They are unlikely to laugh, and might cry or look like they could cry. 

Angry:

  • Irritated 
  • Angry
  • Upset

People who are angry tend to have a lot of energy. They might shout or talk loudly, and might look red-faced. They might frown or clench their teeth together.  

Scared: 

  • Nervous
  • Anxious
  • Frightened

People who are scared might not look directly at you, but look around. They might seem twitchy and are unlikely to laugh or smile.

Over time, you might well be able to get better at recognising emotions in other people by looking for some of these signs.

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What events cause different feelings

As well as seeing how someone looks, we can also use our understanding of a situation to help us to guess how someone might be feeling. This is another vital source of information to help us to work out someone else’s emotions.

This is because in most cases, emotions are linked to what is going on, and so by understanding events, we might be able to understand how someone else would be feeling. This ability to think about the feelings of someone else is called empathy.

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Examples: positive emotions

As some examples:

Positive emotions

What might cause this

Happy:

  • Joy
  • Grateful
  • Optimistic 

Things are going well, someone has got good news or is having an enjoyable day doing something that they like doing, with people they like. 

Excited: 

  • Amused
  • Energetic 
  • Inspired

Something is going to happen, which is likely to mean something good for that person, or they are doing something which is using a lot of energy but for a positive outcome. 

Calm:

  • Kind
  • Loving 
  • Relaxed 

Things are relaxed, and there is no pressure. Someone is having a pleasant time with people they like or love. 

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Examples: negative emotions

Events might also lead to negative emotions for people. For example:

Negative emotions

What might cause this 

Sad:

  • Disappointed 
  • Tired
  • Fed up

Something bad has happened, which might have been expected or unexpected. Alternatively, someone has been working too hard or has not had enough rest.  

Angry:

  • Irritated 
  • Angry
  • Upset

Something bad has happened to that person that they do not feel was fair. They might blame someone or something for what has happened and might want it to be made right.  

Scared: 

  • Nervous
  • Anxious
  • Frightened

Someone feels that something bad might be about to happen - either, they know that something bad is coming, or they think that it could happen. People are often scared when faced with uncertainty.

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Different reactions

Of course, it is essential to remember that not everyone will react in the same way to different events and that not all emotions that people feel are linked to what is happening there and then. Feelings can be complicated, and can sometimes be affected by mental health difficulties. 

However, thinking about what is going on for someone, as well as how they look, can help to give a better idea of their feelings.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher could start by reminding learners about what different emotions might look like and how they can be identified, using some of the content from Step 0.
  • The teacher could start with the three main categories of emotions for each of positive and negative and ask learners whether they can recreate what those facial expressions might look like for each emotion. This can be extended to draw or write down what those look like – for example, learners could create a poster.
  • The teacher can ask learners to think about what situations or scenarios might lead to the different emotions and write down some ideas. The learners could be posed a series of hypothetical scenarios and asked to imagine what the emotional response of someone else might be to those events. 

Reinforcing it

This step lends itself to being reinforced in different areas of learning. For example, learners might occasionally reflect on how they are feeling and how they think other people might be feeling depending on what is going on. 

At other times, when events are described in history, literature or geography, learners could be asked for their reflections on how the individuals involved might have felt at those times and why. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through discussion or a reflective exercise. For example, learners could write about how individuals in events they are familiar with felt at different times. They might also identify how they think individuals in pictures are feeling and why. Reflection with learners during individual tasks might also be helpful here.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step will be relevant to those who work with others.

To build this step in the work environment, managers could:

  • Discuss the reasons why it can be difficult to identify how someone is feeling. To build out this conversation, the manager might explain that sometimes the signs which tell us about how an individual feels are obvious and sometimes they are obscured. 
  • Reflect with the individual on when they have found it difficult to spot emotions in others. 
  • Model how to read someone’s emotions based on the situation they are in to show an individual how to spot positive or negative emotions. Here a manager might use an example, such a video clip, to aid the demonstration.
  • Task an individual to observe colleagues and identify the emotions they think they are feeling. 

Practising it:

There are plenty of opportunities for building this skill in the workplace:

  • Working with colleagues: During exchanges with colleagues where signs of emotion are on display. 
  • Working with customers or clients: When reflecting on how the customer feels about a product or service.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through discussion or a reflective exercise. For instance:

  • Individuals could discuss with their manager how they think others felt when working with them on a task. Asking stakeholders to describe how well they think the individual spots their emotions might also be helpful here.

Spotting it in recruitment: 

During the recruitment process, this step could be assessed by:

  • Interviewing an individual after they’ve taken part in an assessed role-play exercise. This exercise might require the individual to recognise the emotions displayed by a third party. 
  • The individual can then be interviewed to find evidence of them showing this skill step in action.

Build this step

Advice for

Organisations

We work with a wide range of organisations, who use the Skills Builder approach in lots of different settings – from youth clubs, to STEM organisations, to careers and employability providers.

We have a lot of materials available to support you to use the Skills Builder Universal Framework with the individuals you work with, including:

  • Tools for self-reflection
  • Materials to support you to teach the skills, if appropriate in your setting
  • Reward systems like printable certificates

We also do a lot of work with organisations who join the Skills Builder Partnership to build the Universal Framework into their work and impact measurement systems. You can find out a lot more using the links below.

More resources

Advice for

Individuals

Why this skill step matters in education

In education you will be learning from and with many different people. Just like you, all of these people will experience different emotions depending on what is going on for them at any given moment. Sometimes they will be feeling positive emotions, sometimes they will be feeling negative emotions. Being able to tell how they might be feeling – by listening to what they say, looking at their body language or spotting how they look or how they are behaving is important. It is also worth remembering that it is likely that others will be able to tell whether you feel positive or negative too. Being able to talk about our feelings is important in education so that any emotions that might potentially get in the way of our learning can be tackled in a positive way.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

During a working day or week, the colleagues, managers, customers or clients you may work with, like you, are likely to experience a range of emotions. Some positive, some negative. Being able to recognise how someone else is feeling can make it much easier to work with them. Seeing someone else who is upset and anxious for example can in itself be upsetting. Knowing someone else is angry can be unsettling. Seeing someone else who is motivated and cheerful at work can be inspiring if we perhaps ourselves at that moment are not feeling quite so positive. If we can look for clues as to how others might be feeling, we can try to interact with them in a way that is helpful.That way everyone can get their work done efficiently. Having someone to talk to at work – a friendly colleague or supportive line manager is important so that any situations that are causing negative emotions can be dealt with effectively.

Why this skill step matters in the wider world

Everyone, no matter their age or stage in life or wherever they maybe in the world, may experience a wide range of emotions. Emotions are what make us human. Sometimes we feel positive emotions such as joy, happiness,and excitement. Sometimes we experience negative emotions such as anger, fear and sadness. Being able to recognise these feelings in other people can help us to understand their behaviours, as well as our own. It is essential to remember that not everyone will react in the same way to the same events. Not all emotions that people feel are linked to what is happening there and then. Being able to understand how others are feeling can help us build positive relationships. It is always best to be respectful of people’s feelings and their mental health.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Staying Positive, apply what you have learnt to a real-life situation. Choose one or more of the activities below, remind yourself of the key points and strategies in the step, and have a go!

  • Choose a character from a book you have read or a film you have watched. Ask yourself: when did the character feel positive? How did you know? What did they say or do? How about when they felt negative feelings? What caused them to feel that way? Think about how you would feel in that situation – how might you react?
  • Describe by drawing, or through writing or music what negative and positive emotions can feel like.
  • Listen to the words of different songs – what are the lyrics? What is the ‘mood’ of the song? How do you think the songwriter might have felt when they created the song?

Build this step

Advice for

Parents & Carers

As a parent or carer, you might be thinking about how best to support your children to build their essential skills. The good news is that there is lots that you can do that will have a big impact, including:

  • Talking about how you use these skill steps in your own life
  • Trying to show how to use the skill steps, and explaining why you are doing what you are doing
  • Praising your children when they show they are using the skills well, and help them to see that as a worthwhile achievement

We’ve developed a whole series of tools and resources to help parents to build these skills, including:

  • Skill stories for the youngest children (aged 3+)
  • Short activities that you can complete together
  • Regular challenges that you can complete at home to build the essential skills
  • Reward systems like printable certificates and badges

There is also content for older children and young people, including short activities and reflections that they can complete alone, or with you.

Build this step