23 life skills every functioning adult should master

Life is funny.

No one gets a handbook upon turning 18, complete with all the rules they will need to memorise and competencies they will need to acquire.

Somehow you’re just supposed to know that you should have more money coming in than going out and you shouldn’t wear a fuzzy orange sweater to a job interview.

Fortunately, we’ve put together our own handbook of sorts, which lists many of the skills you’ll need to survive as an adult in the modern world.

It’s based on the Quora thread, “What are some of the most useful skills to know?” as well as scientific research and expert opinion.

We can’t promise we’ve outlined every skill, but if you’ve mastered these, you’re off to a good start.

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2. Apologizing sincerely

To err is human -- but to craft a believable apology isn't a universal skill.

The apology 'needs to be sincere, not qualified, not quantified, and also needs (to) outline how X will not happen again,' Keyani says.

According to one CEO, there's a six-step strategy for successfully saying you're sorry:

1. Act quickly.

2. Apologise in person.

3. Explain what happened.

4. Show how you are going to avoid the problem in the future.

5. Apologise.

6. Make restitution.

Keyani gives an example of what you might say if you were tardy for an appointment:

'I'm sorry I was late for the meeting. It must have been frustrating because you spent a lot of time preparing and got up early. I did a poor job accounting for traffic and didn't give myself enough buffer. That is my bad and I'm going to give myself an extra 10 minutes instead of five moving forward.'

4. Using keyboard shortcuts

'Since most of the work we do nowadays involves computers,' says Arpit Jain, 'using keyboard shortcuts definitely gives you an edge and saves you a lot of time.'

Jain posted a list of some of the handiest shortcuts in her Quora answer. For example, simultaneously pressing the 'Alt' and 'F4' keys when using Microsoft windows lets you close a selected item or program. Keep the list somewhere close to your computer at work to supercharge your productivity.

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7. Communicating through body language

'Sometimes your body language tells people everything they need to know before you ever open your mouth,' writes Dean Bokhari.

Experts have highlighted specific body language techniques that can make you more likable. For example, don't break eye contact with your conversation partner, even after they have finished speaking. And make sure not to fidget or touch your face too much, which can give the impression that you're lying or anxious.

You can also read other people's body language to help figure out what they're thinking and feeling. For example, if they mirror your body language, the conversation is probably going well. If they smile but there are no crinkles around their eyes, they might be faking it.


8. Making friends in any environment

Mayeesha Tahsin says she thinks of forming relationships as a skill, as opposed to leaving things to chance.

That skill is especially important to develop during young adulthood, once you're off the college campus, where it's generally easy to forge close friends.

One way to make friends as a grown-up is to trade confidences. Research suggests that 'self disclosure' predicts liking, closeness, and relationship building. Another, surprisingly simple, tactic is to simply spend more time with the people you'd like to befriend. According to the 'mere exposure effect,' we tend to like things and people we're familiar with.

Melia Robinson/Business Insider

9. Mending your clothes

Button popped off your shirt at work? There's no need to panic if you're handy with a needle -- which you should be.

'Learn how to stitch that button to your shirt collar or sew back the tear on your sleeve from the edge of the table,' writes Zehra Alvi. 'You will save a lot of money by just knowing how to handle that two-centimeter sword.'

18. Backing up your electronics

Having your phone die or your computer stolen is nerve-wracking enough. Saying goodbye to all your important information with those gadgets is even worse.

Be responsible and back up your data.

PCWorld has a comprehensive guide to backing up pretty much everything, including what exactly to back up and how often to do it. And we've rounded up all the tools you'll need.


20. Picking up a date

Approaching an attractive stranger and starting a conversation is a terrifying prospect for pretty much every normal person.

But there are ways to reduce both your anxiety and the chance that you'll come across as a bumbling fool.

One study found that men tend to prefer direct approaches, like 'You're cute -- can I buy you a drink?' Women, on the other hand, generally prefer more open-ended questions, like 'What do you think of this band?'

Very few people in the study said they preferred standard pick-up lines -- so it's best to avoid those, no matter how clever you think you are.


21. Dressing appropriately for a job interview

We're not supposed to judge books by their covers, but it's no secret that hiring managers judge job candidates by their appearance.

So avoid wearing too much makeup and definitely don't show up wearing a hat. Instead, you'll want to dress relatively conservatively. Even your shoes should be clean and tidy.

The colour of your clothes matters, too: According to a CareerBuilder survey, blue and black are the best colours to wear to a job interview, while orange is the worst.

23. Giving a good handshake

One poll found that 70% of people don't feel confident in their ability to give a proper handshake.

But when you meet your company's CEO for the first time, you don't want to present her with a limp noodle -- especially since a weak handshake suggests that you're insecure.

The best shaking strategy is to get a good grip, with your elbow nearing a right angle. Be sure to smile and make eye contact as well.

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