10 Life Skills You Can (And Should!) Know

Here's your essential survival guide to a happy, healthy, and independent existence!
by Shiloah Matic   |  May 24, 2010
Share This!

How to catch a lie
Liar, liar, pants on fire... if only it were that easy to catch a liar. If you've ever been lied to by someone you care about—a boyfriend, a friend, a parent-then you'll want to take notes.

  • Listen. Vocal changes can signal that your boyfriend's not being truthful. If he's usually very descriptive, then suddenly starts talking about "his friend" who has a crush on "some girl" he met "somewhere," ask him questions without letting on that you're suspicious—yet. When people make up stories, they tend to stick to general statements and often disassociate themselves from the story, avoiding "I" and "Me" ("the car broke down", "the game went into overtime"). With enough questions, you'll soon see the holes in his tall tales.
  • Look for behavioral changes. Not everyone who can't look you in the eye is guilty. If he normally doesn't look directly at you but is now practically burning a hole in your head, take notice-he may be overcompensating and trying hard not to look guilty.
  • Almost everyone has a "tell"—a little habit that subconsciously slips out, giving the observant a glimpse at the person's real state of mind. Does he pull at his left ear when he's feeling guilty? Can you tell she's happy 'cause her nose wrinkles? Watch their body language. The body never lies.
  • Usually, it's easier to catch someone in a lie if you know them—and their habits and personality—well enough. Trust your instincts and try to get them to 'fess up instead of accusing them outright. Don't let your suspicions overrule your trust.

How to talk to the Manager
Your soup's cold. Your bill's wrong. You want to know if they have discounts for students. Go straight to the powers that be: the manager.

Featured Video
  • If you have a valid concern, let them know immediately. Don't wait till after the meal when nothing can be done to fix the situation at hand. You can't expect them to pay for your entire meal when they could have simply replaced your soup or added more flavor to your watered-down drink.
  • Don't attack the store or restaurant or its staff. Instead, explain what happened calmly, but show that you mean business. Ask for a refund or some other appropriate compensation for your inconvenience.
  • Be just as generous with your compliments as you are with complaints. Getting on the establishment's good side is a great way to score special perks like free desserts, the best tables, and early discount alerts. For exceptional service, nothing says "Thanks" like a hefty tip.
  • Choose your battles. You can probably let a late meal slide if you're really not in a hurry, but for poorly cooked food, rude wait staff, or extra items on your bill, assert your right as customer and get your money's worth.

How to tell a joke
Be the life of the lunch hour, the one they can count on to break up a down mood and put some pizzazz into a ho-hum day. Tell a joke! Here's how to flop-proof your funnies:

  • Consider your audience. Mom and Dad may not get that slightly colored joke that had your girl friends giggling all day.
  • Timing is important too. A good joke can lighten the mood, but the wrong mood can kill the best jokes. Time your punch lines as well and pace yourself. A pause here and there for effect or emphasis is the key to making a joke work.
  • Looking for material? Take a cue from stand-up comedians—look for the absurd in everyday events. Keep your eyes and mind open for interesting observations that you can weave into a witty tale. A word of caution though: if it's hurtful and mean, it's not a good joke, no matter how many people laugh.

There are enough preachers of doom and naysayers out there. Give the gift of laughter and lightheartedness! The world will thank you.

How to get anywhere
You've got places to go and people to see-but Dad's got the car, and the driver's ferrying your brother to his daily soccer practice. You're trapped! You're doomed! You're missing out if you stay at home moping. Brave the heat and smog, and catch a jeep, bus, or train to wherever.


Not sure how to get there? The driver or your fellow commuters should be able to enlighten you. Just ask! Pack a couple extra bucks in case you lose your way and need extra rides. Don't be afraid to release your inner explorer. But for safety's sake, explore unfamiliar routes in the daytime. Better yet, take a friend and navigate the concrete jungle together. Get out there and find all the interesting nooks this city holds.

How to dance
So you're no Jessica Alba in Honey, and you're still getting over the time your ballet teacher advised your mom to let you try some other hobby. Get over it, and put those dancing shoes back on your two left feet!

The biggest difference between a dancing queen and a wallflower is confidence. Even a simple shuffle or step-touch can look good if you're shaking your hips with abandon and swinging your hands without care. Listen for the beat (the bass line or drum sound), and move with it. Watch other people on the dance floor—their fancy footwork is easier to follow than Britney's on MTV. Don't forget to smile now!


How to feed yourself
Thank goodness girls are no longer required to bake pies and stuff turkeys to be certified "female." Still, a little kitchen know-how is crucial for those bleak days when Yaya is no longer at your beck and call.

  • Sandwiches are a great no-cook classic with seemingly endless variations-mix and match different breads, meats, cheeses, veggies, and dressing, and voilá, you've got meals for a month!
  • Don't be intimidated by fancy words like poach, braise, or sauté. A good cookbook should have a glossary of terms to help de-mystify these deceptively complicated techniques. In between mastering the art of instant noodles and frying Spam, learn one exotic dish to reel in the compliments at dinnertime and potluck parties.
  • Any time's a good time to put this skill into practice. Plus you'll get a (hopefully) tasty reward for your hard work.

How to outsmart an attacker
The helpless female mode of thinking is as passé as petticoats and plastic jewelry. Still, attackers expect girls to be scared and vulnerable; they choose victims who seem like easy targets. While you can't help being scared in that situation, you can do something about being powerless.


Remember a male attacker's most vulnerable points and focus your counter-attack there: eyes, groin, throat, and knees. No matter how muscular and strong he looks, no one is invincible.

  • Carry "weapons." Keys, pens, combs, or a heavy book can be used to buy you some time to get away.
  • Keep a sharp mind. Sometimes you will have to decide whether or not to fight back, especially if the attacker is armed.
  • Many gyms and organizations offer women's self-defense classes that train you to be physically and mentally prepared to ward off assaults. Put the power in girl power!

How to say "No"
Is "No" a four-letter word for you? Can't say no to managing the school play even if your schedule is already packed, and you'll have to give up a few hours of sleep or a few mall trips with your friends? But if you can't say no to a persistent boyfriend's advances before you're ready or an acquaintance's unwanted attention, you may end up giving up more precious things.


Think about your reasons and keep them clear in your mind. What he will think of you doesn't matter; what you will think of yourself does. Say "No" like you mean it—and mean it. Laughing it off or joking about it makes you seem unsure and gives them room to manipulate the situation, or to argue that they didn't think you were serious.

If they persist and force their way, walk-or run—the other way, fast! No, you don't owe it to him to say, "Yes." No, you don't have to apologize or explain.

How to network and make connections
People-in-the-know know how to get to know people. Now that you're all grown up, it's okay to talk to strangers. Today's stranger is tomorrow's business partner, best pal, buddy, or even potential boyfriend.

  • Ask questions. People like to talk about themselves; it's the topic they know most about (and it's more interesting than the weather). Keep their info in mind (Mom's name, kind of dog they have, favorite color, birthday, etc.) and store them in your address book. You'll need them later!
  • Offer your own details and look for where your stories intersect—you went to the same summer camp, you also like figure skating, you both love/hate this party.
  • Follow up soon after you meet, with a casual (not overly chummy) note reminding them of the conversation-"Hey, that band we both like has a great new CD", "I met someone else from summer camp", "Hope your finals went well."
  • Feeling shy? Most likely so are they. Someone's got to make the first move, why not you? Go on, say hi!
How to haggle
Why haggle? The jangle (or crackle) of extra cash in your pocket can be motivation enough. Everyone loves a good bargain!

Before you shop, do your research. Some things to keep in mind before going off to battle: how much an item is worth, how much it usually costs, how much you want to pay or can afford, and how much you really want to buy it. Find out what time of day is best for bargaining-too early and the salespeople have time to wait for a better offer, too late and they'll be cranky and raring to shoo you away and close shop.


How you relate to salespeople can also affect whether they give you a bargain. Ask for their names, be courteous, and don't be that irate or pushy customer they warn their friends about.

While you're shopping, look for reasons why you shouldn't have to pay full-price-small (but repairable) defects, lower prices from a competitor, frequent buyer status (the suki factor). Learning to haggle successfully gives you valuable negotiation skills you can use in other non-shopping scenarios. Just remember, research, relate, and reason out.

How to perform a breast self-exam
You may snicker at this suggestion, but breast cancer is no laughing matter. It's the number one type of cancer in women worldwide, claiming over a million mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends yearly. It's recommended that you start your monthly check-up once you turn 20. Ask your doctor about it when the time comes.
How do you feel about this article?
About the author
Shiloah Matic
Contributing Writer
How do you feel?
Click on your mood to read related stories
The Latest
They're now taking the center stage and claiming their time to shine.
Looking to start a K-pop album collection?
It not only allowed her to give back and help in the collective effort against COVID-19, but it also gave her something to strive for.