Perhaps one of the most overlooking factors in the term social skills is the skill part. Just like any other skill you can improve it by practicing it. The biggest issue with practicing these skills is that you need to put yourself out there to practice.
Practicing social skills doesn’t mean you need to get dressed up, head to a bar, and approach strangers. That would be enough to put anyone off. There are other tools you can keep in your kit to boost your skills when you’re in social situations.
1 – Handy Topics
When you have anxiety about social situations (especially new ones) one of the biggest problems is coming up with topics to discuss.
You might worry that you don’t have anything to contribute to conversations that are in full swing, perhaps small talk leaves you in a cold sweat… having some icebreakers handy as well as a story or two can relieve a lot of that anxiety.
You can avoid awkward silences and feel more confident about facing social situations and getting to know people.
2 – Listen Actively
If you aren’t good at listening then it’s difficult for people to see you are genuinely interested in them and their lives. How do you go about achieving active listening?
Always make eye contact with who you are talking to and make a habit of paraphrasing what they have told you, or just repeating your understanding of the conversation. This indicates active listening.
What doesn’t count as listening actively is waiting for someone to speak so you can say your piece or trying to one-up the other person with a better story. It isn’t a competition, you need to confirm your understanding of what they’re saying before you dive into a response. You should be responding to their conversation.
3 – Drown Out Distractions
Technology can be great, but it’s also contributing to the breakdown of true social connections. If you are one of those people who is always on their phone, even when you’re in a group of people then this one is definitely for you.
For the socially anxious or awkward technology has provided a buffer to relieve some of the nerves about being in the social situation.
However, it’s holding you back and preventing you from truly engaging with the people you are hanging out with. So, when you are in a social situation put your phone down, hide it, and spend quality time with the social group. You might just be surprised at how connected you start to feel with others.
4 – Socialize with the Socially Adept
One excellent way to improve your social skills is by interacting with people who are strong socially. Watch how they interact and the mannerisms that they use and learn from them. When you hang out with people who are social and engaging you will find that your social skills improve naturally.
Even better if you try and adopt some of their tricks of the trade, just don’t steal their entire personality – it’s important that you know how to be social and authentic.
5 – Practice
As mentioned above, any skill or ability will improve if you continue to practice. So, if you think you’re socially awkward or you hate to be around people – you need to put yourself out there more. You won’t get better socially until you practice those skills.
Don’t be scared to meet new people and strike up conversations in social settings. It will help you improve your skills and develop your intuition. Eventually, you will be adept at building friendships using your stellar social skills.