7 Techniques to Help You Improve Your Social Skills
Some people crave social interactions.
No week is complete without a bonfire among friends, a journey downtown, or a social meetup at the bowling alley.
But you’re what they call an introvert.
You’d prefer to stay in your comfort zone, spend one-on-one time with friends, and avoid crowds whenever possible.
Let’s face it:
Socialization is an unavoidable part of life.
If you want job opportunities, healthy relationships, and budding friendships to come your way, follow these seven tips to enhance your social skills.
Put the Phone and Other Distractions Down
Your phone is your lifeline when you’re bored.
You rely on your phone to keep you entertained during your breaks, when work is slow, and when you’re stuck in social settings you can’t escape!
It may also be the primary reason you struggle with social skills.
When you bury your head in your phone, you’re sending a message to everyone else around you:
I don’t want to be here, so don’t talk to me!
Improving your social skills starts with eliminating distractions (or sources of comfort) when you’re around others.
So, put your phone in your pocket, close your book, and remove those earbuds.
Hiding these things will make you appear more approachable and keep you from taking the easy way out when conversations are a must!
Learn About the World Around You
Even if you like being around people, holding conversations can be difficult.
But socializing is even more complex if you only have a few talking points. So if video games, reality TV, or hiking aren’t on the discussion menu, you’re just not interested.
The world is wide, and everybody has unique interests. And to be completely honest, not everyone wants to talk about your interests 24/7.
It’s time to learn about the world around you so you have something to talk about.
You can do that by:
- Watching the news every now and then
- Visiting local stores, parks, and popular locations
- Watching new TV shows or movies and listening to a new radio station
- Getting on social media and find out what’s “hot” these days
You don’t need to be an expert on topics you’re not interested in, but learn enough about them to ask relevant questions or insert your opinion sometimes.
Listen More Than You Speak
In the perfect world, a conversation would be 50:50.
But social anxiety or shyness can stand in the way of a decent conversation.
You either talk far too much due to nervousness, where nobody else can get a word in edgewise. Or, you hardly utter a sentence, and the conversation simply dies off.
Try to listen about twice as much as you speak, and truly listen to what people say.
A great way to do this is by relaying what somebody said back to them. For example, you can respond with, “You said you liked scary movies. Which is your favorite?”
People love to talk about themselves, so ask questions whenever possible!
Listening closely will allow you to remember things about people that you can bring up when you see them again, so the benefits extend well past this current chat.
Make Small Talk Right Off the Bat
Unless there’s an emergency, easing into conversations is your best bet.
For example, if you were talking to a coworker, you wouldn’t want to start with something intense like, “I heard someone is getting fired. Do you know who it is?”
You want to work the heavy-hitting topics into the discussion later when it doesn’t catch them off guard.
Instead, do your best to start with small talk during the first few minutes of a conversation. You can talk about things like:
- The weather (cliche, but a great start)
- Simple catching up (i.e., “How are you?”)
- Your jobs or careers
- Hobbies and interests
- Recent sporting events or award shows
- The gathering you’re at (or how you know the host)
You should be using small talk to break the ice, build the groundwork for new relationships, and show a genuine interest in those you speak to.
Focus on Conveying Positive Body Language
People will develop an opinion about you regardless of whether you say anything during a gathering.
If you don’t have positive body language, they won’t have a positive opinion about you.
Let’s say you fold your arms and hang out in the corner at a party.
This type of body language gives off the vibe that you’re unapproachable, defensive, or attending the party against your will.
Even if those things aren’t true.
Try to be aware of how you hold yourself when you’re around other people.
Here are some tips for “positive” body language:
- Try to hold friendly eye contact during conversations.
- Keep your arms at your sides and don’t fold them across your chest.
- Maintain great posture and avoid slouching when possible.
- Smile, nod, and laugh when it’s appropriate.
Doing these things won’t just make you approachable; they’ll also help you present yourself as confident, friendly, and somebody that others want to be around.
Positive body language sets you up for more positive interactions in the future.
Ask Open-Ended Questions That Spark Conversation
Interactions thrive when both parties put in effort.
And it’s completely normal for discussions to lose their oomph when topics of conversation dry up.
That’s where you come in!
Asking open-ended questions is a terrific way to keep a conversation blossoming and show interest in those you’re speaking to.
You ask somebody at a Friendsgiving if they like their job, and they say yes.
The conversation essentially ends there.
Ask something like, “What is it about your job that you like the most?”
This type of question will get conversations flowing naturally. The idea is to focus on the how and why instead of the who, what, when, and where!
Put Yourself in Social Situations
Great social skills don’t matter if you isolate yourself from other people.
To work on your social skills and practice them in the real world, you should put yourself into more social situations.
Start off small.
Ask a friend or classmate to hang out one on one. As your relationship builds and you get more confident, start going to larger gatherings.
Say yes to more get-togethers when you’re invited to them.
You might even think about hosting your own to bring all of your friends together in one room!
Talk about progress, right?
Enhancing your social skills can be stressful and even overwhelming. Fortunately, it’s also something you can ease into gradually.
Focus on taking one step at a time. For instance, you might simply start putting your phone away when you’re in the break room at work.
Then, slowly add more of these tips into your daily routine as you become more comfortable and confident.
Eventually, social gatherings will be fun and much less terrifying!
About the Author
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Reserve Carrollton to help them with their online marketing.