If you feel like you’re the awkward person at social events or you struggle to enter into conversations because you’re shy, it can impact your social life and your career. However, you can start improving your social skills by following these 12 strategies and soon, you’ll be able to enter into conversations with confidence.
Social skills are essential in building both personal and professional relationships. Demonstrating strong interpersonal skills can help you accomplish career goals, contribute to company achievements, perform well during the hiring process, expand your professional network and much more.
Understanding and improving your social skills can benefit you in every area of life. In this article, we discuss what social skills are, why they are important and how you can improve them with examples.
What are social skills?
Social skills are used to communicate with others daily in a variety of ways including verbal, nonverbal, written and visual. Social skills are also referred to as interpersonal or soft skills. Verbal skills involve the spoken language, while nonverbal communication includes body language, facial expressions and eye contact. Any time you interact with another person, you’re using social skills in some way. Strong social skills can help you build and maintain successful relationships professionally and personally.
Why social skills are important
Social skills are important because they can help you communicate more effectively and efficiently and, as a result, help you build, maintain and grow relationships with colleagues, clients and new contacts alike. These skills are important to maintain and improve no matter your position, industry or experience level.
Investing in relationships by developing your social skills is beneficial for your career in many ways, some of which include:
- Gaining ideas, information, techniques and perspectives from people with different areas of expertise
- Providing your own perspective for the benefit of others
- Accomplishing tasks and collaborating with others toward a shared goal
- Providing mutual support for difficult or hard-to-navigate situations
- Expanding your network to learn about and pursue new opportunities
- Gaining feedback and referrals from people who can personally attest to your work, skills and qualities (and for whom you can do the same)
Making the workplace more enjoyable
It is also important to display your social skills during the hiring process. Being able to work and build relationships with others effectively is a crucial quality employers look for in candidates and it can show your fitness for their company culture. To show social skills in your cover letter, provide an example of a time you worked with others to achieve a goal that drove success for your team or organization. On your resume, list specific, measurable achievements, then you can elaborate on how you used your social skills to reach your goals during your interview. Use the STAR method for behavioral interview questions to explain times you have found success using social skills.
1. Behave Like a Social Person
You can behave like a more social creature, even if you don’t feel like it. Don’t allow anxiety to hold you back. Make the decision to talk to new people and to enter into conversations even when you’re feeling nervous about it. Over time, it will get easier and you’ll quickly start improving your social skills.
2. Start Small if Necessary
If going to a party or spending time in a crowd seems overwhelming, start small. Go into the grocery store and say, “Thank you,” to the clerk or go to a restaurant and order your food. Practice making small talk gradually.
3. Ask Open-Ended Questions
If you want the attention off you in a conversation, get familiar with open-ended questions. Encourage others to talk so you won’t have to make the idle chit-chat. Ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer and you may open the door to invite the other person to keep the conversation going.
4. Encourage Others to Talk About Themselves
Most people really enjoy talking about themselves. Ask a question about a person’s career, hobbies, or family. Show you’re interested in hearing what is being said. If you want to keep the conversation going, you should make it like playing ping pong. Learn more about it here: How to Connect With Someone Deeper Within a Short Time
5. Create Goals For Yourself
Establish some small goals for yourself. Perhaps you want to practice one particular skill or maybe you want to start attending a social activity in your community. Establish a goal and begin to work on strategies that will improve your social life.
6. Offer Compliments Generously
Compliments can be a great way to open the door to a conversation. Offer a co-worker a compliment on a presentation he gave at a meeting or compliment your neighbor on his new car. Compliments can show others that you are friendly and there’re more reasons Why You Should Pay a Compliment to Someone Every Day.
7. Read Books About Social Skills
There are many books on the market that can help you learn specific social skills and ways to start conversations. However, keep in mind that reading about these skills won’t make you an expert. You’ll need to practice them over and over again.
8. Practice Good Manners
Good manners go a long way in improving social skills. Practice being polite, showing gratitude, and using good table manners.
9. Pay Attention to Your Body Language
Non-verbal communication is very important. Pay attention to the type of body language you use. Try to appear relaxed, make appropriate amounts of eye contact, and appear open to conversation.
10. Join a Social Skills Support Group
Many communities offer social skill support groups. Support groups help people who feel shy, awkward, or extremely anxious in social situations learn and practice new skills. You’ll start improving social skills and may be able to make new friends who understand your difficulties.
11. Stay Up to Date on Current Events
Read up on current trends and news stories so you have something to talk about with people. Try to avoid anything that is too controversial, such as politics, but do talk about other news stories that may be of interest. It can be a great way to start a conversation and can help you stick to neutral subjects.
12. Identify and Replace Negative Thoughts
If you have a lot of negative thoughts about your social interactions, it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, a person who thinks, “I’m really awkward and I will embarrass myself,” may sit in the corner at a party. As a result, he may leave the party thinking that he must be really awkward because no one talked to him. Identify negative thoughts that are likely dragging you down. Replace them with more realistic thoughts such as, “I can make conversation and I can meet new people.”
Good social skills are essential for effective communication. If you find socializing with others a challenge, start to take on my suggestions and practice each of them consistently. Great social skills don’t come easily, you need to practice yourself and really try these tips by talking with others.