Improve Your Social Skills

Improve Your Social Skills

by Daniel Wendler

Improve Your Social Skills is a comprehensive, practical guide that will help you develop the social skills needed for connecting well with others. It offers detailed blueprints for basic skills of social interaction like conversation and body language, as well as complex topics such as empathy, dating, and making friends.

Summary Notes

Understanding body language in relationships

“Understanding the body language of others is extremely useful, but you also need to understand the messages your own body language is sending.”

Relationships are built on communication. When you communicate effectively, you understand each other better, resulting in a deeper connection. Most communication in relationships is nonverbal. For example, you may decide to stay away from a friend who has hurt you badly instead of taking the time to point out the wrong they have done. 

Body language is an integral part of nonverbal communication in relationships.  When your body language and words send conflicting messages, there’s a high chance of misunderstandings occurring. 

Context is also crucial when it comes to understanding body language. The context of a conversation is determined by the conversation itself, the environment the conversation is taking place in and the recent experiences of the person you are talking to. For example, if your partner had a rough day at work, they might give off signals of discomfort as they are still thinking about their stressful day - not because they are uncomfortable in your presence. You need to understand this context to be able to cheer them up.

Body language signals two major things:

  1. Comfort: Comfort signals are cues that tell you the other person is feeling good. For example, when someone is laughing, smiling, or nodding along to what you are saying. People give off comfort signals when they like the person they're interacting with, enjoy their current activity, and have nothing troubling them. 
  2. Discomfort: Discomfort signals tell you that something is wrong. For example, when someone is sad, crying, or shaking their head in disapproval. People give off discomfort signals when something is bothering them, when they're unhappy, or when they are not enjoying their current activity or interaction.

Actions to take

Understanding the role of conversations in building relationships

“Conversation flow happens when a conversation is comfortable, effortless, and smooth”

Most of us find it challenging to sustain conversations, to move smoothly from one speaker to another, or naturally from one topic to another. When this happens, we feel stuck and the whole conversation becomes awkward, making it hard for us to get to know others on a deeper level and create meaningful relationships. 

So how can you converse with others effectively? The answer lies in ensuring the conversation flows smoothly and effortlessly. 

While most conversation flows are automatic, you can be intentional about giving your conversations a good flow by applying the principles of invitation and inspiration. An invitation here involves saying something that explicitly lets your partner know it is their turn to speak. It’s more like the art of asking good questions, giving a strong suggestion of what the other person should talk about. For example, “what did you do today?” is an invitation to your conversation partner to speak about how their day went. 

Inspiration, on the other hand, is when you say something that makes your partner want to speak unbiddenly. Inspiration is the heartbeat of every conversation because when you and your partner inspire each other to share your stories, opinions, or thoughts, the conversation not only flows smoothly, but you also connect on a deeper level. The whole idea of inspiration is therefore to share something about yourself to inspire your conversation partner to also share theirs. For example, sharing how you partied all weekend could also inspire your conversation partner to share how their weekend went. 

Actions to take

Participating in group conversations

“Most social interaction takes place in a group setting, and navigating the waters of group conversation can be much trickier than one-on-one conversations”

It is in our nature as human beings to socialize. Participating in group discussions can be tricky but doable, especially if you take out time to study the nature of the group.

You need to figure out if the group you want to enter is an open or closed one. Open groups refer to those that don’t mind new people joining them. They have a “the more the merrier” mindset, and people might flow in and out of these groups naturally. Closed groups on the other hand are those that are content with the number of people currently in the conversation, and they are not interested in more people joining them. So, target open groups.

It’s one thing to join a group conversation and it's another to be a full participant. It will be impossible to enjoy the conversation if you are only a listener, so you need to integrate into the group either through the direct or indirect approach. A direct approach involves walking up to a group, introducing yourself, and asking follow-up questions to engage the group members. The indirect approach requires you to interrupt whatever the group was previously discussing and redirect the conversation towards whatever your opening question was.

Group discussions also require a conversation flow and the best way to go about it is to inspire others to speak by sharing your story, thoughts, or impressions. 

Actions to take

Empathizing with others

“When you have empathy, it means you can understand what a person is feeling in a given moment and understand why other people’s actions made sense to them.”

Knowing how to empathize with others is crucial in social interactions. Empathizing is all about understanding and sharing the feelings of others - seeing the world as others see it. When you empathize with someone, you can understand their feelings, resulting in better interactions and stronger relationships. Empathy helps us communicate our ideas in ways that make sense to others, and it helps us understand others when they are communicating with us.

To successfully empathize with others, you must first learn to emphasize with yourself. This means learning to understand and accept your own emotions and striving hard to stay happy and fulfilled. After all, you can only give out love and support to others if you love and support yourself.

Our brains are naturally designed to empathize with others, but we should still make a conscious effort to do better.

Actions to take

Meeting people and making friends

“It’s one thing to meet someone that you get along with, it’s another thing to grow your relationship with that person to the point where you feel comfortable inviting them over to hang out”. 

We meet people and make new friends at various places. While some people are extroverts who love socializing and interacting effortlessly, others are introverts who need to make conscious efforts to interact with strangers.

Let’s admit it, a social event filled with strangers can be overwhelming and draining. However, this won’t be the case if you find a group of people that fit your personality and interests. The trick lies in interacting with groups built around the things you love, groups your friends are involved with, groups that meet regularly, and above all groups that focus on improving people skills. It’s easier to feel comfortable and connect with potential friends than people you have little or nothing in common with.

You don’t have to limit yourself to making friends only at social events. Potential connections are all over you – from a classmate sitting next to you to a barista taking your order. You should learn to take advantage of the connection opportunities that life sends your way to build meaningful relationships.

It’s one thing to meet someone you get along with and it's another thing completely to create a friendship with that person. Relationships can grow quickly on their own, but you still need to develop skills to make and keep friends. Be a good friend to others by letting them be who they are and offering support when needed.

That said, remembering the names of new people you meet can be difficult, but you still need to make efforts to retain names by playing the Name Game – a trick to remember names easily.

Actions to take

Dating and love relationships

“Having a special someone to share your experiences with makes life sweeter and having someone who knows you deeply can help you understand yourself better too”.

Love can be wonderful. Your life can become sweeter when you find that special someone who knows you deeply, understands you, and is ready to share your experiences with you.

Dating can be complex and draining if you lack the skills to build relationships. Your interest shouldn’t be to get into an intimate relationship with just anybody, but rather, to build a healthy relationship with your partner. A healthy relationship is one in which you and your partner accept each other, cherish each other, protect each other and above all, encourage each other to grow. 

It takes a lot of work and commitment to build a healthy relationship. It requires you to dedicate yourself to your partner’s well-being and happiness. You, therefore, need to swallow your pride and selflessness for you and your partner to be fulfilled. Indeed, it’s all about making short-term sacrifices for lasting joy.

There are three major principles to every healthy relationship;

  1. Freedom and acceptance: This involves relaxing and being yourself without the fear of being judged by the other person. You must never hide a part of yourself to be accepted by your partner.
  2. Meaningful lives outside the relationship: This means having a life and personal goals outside of your relationship. 
  3. Shared selflessness: This means both partners should work on making their partners happy and fulfilled instead of just expecting the other person to do it for them.

Actions to take

The power of storytelling

“Unfortunately, there are good ways and bad ways to tell stories – and if you tell stories poorly, you’ll lose your audience’s interest.” 

Storytelling is a great way to socialize. When you listen to a good story, you can easily build a strong connection with the storyteller. Unfortunately, the art of telling good stories is not as easy as it seems. There are good and bad ways to tell stories – and if you tell stories poorly, you will lose the interest of your audience.

So how do you tell a good story? It’s simple. Ensure that your story has these three effects on your audience;

  1. Holds their interest: This is all about making your listeners want to follow up the story till the very end, not missing out on even the tiniest bits.
  2. Builds connections: This involves combining your words, logic, emotions, and sensory feelings in such a way that your audience starts feeling something towards you. For example, you could tell a story in such a brilliant manner that your audience starts admiring you. Similarly, it's possible to tell a sad story to the extent that your audience starts feeling sorry for you.
  3. Provides a satisfying conclusion: This is all about giving a logical ending to your story. You should be able to stop when you get to the end as prolonging it may result in unconvincing explanations and twists.

Actions to take

Improving your social life daily

“Greatness doesn’t happen overnight. Most things worth doing take persistence and hard work”. 

No one is perfect, so we need to be intentional about improving our lives daily. There is power in association, and as you consciously improve your social skills, you will interact and build connections with the right people. 

Improving your life socially is not the easiest thing to do, especially if you are naturally an introvert, but with persistence and hard work, it's doable. Most improvements happen over time. Stop looking for quick fixes and fast results.

You can improve your social life by fighting the feeling of giving up, indulging in hobbies that teach social skills, and practicing the “Give It 100” challenge. This challenge involves spending 10 minutes practicing any social skill, 10 days in a row. By the end of the challenge, you would have spent a significant amount of time improving your social skills.

Actions to take

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