The Surprisingly Easiest Way To Practice Social Skills
How do you practice your social skills? That’s a funny question, isn’t it? All the socially savvy people I asked had never practiced their social skills. They have no idea how. All the socially unsavvy people I asked have no idea either. The advice I got was to talk to as many different people as possible. But, I feared approaching new people because I had no idea how to behave and what to talk about. The thought alone paralyzed me. I feared rejection until I found probably the easiest way to practice my social skills.
I explained in other articles why social skills or networking skill are so important. So, I don’t think there is a need to repeat it here. Bottom line, social skills make your life easier. It’s almost like cheating.
Back in August 2008, one year after I finished middle school, I had a hand full of friends. Often, I felt alone and insecure. They all were and still are good guys but not the circle I wanted to be in. We were friends because we had been friends in school. I wanted to meet new people and a bigger social circle. But I didn’t know how.
I started to read books about social skills, friendship, small talk, and body language. They taught me a lot. But they couldn’t prepare me for real life situations. Also, I never internalized the material.
Seth Godin would argue, in his book Poke the box, that I never poked the box:
“Poke the box
How do computer programmers learn their art? Is there a step-by-step process that guarantees you’ll get good?
All great programmers learn the same way. They poke the box. They code something and see what the computer does. They change it and see
what the computer does. They repeat the process again and again until they figure out how the box works.
The box might be a computer or it might be a market or it might be a customer or it might be your boss. It’s a puzzle, one that can be solved in only
one way—by poking.
When you do this , what happens? When you do that , what happens? The box reveals itself through your poking, and as you get better at it, you not
only get smarter but also gain ownership. Ownership doesn’t have to be equity or even control. Ownership comes from understanding and from
having the power to make things happen.
No one has influence, control, or confidence in his work until he understands how to initiate change and predict how the box will respond.”
Books were / are no substitute for practice. I still feared approaching people and starting a conversation.
After I realizing that (It took me way too long) I started looking for a way to practice. For that way I had some requirements:
The exercise should help me to avoid or overcome my fear of approaching people,
it should give me immediate feedback,
it should follow the networking rules,
and I should be able to formulate SMART goals around it.
Perspective saves the day
One weekend 2009, when I was shopping in the city, I had an idea. Three different charities had stopped me, on my way to the sneaker store, so I was a little annoyed. I think everybody can relate. I lost about 30 minutes talking to them. But, something funny happened in the store. Without hesitation I asked a saleswoman for advice. She was great help and we talked a little. I even got her phone number. I had never done something like that before. Normally I would hesitate, and talk to a salesman. I was confused. What was different that day?
I had talked with the charities. They warmed me up. They put me in a talkative state. I realized that this talks with the charities are exactly what I was looking for. A perfect training ground for my social skills. This experience changed my perspective.
I stopped looking at charities and all the other stoppers in the city as obstacles. Instead, I use them as an easy and convenient way to practice my social skill. I found a way to poke the box!
Fear of Rejection
The biggest fear of social unsavvy people is rejection. They fear that the person they approach will respond negative. I did too.
As the charities approach us, there is no way to get rejected. They want to talk with us. We are in the position to reject them. There is no fear of rejection.
It’s hard to set goals for your social skills or networking. We can’t measure how funny we are or how charismatic. But we can count the number of times we talked with charities in the city.
Back then I started practicing my social skills my goal was to talk to 3 charities every weekend for at least 10 minutes. Now, I talk with them every time I’m in the city or the day I go out chasing girls.
I suggest to start practicing the advice Dale Carnegie gave in How To Win Friends And Influence People:
“Six Ways to Make People Like You
Become genuinely interested in other people. “You can make more friends in two months by being interested in them, than in two years by making them interested in you.” The only way to make quality, lasting friendships is to learn to be genuinely interested in them and their interests.
Smile. Happiness does not depend on outside circumstances, but rather on inward attitudes. Smiles are free to give and have an amazing ability to make others feel wonderful. Smile in everything that you do.
Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language. “The average person is more interested in their own name than in all the other names in the world put together.” People love their names so much that they will often donate large amounts of money just to have a building named after themselves. We can make people feel extremely valued and important by remembering their name.
Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. The easiest way to become a good conversationalist is to become a good listener. To be a good listener, we must actually care about what people have to say. Many times people don’t want an entertaining conversation partner; they just want someone who will listen to them.
Talk in terms of the other person’s interest. The royal road to a person’s heart is to talk about the things he or she treasures most. If we talk to people about what they are interested in, they will feel valued and value us in return.
Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely. The golden rule is to treat other people how we would like to be treated. We love to feel important and so does everyone else. People will talk to us for hours if we allow them to talk about themselves. If we can make people feel important in a sincere and appreciative way, then we will win all the friends we could ever dream of.” –
Be warned! All the charities and stoppers want something from you. They are trained and use the same techniques as salespersons. Talk with them but don’t commit to anything. If you are sympathetic with their cause, take info material home and make a conscious decision where!
Have you found an easy way to practice your social skills? If so, please share with us your routine.