Awkwardness. We have all be there before. Whether it is going through puberty or facing an uncomfortable social setting, we all know the feeling when things get awkward. Interestingly, technology has in many ways helped us to get connected, but it has not helped us in developing good social skills when we are in a public face-to-face setting.
Many of us will have to admit that it is usually those with good social aptitude that move ahead in life. Unless some of us are just OK with working behind a computer in a basement with no windows, having good social skills do help us in many aspects of our lives.
When a person has good social aptitude, they are able to flourish in their careers, relationships, and their life-goals. It really comes down to having good interpersonal skills so that you can impact and influence people around you. There might be some of you who struggle with social anxiety and possibly have had negative experiences, which might hinder you from stepping out; but we need to take small baby steps so that we can grow and move towards our personal, social, and professional aspirations.
For some people, social skills might come easy, but ultimate it is a skill that can be developed. Therefore, there is hope. If you continue to practice some of the necessary skills, then things will get easier and more natural over a period of time.
Here are 6 skills (SOCIAL) to grow and develop in your life, so that you can increase your social aptitude:
- S – SEE your surroundings. It is vital that you are always aware of the situation or your surroundings. It really comes down to just being more mindful and observant. This will help you to assess and even think about ways in which you can positively respond to the person or the situation. This takes discipline and a determined mindset to go into all social gatherings and workplace situations with an observant eye. Don’t forget to read people’s body language and facial expressions, as these things will be cues for you to pivot within the conversation.
Next Steps: When you step into a room or engage in a conversation, take a brief moment to ask these 3 questions (HIP): 1. “What is happening right now?” 2. “Who am I going to impact?” 3. “How can I participate to add value?”
- O – OTHERS-FOCUSED mindset. In most situations and conversations, we are constantly thinking about ourselves – when can I share about myself, what do they think about me, what should I say, why I am I not interested, etc. When we are consumed with self-focused thoughts, we miss opportunities to read the situation and add value to the other person. One of the important aspects of growing in our social aptitude is to think about the other person by putting “yourself in their shoes.” It is critical to find ways to add more value to that person, than thinking about what you can get out of it.
Next Steps: Keep reminding yourself and saying these 2 things: 1. “It is not about me.” 2. “How can help someone”
- C – COMMUNICATE with good manners. It is amazing how displaying good manners and just being courteous can cause people to take notice. People begin to open themselves up to you because you stand out. Sadly, we are living in a world where civility and manners are being lost. This is why when you meet someone with good manners, they are like a breath of fresh air. Use it to your advantage. It can come in small ways of saying, “thank you” or holding the door for someone. It starts with a heart of gratitude and humility, which is then manifested through your actions. Sometimes actions speak louder than words. Therefore, communicate with simple manners and enjoy seeing people with a pleasantly surprised look.
Next Steps: Throughout the day, make sure that you say, “thank you” and “please.”
- I – INSPIRE through positivity. The bottom line is that no one likes negative people. It sucks the energy out of us and then eventually, we will start avoiding them like a plague. But on the other hand, positive people have a way of giving us the “feels.” Their perspectives are usually like a rainbow after a storm. They have a way to inspiring us to do better and to live more purposefully. People are drawn to positive people. They are the ones that have a subtle influence on the people that they interact with. It is always hard to put a finger on it, but we just know when they are not there, something is missing; and when they are present, we sense a lightness in our spirits. Be that positive “force” and watch your social skills elevate to a new level.
Next Steps: Always try to find the good in a situation no matter how bleak it might be. Also, find someone to help catch any negative talk (i.e. gossip, slander, malice, etc.).
- A – ASK good questions. Data is king! When you are able to gather a lot of information about a person or a situation, you are able to make a wiser decision or react more appropriately. We have all been in situations where we didn’t have all the facts and then made a fool out of ourselves. This is why it helps to be curious. Never settle for simple answers, but rather be interested in people and ask good open-ended questions (the why and how questions). This helps people to open up and talk about themselves. Be interested in their life story because people love to talk about themselves. Stories stick in people’s minds. Also, by asking good questions, it makes them feel like their time with you was worth it. When you are interested in their lives, then they will be interested in you. It really is a reciprocated response.
Next Steps: As people share their stories or background, ask questions such as, “How did you feel when you…?” “As you were going through that, what was going through your mind?” “What was one lesson that you took away from that experience?”
- L – LISTEN well to empathize. There is nothing more powerful than when a person feels as if they are understood by someone. It gives them a sense of legitimacy with their experience, as well as, a sense of belonging with the person who is listening. When we are able to listen well as people are sharing, then they will feel as if you care and that you empathize with them. But the problem is that many of us do NOT listen well. We are technically listening, but we are listening so that we can respond. When we listen well, we are actively listening by repeating/rephrasing what they are saying and asking clarifying questions. Good listening evokes feelings of empathy and compassion, which causes the person to open up more to you. This will always cause a person to feel like they were “heard” and will have a positive image of you.
Next Steps: When you are talking with someone, use verbal (“Yes” “Uh huh” “Wow” etc.) and non-verbal cues (nodding your head, turning your body towards them, etc.) to connect with them.
It’s never too late to grow in our social aptitude. Just try it and see how quickly people might respond differently to you. It will definitely help you to advance personally, socially, and professionally. Therefore, remember to be SOCIAL:
- SEE your surroundings
- OTHERS-FOCUSED mindset
- COMMUNICATE with good manners
- INSPIRE through positivity
- ASK good questions
- LISTEN well to empathize