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How Can You Improve Your Social Skills?

Jul 30, 2008
One common suggestion that is recommended for improving social skills is to practice. Practice meeting other people, going to social events, joining clubs, taking classes or practice being with different people in various situations.

But practice what?

Practice being in a crowded room and standing by yourself in the corner?

Practice feeling awkward?

Practice being nervous around others?

Practice walking up to a group of people with absolutely no idea of what to say?

If that's what I had to "practice" every time I went out, I doubt I'd be going anywhere anytime soon. Being told to practice without any ideas or techniques on what to do is like being handed a sheet of paper and a pen and told to write out a story without first learning how to spell.

Going out, being with a bunch of people, going to social events - these are the places to practice. Knowing how to interact while you're there is what to practice.

This really hit me when I was having dinner with a friend a few weeks ago and she was talking about an upcoming conference she was planning on attending. She could already feel the butterflies flitting about her stomach at the thought of entering the conference hall, yet she desperately wanted to network and meet influential people in her industry.

She kept asking, "What should I say?" and "What should I do?" It wouldn't have been much help to tell her to "go out and practice" her social skills at a few less significant events in the days between our dinner and the conference. Sure, it would have been another good step as part of the process, but certainly not the first and only one. Instead, we covered various techniques and did some role playing so she'd understand how easy it really is to interact with others - when you have an idea of what to do.

Most often, social skills were learned naturally and subtly while we were growing up and were basically unnoticed in our day-to-day lives. However, there are a lot of us who weren't taught social skills, aside from saying "please," "thank you" and remembering to keep our elbows off the table during dinner.

Social skills are just that - skills. Skills have to be learned somehow, be they writing skills, swimming skills, driving skills, language skills or {fill in the blank}. You name the skill and chances are that it'll have to be learned.

Practice breaking away from your comfort zone and being with other people is the implementation step of learning good social skills. The first step is to find out what are the skills to practice so you're more likely to be successful in social situations.
About the Author
Laurie Wilhelm manages the Express Yourself to Success website, a one-stop e-source with information and techniques on interpersonal and social skills, public speaking, networking and conflict resolution. Achieve your success by working effectively with others. Find out how you can boost your career and get a free white paper, What Everyone Needs to Know About Social Skills, by going to www.expressyourselftosuccess.com.
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