Human beings are sociable beings. Unfortunately, not everyone is good at socializing.
Hence we asked 13 experts, “How to improve your social skills?”
See their top recommendations below.
Michael J. Salas
Licensed Professional Counselor and Therapist
You have to be willing to take chances and recognize that disappointment and failures are part of the process
To build social skills, people have to be willing to take chances and recognize that disappointment and failures are part of the process of building social skills. Some of us are really sensitive to rejection and being ignored. This largely comes from our backgrounds and past experiences.
Unfortunately, some people stop taking social risks after they’re rejected. They try to avoid the painful experiences that they’ve had in the past.
We have to be willing to keep trying things out. Building social skills is all about trial-and-error.
Some things will work. Sometimes an attempt to be social, such as starting up a conversation with small talk, will work with one person. Then, the same exact attempt might fail with another person.
It’s important to remember that this isn’t just about you. You’re dealing with two different people and their perceptions.
To overcome the disappointment, it’s important to have supportive people in your life who won’t judge you for your failures.
These people appreciate that you’re being open and will be supportive of you. Make sure to have these people on your contact list so that they can help you cope with the trial-and-error process.
Sal Raichbach PsyD, CFSW, LP
Licensed Psychologist, Ambrosia Treatment Center
Challenge your inner critic
Negative self-talk keeps so many people from embracing social situations. If you listen to that voice in your head and allow it to guide your decision making, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
The best way to overcome that negative banter is to separate your negative inner voice from your true voice.
Treat that voice as if it were a different person entirely. When it starts to tell you that you aren’t good enough or smart enough to interact with others, challenge it to a debate, and come to that debate armed with evidence to counter that argument.
Even people with terrible social anxiety have moments where they’ve felt comfortable around others. Use those as evidence that you can do it, and you have done it in the past.
People treat their beliefs as facts but have no problem disagreeing with the opinions of others.
Separating your negative voice from your authentic voice from your own gives you a completely different perspective. It’s an opportunity to challenge those thoughts as if you were in a debate.
It takes some effort at first, but eventually, you’ll be able to use this technique on the fly whenever you need it, whether it’s before, during, or after stressful social situations.
Practice, practice, practice.
Some people are born with a natural comfort in social situations and a knack for communicating. For those who aren’t, practicing social skills is uncomfortable, but it’s a tried and true way of improving.
Pick one thing you know that you struggle with and focus on it the next time you find yourself interacting with friends, family, or anyone you feel comfortable with.
For example, focus on eye contact, and try to maintain it as long as possible without diverting your gaze. It can be distracting at first, but you’ll get more comfortable with more practice until it becomes automatic. If you mess up and look away, correct yourself and keep going.
As you get more comfortable, you’ll pick up more of other people’s body language and learn to respond to it. Mastering these little skills will make a big difference in your confidence and ability to feel natural when making small talk.
Associate, Moshes Law Firm
Study sociable people
Look at how they talk, how they think, the way they present themselves, their overall presence in a room, etc.
Study these things about people who are social, look at your most sociable friends and see how they act around others and try to imitate that behavior.
Surround yourself with sociable people
If you don’t have any social friends, get yourself some.
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said this “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with”.
So whatever you surround yourself with the most is what you’ll be.
If your circle of friends is all shy inside people that may influence you to become shyer also. So hang out with people that like to socialize and you’ll find you’ll pick up a habit or two.
Put yourself in positions where you need to be social
As uncomfortable it is, you can’t grow in comfort so you have to put yourself in situations that call for you to be social.
Same way muscles grow under tension and stress is the same way you’ll grow by being put into situations that take you way out of your comfort zone.
Try going to a networking event or befriend someone who is always going to social events because usually, people like that love to drag you with them.
A lot of unsociable people were able to break out of their shell because they were forced to be social like taking up a door to door sales job.
CEO and Co-Founder, Mettl
Social skills help both the side of an individual’s life- be it professional or personal.
There are several ways in which they can be developed over a period of time, some of which are:
Attend Toastmasters International Club
Toastmasters club is a great way to target two birds with one stone- public speaking and social skills development. A constant and continuous practice of going to the Toastmasters’ club or any other effective communication class inculcates a skill of easy communication with other people.
It makes a habit out of interactions till it is intertwined with your basic personality.
Join hobby groups
One of the best ways to remove inhibitions out of the picture is to make the development of social skills your hobby.
For instance, join classes in dance, drama, and theater where it’s indispensable for you to interact with other people to get your main aim of enjoying your dance or act done.
Complete exclusive courses
There are specific courses meant to model your behavior to turn them into great effective communication skills.
For example, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) that builds public speaking, leadership, communication, and verbal and non-verbal behavioral skills.
Take on greater responsibilities wherever you are- be it college or office. When you are in a position of responsibility, there will be a lot of people reporting to you and interacting with you.
You can take on a club membership at college or management responsibilities at the office or else become representative of various societies in your city.
To develop social skills, you have to make conscious efforts of socializing with people even when you feel uncomfortable at first.
Going out with friends and calling them up on their anniversaries and birthdays will ease your way into the whole process of socializing and working on your social skills.
You can also make it a point to interact with as many people as possible in a day, maybe say general formalities or greetings to people you work with.
The best way out in this case, if you really feel awkward is to talk to people about their interests and remembering those interests for future conversations.
Talking about interests takes discomfort out of the equation instantly for both the parties and helps you gel easily.
Having strong social skills can vastly improve the quality of your life both personally and professionally.
Many people feel they lack social skills and that gaining those skills is beyond their ability. However, most people can absolutely gain those skills with a few simple changes in how to think about others.
The biggest reason people fall behind or fail to develop their social skills is because of fear.
They are afraid of rejection, and they are afraid of looking foolish or being embarrassed. Often times, we all feel that others have it more together or that they don’t have the same fear or anxiety we feel. This is not the case.
With rare exceptions, everyone has self-doubt, anxiety and/or a fear of being embarrassed.
If you can empathize with others and realize they are more like you than not, it makes it easier to feel at ease with putting yourself out there to start a conversation or to simply show up to an event.
The next thing to consider is that it is okay if people don’t like you.
With over 7 billion human beings in this world, you really don’t need to worry about people who don’t like you because there are plenty others who will appreciate you.
Once you can accept that there will be people who dislike you and that it generally doesn’t make a difference in your life, you will feel freer to open yourself up in social settings.
Create and practice your elevator pitch
This is a great way to introduce yourself in a confident manner. You don’t get second chances at a good first impression, so the elevator pitch is your concise way to present your qualifications on your own terms.
Your elevator pitch consists of what you’ve done, what you’re doing and where you want to do. In essence, it means your main qualifications, current projects or pursuits, and goals.
Just go out there and do it
Social skills are like muscles – they only get stronger the more you use them, Yes, you’ll network and meet new people and sometimes fail. That’s OK.
The point is to do it so many times that you can look past the occasional failure or awkward experience and learn from it.
Eventually, you’ll get so good at it that you won’t get anxious or nervous at the thought of meeting new people or attending a social gathering.
Work on your posture, eye contact, and handshake
Keep your neck straight, chin up, and eyes forward. You should strive to make eye contact when meeting people. Finally, your handshake should be firm, not weak or overpowering.
When you meet someone, good posture and a nice handshake go a long way in making a good first impression.
Lecturer of Business Communication, Marketing Principles, Social Media
One word: Practice
Some people are born with it, others are not. I envision social skills as networking, in some respect.
In the business world, networking is key and is almost always crucial to one’s success. Being able to strike up a conversation and find things in common can help any business situation.
Within my classroom, I have students practice “mixing” with each other. At the beginning of most class sessions, I give them a prompt.
The prompt can range from what they learned from the specific chapter we’re covering to what they did over the weekend. At the beginning of the semester, most students are timid and shy. Most of them don’t know each other.
Towards the middle of the semester, they are more comfortable approaching a classmate they don’t know and starting a conversation.
I feel that this can be applied to anyone looking to improve their social skills. Get out and talk to people.
Spark up a conversation with a stranger at the supermarket about ice cream or pick up the phone and call a friend (stop texting!). As with most things, the more you do it, the better you will get.
Director, Extrabrains Marketing Agency
By social skills, we understand our ability to interact and communicate with other people.
I would like to suggest some ideas on how to be more sociable and enjoy your interaction with others:
- spend more time being among people of all ages, backgrounds, and interests;
- attend public events, such as exhibitions, parties or concerts;
- try to blend in at events: start conversations, ask questions. Asking a single question often leads to long-term relationships and friendships;
- use non-verbal communication. Express your emotions with body language, don’t be shy to make eye contact and feel relaxed;
- use social media to connect with people that share your interests, follow the news and updates about upcoming events and attend these events;
- somewhere in the middle of a conversation, tell about yourself and don’t forget to ask open-ended questions about your new acquaintance;
- be polite and listen carefully;
- don’t lie. Never. Like, really, don’t. At all;
- don’t try to seem better or smarter, than you are;
- at the parties, talk about music, food, and drinks, express your opinions;
- at work, take part in organized team building activities, incentives, and corporate events;
- to be more social, take part in the planning and organization of such activities whenever possible.
In our business practice, we notice that those who spend more time with their colleagues at work and after work are more productive than those who prefer to avoid interactions and communication with others.
Life Coach, WuWuLife
Dressing your best, cleaning up, exercising will all help boost your confidence.
Human beings love being rewarded whether big or small. So finding social groups that are comfortable is important to slowly build up your social skills and confidence. One can try church groups, hiking groups, gym, social gatherings with friends of friends.
Find your comfort zone and work on improving how you interact with people, but even more importantly your comfort with interacting.
The more comfortable you are, the more others will receive you well because your body language will show.
Creative Director/Co-Founder, HEROfarm
Am I introverted/shy? You bet.
I’ve been diagnosed with social anxiety and take Lexapro daily and Ativan as needed.
Social skills can be difficult to build when you have social anxiety, but there are ways to slowly do so.
I am the creative director and co-founder of a marketing and PR agency in New Orleans.
I have always considered myself an introvert, as I have suffered from social anxiety since my teenage years and generally am more of a quiet, reserved person.
I tend to do more listening than talking. Throughout my life I’ve been told jokingly/sarcastically so many times:
“Stop talking so much”
“You’re soooo quiet.”
“Why don’t you talk?”
“Do you ever talk?”
The weird thing is I come from a family of extroverts. My mom is a 40+ year teacher, my brother just retired from being a prominent news anchor, and my dad a 40+ year radio personality/DJ, and my sister a nurse practitioner.
My dad and brother are naturals in front of the spotlight, but I have always had a tougher time. I can do speaking engagements, but things don’t ever flow as easily for me.
I’ll usually stumble and get nervous. I know most people do, but it’s tougher for me because of the expectations I put on myself because of who my dad and brother are.
I feel it’s like Archie and Peyton Manning playing football in the NFL but Eli not even being drafted. I know every person is different and you’re not supposed to compare yourself to anyone else, but I do.
Sometimes I do feel something is wrong with me. I hate being quiet or anti-social because, for whatever reason, sometimes I feel so social that I want to talk to everyone and be amongst people.
Most people look at someone being quiet as if it is some kind of defect and paints you in a negative light.
I’ve seen a psychologist over this and now take prescriptions, which helps with the anxiety, but I still feel at times disappointed in myself in social scenes.
I want to talk more. I do. But I just don’t. I don’t know what to say or am held back from previous experiences. I don’t know.
Fortunately, my business partner is an extrovert who is a natural people person and can speak fluidly no matter the situation. I don’t know where I’d be without him. He is the perfect compliment to my talents.
Although my business partner is the more out-going/vocal of us two, he pushes me to keep practicing public speaking and being in front of people.
There were times when I’d “kick and scream” to not do it, but I thank him for making me do what I did not want to or think I was capable of doing.
I believe it is best for my overall development to keep working at not overcoming being an introvert, but going outside of my comfort zone and pushing myself.
Will I ever be like my dad, brother or business partner when it comes to being so outgoing and comfortable in public situations? Very doubtful. But can I push myself to never stop improving? Definitely.
Over the past nine years, I have guest lectured for college classes and done many interviews. While there are a few instances where my introvert characteristics overcame me and I felt like I did horrible because I stumbled, lost my train of thought or didn’t get the point across like I’d have hoped — it has helped me come a long way from where I was when we first founded our business.
Overall, I know there is absolutely nothing wrong with being an introvert or having social anxiety.
But I find it is an issue when you want to do and be more, and that’s where the hard work comes in. You just have to keep putting yourself out there and being uncomfortable, because that’s life.
A plant won’t grow if it doesn’t put itself in the sun. And I want others to know it’s okay.
Build your skills by being as active as possible, even when you feel as though don’t want to be
I’ve had many occasions where I forced myself to do something or go somewhere and once it was done I was so glad I had.
Join professional groups and boards, go to events, donate your time to charities, speak at public events, give presentations and guest lectures, and network.
The more you put yourself out there the more opportunity you have to build your skills.
- Eliminate…uh…Words — Sentence fillers can make you appear nervous and unconfident. Remove verbal pollution such as “um” and “uh” from your vocabulary as much as possible to project a polished, intelligent, and on the ball image.
- Now Hear This — Like a rehearsal before the big show, do run-throughs. Practice public speaking by talking with others, anyone, even in line at the grocery, as much as possible and you will more likely be able to adapt to all those unpredictable situations that are guaranteed to surface.
- OMG IDK — Make saying “I don’t know” as an answer a fineable offense. Rather than avoiding a difficult or awkward conversation, just say what needs to be said, directly and straightforwardly. People will respect you for not dancing around the issue and it shows you respect them enough not to patronize them.
Head of Communications, Finder
Start with a compliment, they are an excellent opener
It’s personalized, you have the visual cues right in front of you (a shirt, hairstyle, glasses) and will almost certainly make the other person smile. A compliment also opens up a number of natural conversation pathways that can lead to an interesting, engaging chat.
Set goals at networking events or parties.
If you’re setting a fitness goal it’s not enough to just say ‘run’, you also must set a target to reach towards such as ‘5k’.
Similarly, with social situations, it’s one thing to turn up to RSVP and turn up, but to really push yourself into practicing your social skills, you need to set goals.
This could be ‘exchange business cards with at least five people’ at a networking event or ‘introduce myself to at least three new people’ at a party.
Doing this over time will help you recognize what does and doesn’t work in social situations, improving your skills over time.
Musician | Writer
I didn’t even know I needed better social skills until I started improving them.
And what improved them the most was the incredible advice I got from the Dale Carnegie classes. Because I so appreciate what I learned from them, I always recommend them.
In the classes, I discovered what, for me, was the hardest thing: to talk to strangers, especially in a large public gathering.
I learned from my classes that people mostly want to talk about themselves, and if you show sincere interest in other people and ask them good questions, they’ll talk forever. The best thing is, at the end of the conversation, they’ll think you are the interesting one!
I believe in this advice so much that I taught it to my middle school general music classes. We had a mock “party” where we adopted imaginary personas, mingled with as many people as we could, and practiced both stating who we were succinctly and showing genuine interest in the other people at the party!
I like to think I taught the students something useful that I never learned in middle school.
There were other lessons, too: Don’t criticize, condemn or complain. This is enormously difficult. If done right, it works wonders on one’s social standing.
Marketing Manager, Sandpoint Real Estate
If you’re putting the focus on yourself during social interactions – thinking about how you must sound, look, or be perceived – you can’t enjoy it.
You’ll dread it and eventually begin to avoid social interaction as much as you can. The trick is instead putting the focus on the interaction itself.
Objectively think about the words being said, and what their deeper meaning may be. Respond thoughtfully and don’t feel pressured to speak quickly or as much as your conversation partner.
It shows that you care about what’s being said and that you’re fully present, and in today’s world, that goes a long way. It makes you likable!
By concentrating on the topic and substance of the interaction, you won’t feel as nervous or anxious about it and you’ll become a better listener and conversationalist.