When thinking about skills, those of a social nature probably aren’t the first that come to mind. Yet, these types of skills are highly valued among employers and are just as important as any technical skill to your success on the job. They are the so-called soft skills – the ability to persuade and work with others, to communicate and work in a team. They can be learned and improved just like any other skills.
Here are some ways to work on and enhance your social skills.
1. Put yourself in social situations
That means basically getting out of the house and not allowing yourself to become isolated. Volunteering is a good way to engage socially, as is joining professional and community organizations. This is especially helpful if you are a more introverted personality. As you engage more, it will become easier.
2. Don’t overthink it
Often, in our social interactions we become too self-conscious, constantly ruminating about what we are going to say, worried about how it will be received and what kind of impression it will make. We simply think too much, instead of simply enjoying the moment and going with the flow, so to speak.
Good social interaction isn’t about being witty or erudite or trying to impress people. It’s more about creating an easy and comfortable atmosphere of good feeling and camaraderie. It is about smiling, making jokes, laughing, teasing, telling stories, and sometimes just being plain goofy.
3. The importance of small talk.
Some people frown on small talk as a waste of time, but it is far from it. In fact, it may be crucial to your success on the job and outside it. It takes a high emotional quotient to be able to make small talk well. People relate to others whom they perceive to be like them, so finding areas of mutual interest is a good way to engage in conversation.
4. Body language
This is important in social interactions as well. Making eye contact is a good way to make a connection with others. It shows confidence and a real interest in what the other person is saying. Even posture makes a difference. If you are standing with shoulders slumping, you come across as depressed and uninterested. Stand up straight and gesture with your hands occasionally. Some people tense up in social situations. If this happens, make a conscious effort to relax your muscles.
Most people really don’t do this. Usually, they are thinking about what they are going to say while the other person is talking. They are not listening to understand the other person, but rather listening in order to reply to the other person. Focus not on what you can get out of a conversation, but what you can contribute to others.