Most people who see me speak in public or on camera, or by observing the tone I write with, probably wouldn’t know this about me, but I’m quite introverted.
I like performing and being in front of people, but when it comes to 1 on 1 interaction and social gatherings, I’m actually prone to be more of a wallflower.
Correction, I was prone to being a wallflower.
Being the self-improvement nerd that I am, I decided I wanted to get better at my social skills.
After studying and taking my insights into the field to test them out, here are some of the most effective strategies I’ve used to break out of my shell.
This is a novel idea, but, it’s the foundation of building better social skills.
Are you ready for it?
Ok, here goes.
Leave the house.
You’re not going to get better socially if you don’t actually go out and do things. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a club or bar type of person. Do the things you like to do. Find hobbies, events, and gatherings based on the things you enjoy and you’ll find like-minded people.
Most people who have a desire to build better social skills stay stuck because they literally don’t get out enough. The more you go out, the more comfortable you feel in public environments.
A lot of people make the excuse that they are a “homebody.” While it’s true that introverts gain more energy by being alone and staying home, it’s not an excuse to become so reclusive that your social skills stall.
When your friends invite you to that party, go instead of flaking like you’re prone to.
If you’re at the coffee shop and you see a flier for a cool event, go to it.
Say yes to every opportunity to go out and socialize and it’ll become easier over time.
Social skills have almost nothing to do with thinking. Actually, the more you think, the worse you come across.
All great conversations and social interactions have one thing in common — good vibes.
Your goal isn’t to have the perfect thing to say, but rather to have fun and share positive energy with other people.
Often, introverted people are very logical and rational. If this describes you, focus not so much on what to say, but simply feeling good in your body while you say it. Find ways to laugh. Look for the humor in your interactions. Don’t try hard. Always focus on the vibe.
Some practical ways you can do this are:
When you’re at the register at the coffee shop, chat up the employee. Talk to the people in front and behind you in lines. Talk to anyone in your vicinity at all times.
Again, just with that good vibe.
When I moved to a new city after my divorce, my social skills had eroded to almost zero. Prior to that, I’d spent most of my time with family and very close friends while spending little to no time talking to strangers out going out.
The first thing I did to turn things around was made it a point to talk to random people. It could be as simple as making eye contact with someone and saying “good morning.”
Whenever I’m interacting with retail staff, I make it a point to be over the top nice to them and brighten up their day. In general, I tried to talk to as many people as possible to just send a little ping of good energy their way.
When you start talking to random people you realize a few things:
Along with smiling, there are some other physiological and body language techniques you can use to not only feel more confident and sociable but come across that way.
Try slumping your shoulders right now. How do you feel? Probably like a loser. Now stand up razor straight. How do you feel? Confident, powerful, maybe even like a drill sergeant.
Now stand up straight, but not super razor straight — relaxed. Put your shoulders back a little bit. Now you have expansive body language — confident but also chill.
It seems silly to actively practice things like posture and smiling, but it works. If you focused on those two things alone, you’d be off to a great start.
Others you can work on:
Staying present to the moment, vibing, making eye contact with others, all derive from the premise that you should focus on other people instead of yourself if you want to get better socially.
Anxiety and nervousness signal that you’re only worried about what you can gain from the situation. Try focusing on what you can give to other people instead.
A simple and easy strategy you can use to become better at social skills is genuinely listening to other people. Think of these words from the late great Steven Covey:
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.”
In your need to think of what to say next, you miss out on the easiest way to make people feel like you’re a great conversationalist. Just listen to what they say deeply, pingback a version of that they just said, and keep giving them room to share, and they’ll love you.
When you put the focus on them, you get to practice these techniques that form social bonds:
If you want to actively work on these, the straightest path would be taking a class on social skills or even joining a club. I’m in three different ToastMasters clubs.
I’ve seen people go from total wallflowers who were visibly shaking during their first speech to people who feel quite comfortable both on stage and their interactions with other people.
There are a ton of courses you can take on developing better social skills. People School by Vanessa Van Edwards and How to Talk to Anyone by Ramit Sethi are both great from what I’ve heard — one of Ramit’s business coaching students Sarah Jones runs a dating coach website for men called Introverted Alpha.
Also, you can go to this amazing website that gives you infinite access to all the education you need.
Ready for it? It’s called…YouTube.
I have no shame in admitting that I actively study how to become better socially, both in dating and networking situations. To me, it’s weirder to not work on these things than it is to work on them.
The people who will tell you it’s weird to work on stuff like this…often don’t have the results they want socially.
When you don’t actively work on your social skills you can suffer all sorts of consequences:
This leads to my final and most important piece of advice.
There are two different ways to be yourself.
The first way? Do absolutely nothing to work on your social skills or how you present yourself and expect people to accept you just as you are with zero percent effort — then get mad when they don’t.
The right way? Focus on being your real self, your full self, the self that wants to break out of you.
Our culture has this aversion to actively working on yourself. Why? You wouldn’t just put a product you wanted to sell in bland packaging, would you? So why would you just expect people to just get you when you’ve done nothing to add any value or share those good vibes?
Don’t fall into the “this is just the way I am” trap.
No, you think this version of you is the real you, but it isn’t. Your current version uses all of these rationalizations for not improving. It’s more authentic to work on yourself than it is to do this whole fake self-love routine.
You have a lot to offer the world. I don’t care who you are. You have a gift to give. Working on your social skills, in general, is like creating the wrapping for that gift.
You don’t want to be fake and you do want to focus on being yourself, kicking back, and having a good time, but also understand that social skills are learnable skills you want to get better at so that people can get to know the real you.