Competent communicators report more relational satisfaction (including happier marriages), better psychological and physical health, and higher levels of educational and professional achievement than others.(Spitzberg & Cupach, 2002)
Social skills are a set of culturally learned verbal and non-verbal behaviours. Which means it is a skill and it can be mastered.
In the following article and articles linked to the topic you will be reminded of the fundamentals. The fundamentals might seem underwhelming but they are important and as you learn to use them you will understand why.
All of these ideas are scientifically backed and exceptions do exist but the idea is that if you practice these fundamentals you will eventually become someone who can achieve his or her goals whether that be a promotion, make friends or find a relationship.
Interpersonal communication competence means consistently communicating in ways that are appropriate (your communication follows accepted norms), effective (your communication enables you to achieve your goals), and ethical (your communication treats people fairly) (Spitzberg & Cupach, 1984; Wiemann, 1977). Acquiring knowledge of what it means to communicate competently is the first step in developing interpersonal communication competence (Spitzberg, 1997).
The second step is learning how to translate this knowledge into communication skills—repeatable goal-directed behaviors and behavioral patterns that you routinely practice in your interpersonal encounters and relationships (Spitzberg & Cupach, 2002). Both steps require motivation to improve your communication. If you are strongly motivated to do so, you can master the knowledge and skills necessary to develop competence.
The saying opposites attract is mostly wrong. Humans are wired to gravitate towards comfort and ease and there is nothing easy or comforting about conflict and confrontation. We can assume that because our bodies prefer homeostasis, which is the bodies desire to maintain inner physical and chemical balance. Therefor the smartest way to meet new people is through shared interests.
You want to meet people you can mesh with easily. If you are an artist, take art classes. If you are athletic, join a sports club. If you are brainy seek out the type of activity you might be interested in. Is it political debate? Is it book discussions? Join Facebook and browse local events near you and go to them. Shared interests will help in developing a conversation. It’s easier to talk about something you know and are interested in then there is to talk about something you don’t know nothing about.
The mere-exposure effect
The odds of us being charming and leaving an amazing first impression are low. Even if someone is extremely interested in you, they might be afraid to tell you, maybe they hated your beard or maybe they had a bad day. The things that can wrong and against you are too many to count.
But a foolproof way to make friends is to simply see them over a period of time, multiple times and just giving a friendly hello! Eventually you will simply be that friendly person they see every week. This is called the mere-exposure effect. The mere-exposure effect states that we tend to like things that are familiar. So you need to make yourself seem familiar, easy right?
Base level of attractiveness
Looks matter to the extent that they allow us a foot in the metaphorical door. When it comes to relationships some research shows that people at the very least want their mate to be attractive enough. You don’t need to look like a greek God or Goddess but you do need to at least be “cute” to the person judging your appearance. On the other hand evolutionary psychology research shows that for women resources are more important that looks. Attraction and what goes into being attractive is whole another topic that I will eventually cover in another article. In general women already know this but men should take a mental note that you should probably work harder on your appearance than the average person of your sex.
Physical Attractiveness is Less Important Than We Think
One reason we may not consciously realize the importance of physical attractiveness is that we don’t necessarily want partners who are extremely attractive—we just want partners who are attractive enough. In Dion et al.’s (1972) research, both attractive and moderately attractive individuals were viewed more positively than less attractive counterparts. Similarly, in Griffin and Langlois’ (2006) research, a lack of attractiveness was associated with negative qualities, but only a moderate level of attractiveness was necessary to make one’s associations positive. To interest us, then, potential mates do not need to be exceptionally attractive, only moderately so.Madeleine A Fugère Ph.D. 
Small talk is an important ritual
Get comfortable talking about about simple things. If you are in a school you might make a comment about how you wish that the teacher is captivating, how the weather is nice today or how you think that sweater is really cool. It definitely helps to have a positive demeanour and to smile. But equally important is to refrain from negativity. This includes talking about your own unfortunate past, insecurities and things you might dislike. One of the core tennants in marketing is to be for something and not against something. You do not want to alienate people but draw them closer. Keep up positive appearances until the relationship has evolved enough to survive a negative event.
Sidenote for people who think they are too smart for small talk:
It is not out of this world to think that you might find someone else who shares your passion for big talk, about important intellectually stimulating abstract concepts. However, people don’t know you. First you need to prove to them that you are “normal”.
Don’t be boring
Good conversationalist will either make the topic about you or they will have interesting stories or questions to ask. They will occasionally offer up interesting facts about themselves.
I recommend you create a list of interesting questions to ask and memorise them. It’s also a good idea to have memorised a few short engaging stories to tell people. As for being an active listener and making the conversation about the other person it simply takes practice.
Open ended questions
A bad question “Do you like Ice Cream?”
Because that question leaves little for the imagination. A person might just say yes or no.
A good question “Why do you like Ice Cream?”
A person can get carried away answering that. Is it the texture? Is it the cold? The taste? What about the taste? And Ice Creams come in different shapes, sizes and tastes. Maybe there’s there’s an emotional component to it. A childhood story to it?
Aerobic exercise induces short- and long-term effects on mood and emotional states by promoting positive affect, inhibiting negative affect, and decreasing the biological response to acute psychological stress. Over the short-term, aerobic exercise functions as both an antidepressant and euphoriant, whereas consistent exercise produces general improvements in mood and self-esteem.
Self-fulfilling prophesies may be self-created or other-imposed. Self-created prophecies are predictions you make about yourself. We often talk ourselves into success or failure. For example, researchers have found that when people expect rejection, they are more likely to behave in ways that lead others to reject them (2). So Aaron, who sees himself as unskilled in establishing new relationships, says to himself, “I doubt I’ll know anyone at the party— I’m going to have a miserable time.” Because he fears encountering strangers, he feels awkward about introducing himself and, just as he predicted, spends much of his time standing around alone thinking about when he can leave. In contrast, Stefan sees himself as quite social and able to get to know people easily. As a result, he looks forward to the party and, just as he predicted, makes several new acquaintances and enjoys himself
You are capable of confidence. You might struggle right now to remember as I ask this but can you recall a memory where you had fun, where you felt at ease? Where communication or being charming and funny came with ease? If you can remember just one time. Then that means that you can repeat that experience. I figure I should write another article about confidence. There’s a lot to cover.
As animals we have a stronger reaction to negative events than we do to positive events. An animal who fears something in the bush lives longer than an animal who curiously checks the bush. The moral and social implication of this is that within social interactions it’s important to respect and adhere to social norms. It might seem excessive but if we fail to uphold social norms we might be judged to be abnormal and that obviously is counterproductive.
Using touch to communicate nonverbally is known as haptics, from the ancient Greek word haptein. Touch is likely the first sense we develop in the womb, and receiving touch is a critical part of infant development (Knapp & Hall, 2002). Infants deprived of affectionate touch walk and talk later than others and suffer impaired emotional development in adulthood (Montagu, 1971).
For example, Conty et al. (2016) postulated that eye contact initiates, via self-directed attention, a self-referential mode of information processing, i.e., a heightened processing of stimuli in relation with the self, and that this leads to the enhancement of self-awareness, memory effects, activation of pro-social behavior, and positive appraisals of others. Now, as eye contact seems to trigger positively valenced affective processing and bodily responses, it is possible that these reactions contribute to the advantageous effect of direct gaze on memory, pro-social behavior, and evaluation of others (for reviews of these effects, see Senju and Johnson, 2009; Conty et al., 2016). The advantageous effects of positive affect, in general, on memory, pro-social behavior, and individual perception are well-documented in the literature (Forgas and Bower, 1987; George, 1991; Ashby et al., 2002).
Although longer periods of eye contact may be disruptive for cognitive performance and may lead to gaze aversion (presumably to decrease cognitive load, e.g., Doherty-Sneddon and Phelps, 2005), shorter periods of eye contact could, indeed, trigger positive affective reactions, thus leading to improved cognitive performance and facilitation of social interaction. A particularly interesting issue relates to the possible effects of eye contact on therapeutic change, via positive affective reactions. In the field of psychotherapy, positive affect has been suggested to play a role as a generator of therapeutic change by facilitating cognitive flexibility (Fitzpatrick and Stalikas, 2008).
Quantity over quality
It’s important that you think in terms of quantity over quality when practicing your social skills. It is common sense but populations compose of people who are very different: friendly, aggressive, shy, benign and malignant We have very little control over all the factors that go into relationships forming. The smart bet therefor is to diversify your efforts. Until you start clicking with people that understand you. And that’s what we all want right? To be understood.
- Stevens, B., & Wolfers, J. (2013) Subjective Well-Being and Income: Is There Any Evidence of Satiation?, American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 598-604
- Downey, G., Freitas, A. L., Michaelis, B., & Khouri, H. (1998). The self-fulfilling prophecy in close relationships: Rejection sensitivity and rejection by romantic partners. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(2), 545-560.
- Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB (2010) Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLOS Medicine 7(7): e1000316.
- Spitzberg, Brian & Cupach, William. (2011). Interpersonal skills. Handbook of interpersonal communication. 481-524.
- Ha, T., Overbeek, G., & Engels, R. C. (2010). Effects of attractiveness and social status on dating desire in heterosexual adolescents: an experimental study. Archives of sexual behavior, 39(5), 1063–1071. doi:10.1007/s10508-009-9561-z
- Dion, K., Berscheid, E., & Walster, E. (1972). What is beautiful is good. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24(3), 285–290. doi:10.1037/h0033731
- Griffin, A. M., & Langlois, J. H. (2006). Stereotype directionality and attractiveness stereotyping: Is beauty good or is ugly bad? Social Cognition, 24(2), 187–206. doi:10.1521/soco.2006.24.2.187
- Rozin, P., & Royzman, E. B. (2001). Negativity Bias, Negativity Dominance, and Contagion. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5(4), 296–320. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327957PSPR0504_2