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 part of socialization. A set of cultural norms that shapes how people develop and end up communicating. They determine if an individual succeeds or fails in expressing their needs and wants.
Because it is a skill, aka. something that is learned, people will require it at different rates and to different levels of mastery. Individuals are different and so are their circumstances and so for some it will be easier than others.
Regardless, it as said, a skill. It can be learned and mastered. In the following article and articles linked to the topic you will be taught the fundamentals. The fundamentals might seem underwhelming but they are the most important.
Fundamentals will help you through most situations while a tactic will help with only one. An approach with fundamentals is one from a point of confidence, while one with an emphasis on tactics is based on anxiety and control.
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 click 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.
It’s important that you think quantity over quality in this case. 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.
The mere-exposure effect
The odds of us being super charming and leaving an amazing first impression are low. Even if someone is super interested in you, they might be afraid to tell you or 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?
It’s important to not look like a homeless person. Unless you want to make friends with homeless people, in which case it might be a good idea. Like it or not many of us hardwired to judge a book by it’s cover. And we tend to want to read the books with attractive or interesting covers. Attraction and what goes into being attractive is whole another topic that I will eventually cover in another article. In general it might be a good idea to dress like the subculture you most identify with. If you’re into biker gangs it might not be the best idea to dress like a ballerina.
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?
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.
Fear & Failure
It’s impossible to avoid fear and failure. We can reduce them but we can not get rid of them. Fear keeps us alive. Our brain reminding us of our failures is another way to stay alive. Remembering our mistakes helps us adapt or simply not repeat them. Another positive thing about fear and failure is that our capacity to remember our mistakes is limited. We all have a limited amount of working memory. Which means that at any given moment we have a hard limit on the amount of regret we can experience. You can fail endlessly and only recall an infinitely smaller fraction of it.
This is not a moral judgement but a practical one. It is true we could achieve certain relationship goals by being less than honest with each other. But it is not recommended because it is simply too difficult in the long term to be anything other than our authentic selves. We have limited working memories. We can only be aware of a finite amount of information. A lie, takes up 2 slots of information. The true version and the dishonest version.
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.