How to Get on Better with Other People
Good social skills are important. Not only do they help you to get along with people in business, or working, environments, but building and maintaining friendships is a valuable part of any healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. While some naturally confident people find social interaction easy, many others find interpersonal communication a trial. Sometimes even confident people find that they are not getting on with others at work, or during entertainment activities, and feel frustrated because they don’t understand where they are going wrong with their social skills.
Having a rewarding, or useful, conversation with other people shouldn’t be difficult. Developing a variety of interests will help your social skills. You can then talk about them with new people you meet and already established friends. If you read up on current affairs, or just watch mainstream television programs, you already have things in common with many others which you can bring up in conversation. The weather, or other things happening in your immediate environment, offer fall-back subjects if the conversation is running dry. If you do run out of things to say, people are usually more than happy to talk about themselves.
Actively listening to other people is an important social skill in itself, and a very easy one. Ask the other person about their lives and interests. If you listen properly to what they are saying, other questions will occur to you which will help you continue the conversation. Avoid turning the interaction into an interrogation, however. If the other person seems uncomfortable elaborating on certain topics, or you are firing questions at them non-stop, it may be time to let the conversation rest. Don’t be afraid of short silences and of giving the other person time to start directing the dialogue. Pauses are a natural part of any conversation and learning to let them happen naturally is a valuable social skill.
If you are a confident person, but feel that others do not understand you, or dislike you, perhaps you are coming over as too pushy and unable to see other people's points of view. Recognizing that other people’s opinions are as equally valid as your own is important to your social skills. It is fine to discuss differing views, but to insist that your way is the only correct way to see things is arrogant and likely to alienate other people.
Over-confident people often make the mistake of talking too much about themselves. They don’t think to ask the other person anything about their lives, interests or feelings. Take stock of how you are interacting with others. Notice whether you seem to be boring them with long tales of your own achievements, or discussions of your own interests, and take steps to ensure that you also allow them some input into the conversation. Showing an interest in others is a vital social skill if you want to come across well.
You may feel that you are reasonably good at finding things to talk about and at showing an interest in other people, but still find that you are not making rewarding connections. It may be that you are giving out the wrong signals physically. Body language is a large part of how we come across and displaying good body language is an important social skill.
Maintaining eye contact for long enough periods is essential, or it can look like you are not interested in the other person. Lack of eye contact can also give the impression of dishonesty, making others feel that you have something to hide. A useful trick, if you find it difficult to look people in the eye for any length of time, is to focus on the spot between their eyes. They won’t notice that you are not looking them directly in the eye and it can be easier for shy people to concentrate on this area.
Bodily positions have also been found to form a large part of the impression we give out to other people. Closed body language, like when we fold our arms across our chest, or cover our face with our hands, give the appearance of an attempt to protect ourselves and cut ourselves off from the other person. Try to maintain open body positions, like with your arms apart and resting the sides of your chair, for instance. Appear as relaxed as possible to come across in a positive way and avoid nervous fidgeting. A good body language tactic involves reflecting how the other person is holding themselves. Don’t imitate them completely but, if they are leaning forward with interest, for instance, it can come across well to do likewise.
As with any other talent, practicing our social skills helps us to improve. It’s tempting, if you find social interaction problematic and/or embarrassing, to avoid situations where you will need to converse with others. This is counterproductive. You may find it uncomfortable at first, but you should attempt to put yourself in as many social situations as possible. Eventually your social skills will improve. You will probably be surprised as how enjoyable social interaction can be once you are comfortable with it. Join classes, study groups and accept as many social invitations as possible. Over time you should find that you enjoy each social occasion more until you truly feel like one of the gang!