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How to improve social skills

A long time ago, I had a friend who was a total social butterfly. She’d be the one that was friends with the bouncer and got you queue-jumped into a bar or club, and when we got inside, she got us discounted drinks all night.

I looked at her and thought about what it was that she had that I didn’t? The answer, apart from a huge social circle, was amazing social skills.

Now, let me make it clear: It’s not that I didn’t have any of those skills, but no matter how much I tried, mine just weren’t as good.

In NLP, there is a concept known as “modeling”. Modeling, as a principle, says that if someone else can do something, you can do it too.

You choose a model in an area you want to develop further, and really observe this person’s beliefs, thoughts, body language and decision-making abilities to “copy” them successfully.

So I decided to watch my friend, and see what exactly she was doing that made her so popular. What I found simply amazed me.

5 Things I Learned from Miss Popular at School

1# Give yourself a few minutes to relax

Being relaxed is vital in a networking situation. If you come across as tense, it’s not going to go well and you’ll end up feeling worse for it at the end of the evening. Instead, sit down and get a soft drink. Maybe even two.

For example, at a recent networking event, I was really nervous about talking to anyone. I went to the bar and sat down. I sat for about 20 minutes, just calming myself down and taking in the surroundings.

Because I gave myself the time to relax, I was able to project a much better image to the people I was meeting for the first time.

2# Smile

If my social butterfly friend taught me one thing, it was to smile. No matter what the social occasion, she would always smile wholeheartedly that gave her an aura of being approachable and made people want to talk to her.

I have made smiling my mantra. Even when I am tired, or are having a really bad day I still put the best ‘me’ forward by wearing a genuine smile.

Smiling leads to all kinds of opportunities. Now, if I’m out anywhere where there are potential contacts, I always smile. It works.

The last time it happened, I met the PR for a company that I had no knowledge about, and it turned out that we were a good match. I ended up writing a blog post for their site.

3# Bite the bullet

This is the toughest part. You just have to go for it, even if you’re not feeling 100% confident, pretend that you are. Faking it is one of the easiest things to do in this situation, and it usually works.

When I was new on the networking scene, I walked straight up to someone, and asked if she had been to another event that I had attended. She said no, but that broke the ice and led to introductions to other people standing in their group.

The end result? I had a whole crowd of new contacts before the conference had even officially started.

4# Make a good impression

Remember people’s names. This is one of the best and most simple ways to improve your social skills. People like it when you remember who they are.

Throughout university I got away with this by calling people ‘Hun,’ or ‘Honey’ (which makes me feel sick to the stomach when I think about it now). I had real problems remembering people’s names. Especially because I was friends with someone who knew almost everyone in a bar when we went out.

One really embarrassing day in my last semester at university, someone called me out on it. She said to me ‘You have no idea what my name is, do you?’ At this moment I wished that the earth would have just swallowed me up.

From then on I made a real effort to try and remember people’s names. I developed a method to help me remember. I would look for something memorable about their appearance or personality, or use their nationality and then pair it with their name.

For example, ‘Red Rosie’ because when I met Rosie she was wearing bright, red lipstick.

5# Practice makes perfect

Being a pro at social skills takes time and effort. The most important thing is to keep going to events, so that in time it becomes the most natural thing to go up to a complete stranger and say hello. You’ll forget why you were so nervous in the first place!

Do you have any tips and tricks to improve your social skills? Please share them in the comments below!

Image by Angelo González.

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