Social Skills Checklist
By: Brian Houchin
July 12, 2017
Are your social skills as advanced as you think they are? Having a brilliant personality only gets you so far. Check yourself with the following list.
1. Introduce yourself.
Everyone has certain levels of shyness and insecurity. Stepping out of your comfort zone and up to new people makes you appear assertive, confident and sure of yourself. You’ll be viewed as a highly accomplished “social-interacter” in people’s eyes, and your confidence will likely be contagious to the room. Enter a social setting knowing you’re going to be awesome and have a great time, and you will.
This is a big one. Here’s how:
- Look at the person talking. Looking around or fiddling with your smart phone is rude when someone is trying to talk to you.
- Stop thinking about what to say next. Try to actually ingest what they are saying, pause (it's ok to pause), and then respond.
- Ask related questions. It shows that you’re paying attention and not thinking about something completely obscure or off-topic.
- Limit annoying sounds to show you're listening, like “mhm”, “aha”, “ok” or “yes”. It’s natural, but don’t overdo it; it feels like you’re faking interest.
3. Learn how to accept compliments.
It’s not humility when you try to deflect or disagree with a compliment toward you, it comes across as low self-esteem. Learn how to take a compliment and own it. Just say “Thank you!”
4. Kill a bad mood.
This one resonates with me big time. Research shows that forcing a smile onto your face will actually initiate a positive chemical reaction in your brain that will in turn lighten your mood. Even if you're not wanting to be social but you’re stuck in a social situation, you can make the most of it by deciding to have fun. In other words, “fake it ‘til you make it!”
5. Offer heartfelt compliments.
From time to time, remind the important people in your life how much they mean to you. It’s a little action that goes a long way. Not only will you make them feel spectacular, but your bond with them and their trust in you will grow stronger.
6. Talk about the other person.
People love to talk about themselves. If you’re noticing your interactions are mostly focused on you and your issues, try to begin allotting a portion of the conversation to find out about your listener. It will make you more likable and they will be more likely to want to talk with you in the future. Remember to ask specific questions, not just “what’s new with you?”
7. Be real.
“Pretty good” or “Just fine” are canned responses that often mask how we really feel. Maybe you are doing “just fine”, but being honest or specific about how you really feel will show the asker you’re an actual human with a personality, leaving them with a more memorable and connected impression. Don’t unload the depressing low-points of your terrible day onto somebody who was looking for a more concise response, but be candid and upfront. The other person will likely open up to you in return.
8. Don’t abandon the person you came with.
This may not seem like a big deal, especially if you consider yourself a “social butterfly” who can’t help but flutter around, talking to as many people as possible. Abandonment is a form of rejection, and the feeling that comes from both can be deeply painful and emotionally damaging.
“Rejections elicit emotional pain so sharp it affects our thinking, floods us with anger, erodes our confidence and self-esteem, and destabilizes our fundamental feeling of belonging.” -Guy Winch
This is not to say you should ignore everyone else in the room, just prioritize. Remember to consider the feelings of the person or persons you came with, and your loyalty will not go unnoticed.
9. Just go digital already.
This will upset some people. If you're still refusing social media because you think it will ruin your social life, you may be ruining your social life. Yes, there are people who have unhealthy relationships with their phones, but that’s not the norm if you’re out of high school. It’s not necessarily “cool” to fight against social media anymore, it may actually be hurting your ability to relate to others in an increasingly-digital media-rich society. Depending on your career and lifestyle, you may be fine without a digital presence, but you may also be setting yourself up for social failure. I’ll let you figure this one out for yourself. Remember, some of these are more suggestions than rules.
10. Pick up on the signals.
You can learn a lot about how you’re doing from the signals others are giving you. Here are a few indicators according to writer, Julian Reisinger:
- “Mh”, “aha”, “ok” + seeming absent minded = You are boring.
- Not asking any questions = Next topic please!
- Looking at the clock several times = Please Scotty beam me out of here!
- Looking around the room = All of the above.
- Staring into your eyes and listening closely = You are fascinating! Tell me more!
- Looking at your lips and not listening to your words (at a date) = Please undress me!
11. Look at everyone in the conversation.
Not only will you make everyone feel included and important, but you will influence each listener to remaining attentive to what you’re saying by forcing eye-contact. Nobody wants to be caught not listening.
12. Make someone an expert.
Give people the spotlight by asking questions specific to their field of work or study. Even if you already know the answer to a question, allowing them to show off their know-how in a certain area, not only fuels their ego (thanks to you), but you just might learn something new as well.
13. Accentuate the positives.
Simple but effective: if you notice a new change about someone, be the first to point it out. People, especially women, can invest a lot of effort (and money) into certain features of their life or appearance. Small compliments go a long way in boosting a friend's self esteem.
From a spectator's experience, I can attest to the reality that gossip can be social poison. It doesn’t matter if you think you can trust the person you're telling, it usually comes back to bite you. The more people you spread your negativity to, the more toxic the social punch bowl gets (and you get a reputation as a shit-talker). Eventually, your entire social circle is feeling more disheartened and disgusted than they were when they first got there, and congrats, it’s your fault.
Similar to the previous point, negativity will ruin everyone’s mood, so avoid the urge to constantly complain about everything. You’re depressing everyone; don’t be a Debbie Downer.
3. Making everything about you
It’s okay to assert related points, because it shows you’re listening, but don’t over-do it. And PLEASE don't try to "one-up" the person talking. I don't care if you did eat more hot dogs in Tampa your freshman year, if you're constantly trying appear better or more experienced than everyone else, you'll end up appearing insecure and self-absorbed.
If you need clarification about something someone just said, it’s acceptable, but generally it’s rude. Hold your thought until the other person has completed his/hers. Blurting out your points of you in the middle of someone else’ just shows that you weren’t really interested in what was being said. I don’t care if that’s how your family communicates, it’s not cool in normal life.
5. Using others as an emotional dumpster
Please do not unload on anyone who will listen. Just because people are nice enough to not shut you up when you’re vomiting all of the devastation that is your love life onto them, does not mean that they enjoy hearing about it. It’s important to vent, but save it for a few close friends, and remember to be available to listen to their problems when that time comes.
6. Talking about people or topics others can’t relate to
Don’t alienate members of conversation by bringing up people or matters that leave them feeling clueless or alone. Talk about things that you know are common interests of all participants, so everyone feels involved.
7. Talking too much about yourself
Unless you just went through a breakup or lost a relative, know when to shut up about yourself. I’m not saying avoid talking about yourself at all costs, but there should be a good balance.
No matter how advanced you suppose your social skills are, there is always room for improvement. Hopefully this list will help you become a better person socially, as it has for me.