10 foolproof ways to improve your social skills, according to psychologists

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As a child, I was not only introverted – I was 100% shy. In school, I never spoke up.

I was always getting left out of things because I was “too quiet”. 

So, I always felt torn inside. I was, and still am, a friendly person – I mean, I did want to be friends with people! 

But sociable? That, I was not. Social skills just didn’t come naturally to me like it did for my social butterfly sister. 

Thankfully, over time, I’ve managed to build a somewhat decent set of social skills.

It was a long road to grow into the person I am today – someone who loves being alone, but also now enjoys parties and meeting new people. 

Are you in need of better social skills as well?

Wondering how to get to a point where you aren’t terrified in a social situation? 

Let’s turn to psychology for help.

Here are 10 foolproof ways to improve your social skills, according to psychologists: 

1) Be interested

I’m going to start with the one thing that proved to be my breakthrough – realizing that it’s not about me. 

Socializing is about other people. 

You see, I used to worry so much about how I came across or what others thought of me that I was missing the point – genuine connections come from being interested in those around me. 

Psychology says that people like talking about themselves.

That’s good news for the less socially skilled – you don’t have to deal with being in the spotlight.

Just turn it on to the other person! 

Ask questions about people’s lives, their interests, and their stories.

Listen actively. When your focus is on them rather than on yourself, your self-consciousness will just naturally melt away. 

You might not even notice the time passing because you’re completely invested in them.

2) Ask open-ended questions

While we’re talking about getting to know others, here’s another pro tip: ask open-ended questions instead of yes/no ones. 

Think about it – why do therapists always use open-ended questions

“What brings you here today?” “How did that make you feel?” “What do you think about that?”

See how it’s designed to further conversation? The other person can’t just say “yes/no/maybe” and leave it at that.

You can use this strategy in your daily life as well.

It’s a foolproof way to get the conversation flowing and get to know the person better. 

3) Offer sincere compliments

If you’re really unsure of where to begin, give the other person a compliment.

This is a tried-and-tested approach for breaking the ice and starting off on a positive note. 

It’s such a valuable skill that schools often hold activities aimed to train students to give out compliments to others. 

Research states just how powerful compliment-giving is: 

  • It builds relationships
  • It improves communication
  • It motivates people
  • It boosts one’s self-esteem and self-confidence

And let me just add – that self-confidence boost goes for both the giver and receiver. 

They get to feel good, and you get to feel good about speaking up and brightening their day.

And it costs nothing. Win-win!  

4) Create “social” goals

Another thing that really helped me build better social skills was to create goals for socializing.

Like mini-challenges but of a social nature. 

For instance, I’d aim for a brief exchange with a stranger while waiting in line for coffee or at the grocery. Or to introduce myself to three new people at an event. 

You can start small like that, then ease into bigger ones, like inviting a few people over for dinner. 

Why do we need to do some goal-setting? 

Well, because if we don’t, we’re not going to be intentional about it.

And if we aren’t intentional about it, we’d leave our improvement to chance, which can be few and far between. 

It’s bound to feel lonely. 

BetterUp says, “Achieving social milestones is essential to your social well-being.” 

Every time you meet a goal, that’s a social milestone.

And it brings with it a stronger sense of confidence that builds and builds with each little success. 

5) Find people who like the things you like

Do you like comic books? Fountain pens? Woodworking? 

Whatever floats your boat, there’s someone out there who’ll want to float along with you.

And they are an easy way to improve your social skills. 

You’ve already got common ground, so that’s already one hurdle hurdled.

You won’t be fumbling around in the dark trying to land on a topic that can catch their interest. 

So be proactive about it – join clubs or online groups, then meet up in real life.

Your common interest has already opened the door to more conversation, all you need is to go through it. 

6) Be friends with social and extroverted people

Like I said, I have an extrovert for a sister. And along the way, I managed to befriend a few more extroverts, who are still my friends to this day. 

These people have taught me so much in the way of socialization. How? 

Well, as author James Clear puts it in his book “Atomic Habits”, “The key, if you want to build habits that last, is to join a group where the desired behavior is the normal behavior.”

In other words, if you want to be fit, join a gym. If you want to succeed in business, befriend entrepreneurs. 

If you want to be sociable, surround yourself with people who live that way. 

Their habits and attitudes, their confidence and enthusiasm…it will all rub off on you, and you’ll be more sociable yourself.

This brings me to my next point…

7) Join a social skills support group

In the absence of role models around you, there’s another solution – a social skills support group

Yes, isn’t it so great that we live in a time when there’s a support group for practically everything? 

Why suffer in awkward silence when you can have a safe space – a place to practice and refine social interactions without the fear of judgment? 

In a support group, you’re all in it together – rather than feeling embarrassed, you’ll feel understood, and there’ll be a sense of camaraderie. 

There’s the ever-reliable Toastmasters International and local social anxiety support groups.

Some organizations and industries also offer workshops for public speaking or becoming a better communicator. 

There’s always help out there if you need it, so don’t be ashamed to get it. 

8) Be updated on a range of topics

As they say, knowledge is power.

It empowers you to go forth and be more confident

When it comes to conversations, those who know more can have a bigger advantage. 

Having a broad understanding of various topics gives you conversational flexibility.

That way, you have a lot more talking points that can connect you more easily with different people.

You’re more likely to find common ground.

Plus, it makes you approachable and engaging, as people tend to enjoy talking to those who are curious and open-minded.

9) Behave like you’re socially skilled

I’m sure you’ve heard of “fake it till you make it”, right? 

While this isn’t applicable in all situations, it can certainly come in handy for socializing. 

In that case, a better way to think about it is that you aren’t faking it – you’re “practicing” it. 

According to Allaya Cooks-Campbell of BetterUp: “Anything we’re working to master will feel awkward at first. Reframe these changes as ‘working to embody the behaviors for the person that you want to become.’ They may not be habitual, but that doesn’t mean that they’re fake.”

So go ahead and behave as if you’re a pro at talking to people.

Smile, make eye contact, listen, and share a bit of yourself. Even if you’re all scared and trembling deep inside.

And don’t forget to use open body language to appear approachable.

These small gestures send positive signals to your mind, reinforcing the idea that yes, you are socially-skilled. 

Over time, these behaviors will begin to feel more natural until there’s zero faking involved. 

10) Don’t take yourself too seriously

Finally, I’d like to leave you with one last bit of advice that’s really useful for connecting with others – lighten up!

Easier said than done, I know, but this circles back to what I said earlier about shifting your focus outward. 

Wanting to be taken seriously holds us back and gets us all awkward and tense.

No one wants to be seen as “not intelligent enough” or “stupid”.

That’s completely understandable. 

But guess what? That very desire can be what stops you from connecting with others. 

Kendra Cherry of VeryWellMind writes:

“People are generally more drawn to others who can laugh at themselves and not take life too seriously. By making light of your quirks, you can show that you are comfortable in your skin and less judgmental of the flaws in others. As a result, it may help make you more likable and build stronger relationships with others.”

She further adds, “You might also find that poking fun at your own social mishaps can be an effective way to take the awkwardness out of social interactions.” 

The point is, authenticity is absolutely essential in making connections. 

Trust me, people will feel much more comfortable around you when you’re not tense and desperate to appear perfect and polished. 

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