“Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it” – Robert Frost
Have you ever come across people who just keep talking even though they may be completely ineffective? They are the ones who are only interested in them and are completely oblivious to how they may be coming across to others. In fact, if you happen to be standing next to them all you hear amongst the zillions of words they are pouring out is, “me, me, me, me, me”, “look at me, listen to me and be like me”!
At the other end of the spectrum we have people who have something valuable to say but just can’t because they are too shy or inhibited! And somewhere between these two polar opposites are those who communicate and connect with just about every one they meet.
Have you ever wondered what these connectors know about social skills and communication that the other two are completely unaware of? “Connectors create an experience everyone enjoys.” – John C. Maxwell. But how do they do this? Are they naturals or can this be learnt? Well! The good news is that great communication is a learnable skill. All you have to do is master these 6 essential social skills and you can communicate your way to tremendous success both in career and relationships.
- The ability to listen. In the words of James Cash Penny – “The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication, and clear communication is necessary to success.” Social skills are about communication. At any moment, one party is providing communication, and the other is receiving. I am sure you have heard that listening well is half the battle won. But in reality, it takes more than just good listening skills to connect with the other person.
- When you are in listening mode, avoid looking around the room.
- Occasionally nod your head to show that you are paying attention.
- Make relevant comments at the appropriate time to show you are interested in what they are saying.
- Make the other person feel like they are the most interesting person in the whole world.
- Smiling and maintaining proper eye contact. Consider how you act when you don’t wish to speak to someone for a minute longer than necessary. You avoid eye contact and smiling. Correct? Now, if that is true consider what you will need to do to engage in a meaningful conversation with another person? That’s Right! You will do just the opposite, that is smile and maintain an appropriate level of eye contact! Remember! “What people remember most is how you make them feel.” – John C. Maxwell. For starters try this!
- Next time you are in a social situation, strike up a few conversations with others and smile. Look them in the eye. Notice how much better the conversation flows.
- Observe others who find it easy to speak face to face. Notice how they smile and maintain eye contact.
- Feeling at ease in social situations. Some naturally feel completely at ease in all social situations. The rest of us have varying degrees of comfort. When you are anxious, your brain isn’t operating as well as it can. It is harder to be witty and charming when your heart feels like it is going to burst out from your chest. In fact, others can sense when we are anxious and it makes them anxious, too. But don’t worry, because there is an easy solution to feel more relaxed in social situations. Just focus on your breath for a minute or two and the anxiousness will dissipate automatically.
- Knowing how much to share and how much to probe. You have probably come across a few people that share too much, too soon. These same people also ask inappropriate personal questions too soon. The initial stage of a conversation with someone new is best left to topics that are not personal. There are times to discuss personal issues and your deepest, darkest secrets. That time is at least a few conversations down the road.
- Building rapport. In the words of John C. Maxwell –“Tone, inflection, timing, volume, pacing—everything you do with your voice communicates something and has the potential to help you connect to or disconnect from others when you speak.” Building rapport is the ability to connect and move beyond the, “wow what a beautiful weather we have been having today” Rapport is largely unconscious, but there are several behaviors that increase rapport:
- Mirroring the breathing, posture or mannerisms of the other person.
- Using the same vocabulary, volume, tone, and pace of speech.
- Showing comfort and confidence.
- Good eye contact.
- Showing genuine interest in others. Not only will others be thrilled, you will be much more at ease too when you are focused on the other person. It’s easy to avoid feeling anxious in social situations when you are focused on someone else. Ask questions. Ask the other person about things that are meaningful to them. Ask questions that show you are interested and that you care. Know that people always like people, who like them. Maintain the conversation rather than letting it die.
Time spent on developing your social skills is time well spent. Even if you have struggled in the past with your social skills, you can quickly develop them now. All you have to do is master the 6 essential social skills given above and always remember, “If you talk to a man in the language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” – John C. Maxwell