10 Ways To Develop and Improve Your Social Skills
Improving your social skills can benefit you in every area of life. Social skills are important because they can help you communicate more effectively and efficiently. As a result, you’re able to build, maintain and grow more meaningful relationships with colleagues, clients and new contacts alike.
Here are 10 ways to develop your social skills:
Find ways to further conversations with friends, family and close coworkers or practice your conversation skills by asking open-ended questions. Similarly, set a small goal for yourself to offer at least one project or business strategy at your next board meeting.
Start developing your social skills in small ways by engaging with people you interact with on a daily basis. For instance, if you are out shopping, you might reply with a question instead of a one-word answer when a checkout clerk asks how your day is going. Similarly, you can find ways to lengthen conversations with acquaintances or practice your conversation skills with long-distance relatives you speak to less often.
Asking open-ended questions can be an effective way to get others talking. It can help by allowing you insight and understanding into your friends, family, colleagues and even your superiors. When you engage with an open-ended question, it can help them feel validated in their thoughts and emotions, and this can have a positive impact on how you build relationships.
Oftentimes, coworkers may appreciate being asked open-ended questions, since it shows you are taking interest in their ideas. Try the following open-ended questions: “How do you feel about…?” “Can you tell me more about…?”
Another step toward developing your social skills is to observe your colleagues. Take notice of nonverbal communication, body language (such as smiling and nodding) and the vocabulary they use to get a conversation going. Consider what makes your coworkers’ social skills effective and engaging. You can refer to these observations and incorporate them into your own communication skills.
Practice maintaining eye contact during conversations. Consider setting a goal to make and hold eye contact for at least three to five seconds each time you engage with someone. You might practice with a close colleague with who you feel comfortable. Let them know you are trying to improve your ability to maintain eye contact. Practice holding eye contact during the beginning of the conversation, when listening to your coworker speaking and while thanking them and closing the conversation.
Equally as important as being able to share your own thoughts is being an active listener. In doing so, you allow others to feel comfortable sharing their ideas and input. Practice your listening skills by maintaining eye contact, using nonverbal communication like nodding when you agree and asking clarifying questions when hearing something you misunderstand.
Building relationships with others can seem intimidating, but it helps to start with developing a relationship with one person at a time. First, find a teammate that works in a similar role as you and invite them to lunch or to have coffee. Having a role or job responsibilities in common can give you topics in common to talk about, but eventually, try asking questions to get to know them better as an individual. As you build more relationships, connect on a one-on-one level with people who work in different areas of the business. This can help you grow your professional network.
Complimenting others on a job well done is a great way to demonstrate friendliness and appreciation of others. They can act as an opening to a larger conversation or ongoing conversation. Be sincere—a compliment that is disingenuous can work against you.
There are many classes, books, podcasts and tools available both on and offline to help you improve your social skills. Try searching for resources based on a specific topic such as body language, networking or active listening. From there, put your learnings into practice.
Staying up to date on current trends, events and news stories can give you topics to talk about with others. Consider subscribing to local news alerts or industry-specific newsletters to have content sent directly to you. As a best practice, avoid controversial topics like politics or religion to keep conversations professional and friendly.
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