One of the Most Valuable Lessons I’ve Learned to Improve Social Skills

improve social skills

Social skills take time to bloom

Today, I want to give some simple advice you may or may not realize. It’s obvious advice, but it took me a while to truly understand it.

But once I did, I felt a lot less self-loathing and stress at my lack of social ability.

It’s just the idea of having persistence and not being down on yourself for not being where you feel you should be socially.

See, if I learned anything, it’s that to improve social skills takes time.

I think a part of me expected to just search for some advice on the internet, read it, and then instantly be able to go out and talk to people better. So I would learn some new technique, go out to try it, but chicken out and not do it. Then I’d feel horrible about myself because I felt like a failure.

But what I discovered is improving socially doesn’t work that way.

You don’t get better by trying once or even five times. You have to persist and do it over and over again until you get better.
 

Start Small for Bigger Results

Also, it’s usually best not to bite off more than you can chew in the beginning. So this might mean not trying to go to clubs and bars to improve social skills. I found those are actually the worst places to try getting better.

Same goes for trying to talk to people on the street. It can be done and I’m not saying it’s bad, but for me that was too hard at first. So taking it slower is usually a better way to go.

In my experience, better places to practice social skills are “warm” social settings like:

  • Interests groups (running, writing, yoga, etc.)
  • House parties (in fact click here for how to do better at these)
  • Group Sports
  • Etc.

Realize It’s OK to Be Where You Are

I guess my point is, the lesson I learned is all of this is OK.

  • It’s okay not to be good socially but to improve from where you currently are.
  • It’s okay to not be as good as the person next to you for now.
  • It’s okay for it to take as long as it takes for YOU.

But you gotta keep at it. It won’t happen overnight.

What I learned is you need to treat improving social skills just like you would approach losing weight or getting better at any skill. I guess it’s strange we forget social skills are learn-able like any other ability, even though “skills” is in the name.

It’s thinking you should be this way or should be able to do what he does that’s the problem. This is a cognitive distortion that causes unwanted stress and ultimately holds you back.

Anyway, pretty simple concept but something I know I had to hear over and over again to have it really sink in. But to wrap up here, I’ll put it in another way through an awesome quote that actually sits on my desk. This way I can see it every day.

“Do not be impatient with your seemingly slow progress. Do not try to run faster than you presently can. If you are studying, reflecting and trying, you are making progress whether you are aware of it or not. A traveler walking the road in the darkness of night is still going forward. Someday, some way, everything will… break open, like the natural unfolding of a rosebud.” – Vernon Howard.

Best of luck to you in your journey to better social skills.

If you’d like some help along the way, be sure to check out my free series on having more to say and building social confidence.

(Photo courtesy of Audreyjm529 via Flickr)

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