November 25, 2021 by John Cunningham
Social situations can be difficult unless we bring the right mindset and social skills. Here are three ways to do that.
As the holiday season approaches, we will attend more social events than we have in a long time. Whether with friends, family or business associates, we will be in the company of people we may have spent time with in the past, but don’t know all that well. This is a good opportunity to develop your social skills.
You may have worked with Jane in payroll for five years, but did you know she has a cat and spends her weekends trying new recipes? The same can be said of Uncle Bob, who always sits off by himself and usually drinks too much. His business has been slow the last couple of years and he worries every day about making payroll, so he doesn’t have to lay off any of his employees. Family parties are his opportunity for him to put that anxiety on hold, even if it means downing a few too many drinks to get there.
Three ways to engage
Despite being in the presence of these people and many others we often don’t take the time to get to know them, and that’s a shame. You never know who holds the knowledge that will help you grow to your next level of achievement. You can change that by looking for commonalities, showing interest in others, and having gratitude for sharing an experience. Using these social skills will help you to have a more enjoyable time.
Finding commonalities is a good way to break the ice. This may require some detective work or a keen eye towards observation. What are they eating or drinking? How about their fashion? There must be something you can find in common. Then ask them about that.
Starting a conversation is the most difficult part. Don’t worry about being socially awkward. Many of us are. It’s the effort to apply social skills that will help you break the ice that open doors of knowledge and social presence.
Showing interest is a courtesy that one should focus on achieving in every interaction during social gatherings. It is not hard, but it does take effort. If people are shy, you may have to share something to get them to open up. Commenting on the environment, asking questions, and following up on their responses are ways that make the other person believe you are really listening and interested in them are all the tools you need to make a success of casual conversations.
Professionally, this is a good way to build your network. Personally, you may have added to your circle of friends. It’s always good to have a friend in the payroll department. They can help to ensure you meet deadlines for reimbursements or fast-track a change in status. And learning about running a business from Uncle Bob in a more sober moment would have its benefits, too.
These opportunities will be possible if you treat the other person with respect and gratitude for taking the time to converse with you. These types of manners used to be commonplace, but have now been given up for more casual engagements. That doesn’t mean you need to do the same. Using people’s names, looking them in the eye, and paraphrasing their answers are examples of how you can demonstrate you are engaged.
In Japan, they call a good conversationalist someone who is good at catch ball, or playing catch. Playing catch ball means answering the question you are asked and throwing back a related question. By doing this, you can virtually keep a discussion going on forever. This will make the time at a previously perceived as awkward and time consuming social gathering appear to fly by. And you’ll be wishing the evening could continue. That’s usually the sign of a good time.
Succeeding in social situations requires us to be polite. We can do this by showing interest in others and finding commonalities to converse about. Applying these social skills, you may come out of the year with more high quality relationships than you had going in. That’s a great way to welcome in the new year.