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How to Improve Social Skills

Three Methods:Enhancing Verbal CommunicationImproving Non-Verbal CommunicationPracticing in the Real World

Good social skills are a crucial component of leading a healthy, happy and enjoyable life. Studies have proven a positive correlation between social skills and mental health. [1] Improving your social skills is key to becoming more charming, confident and having healthier relationships. Everyone has the potential to improve their social skills with self-reflection and practice. This guide provides steps for successfully communicating and interacting with other people.

Method 1
Enhancing Verbal Communication

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    Be aware of the volume and tone of your voice. Don’t speak too softly or loudly. Aim for a volume that can be easily heard, and conveys confidence instead of aggression.
    • Remember to adjust your vocal volume to suit the surrounding environment.
    • If possible, use the speaking volume of nearby people as a guide.
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    Start conversations effectively. Begin by saying something general, rather than overly personal. Try commenting on the weather, bringing up a current event, paying a compliment, or making an observation.[2] Small talk is not always easy; it can be difficult to think of what to say.Here a few examples:
    • "That's a great hat, where did you get it"?
    • "What's up with this crazy weather?"
    • "I just love the view around here."
    • "Isn't Professor James' class fascinating?"
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    Find ways to extend conversations. After speaking about general issues such as current events, try bringing up more personal topics. Asking questions about family, employment, or beliefs can lengthen and deepen a conversation. Remember that a conversation takes two people, so avoid saying too little or too much. Ask open-ended questions, such as those with "How," "Why," and "What," instead of questions with "Yes" or "No" answers. Here are some ways to extend conversations:
    • "So what do you do for a living?"
    • "Tell me more about your family."
    • "How did you meet the host?"
    • "How long have you come here / done this activity?"
    • "What are your plans over the long weekend?"
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    Steer clear of inflammatory subjects. When engaging with a person you don't know well, there are certain topics you should avoid. In general, these include controversial questions about religion, politics, race, and sexual orientation. For instance:
    • It is appropriate to ask a general question about an upcoming election, but it might be considered inappropriate to ask someone how they personally plan to vote.
    • While it is okay to ask about religious affiliation in broad terms, it would be a bad idea to ask about their church's views on sexuality.
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    End conversations gracefully. Instead of abruptly breaking off a conversation, use smooth transitions. State that you must leave, and make sure to affirm that you have enjoyed the discussion [3] Try concluding with positive statements such as:
    • “I've got to run, but I hope we can talk again sometime.”
    • "Well, I have a bank appointment, but it's been great to chat."
    • "I can see that you're busy so I'll let you go. It was nice to meet you."

Method 2
Improving Non-Verbal Communication

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    Pay attention to your body language. Bodies often communicate messages more powerfully than words. [4] Remember that body language plays an important role in most social interactions. Reflect on the messages you are sending to others through your posture, gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions.
    • If you are avoiding eye contact, standing far away, or crossing your arms, you are likely telling others that you don't want to interact. [5]
    • Adopt a confident stance, smile, make eye contact, stand upright, and uncross your arms. You are now more likely to make a good impression.
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    Observe others in social situations. Watch the kind of body language they use in successful social interactions. Take note of their posture, gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact. Consider how you might replicate or improve upon their use of body language in your own life.
    • Determine the type the relationship between the people you are observing. This is important because the body language between close friends might be inappropriate between strangers.
    • Try taking notes about what you see. This will act as a guide and help you to become more aware of your own body language.
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    Improve your non-verbal communication skills at home. Try video-recording yourself in conversation, and consider how your body language might be improved. Also practice non-verbal communication in front of a mirror. Enlisting the help of friends is another effective approach, as they can provide feedback. Simply remember the basics -- pull back your shoulders, keep your spine straight, and leave your chin up, parallel to the floor.
    • One of the best things about practicing at home is that it is a private and low-pressure environment.
    • Don't be afraid to be silly! Have fun trying out different types of body language.
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    Focus on a simple smile right when you meet people. A smile is the universal way to open yourself up to others, and puts people immediately at ease. And when they are at ease in the social setting, you can feel at ease too. Just focusing on your smile when you meet people will make everything even easier.[6]
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    Practice your eye contact, working on making more and more as you get comfortable. Don't feel like you need to stare people in the eyes, especially if you're uncomfortable at first. Just start practicing. Whenever you think about eye contact, make yourself look at someone for just 3-5 seconds. As this gets easier, you'll find yourself doing it naturally.
    • If you're not right next to someone, look at their ear lobe, or the spot right between their eyes. They won't be able to tell the difference.
    • If you're nervous making eye contact, some social psychologists suggest that you practice on the TV. Put on the news and keep eye contact with the anchor.[7]
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    Spend a little extra time getting ready to feel confident in your appearance. Spending some time to make sure you love your look and feel confident will make all other social settings easier to manage. Developing a hygiene routine, buying a new shirt or pair of shoes you love, and dressing how you want to dress improve self-confidence and, thus, social skills.

Method 3
Practicing in the Real World

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    Locate a place where communicating with an unknown person is acceptable. Some situations are better than others for initiating social interaction. Supermarkets or banks are often poor choices for engaging strangers in conversation, as people generally want to complete tasks quickly and efficiently. On the other hand, coffee shops, sporting events, and community centers can be great places to converse with new people.
    • To meet new people, try joining a group such as an amateur sports league, a book club, or a fitness class.
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    Start small, chatting with service people that helped you out to get started. Ask your barista how their day is going. Thank the mailman as he passes by, and ask a co-worker about their weekend. You don't have to dive into deep, time-consuming conversations right now, just get started small. Remember, there is literally no downside to saying hey to these people. You'll likely not see them again, and these are low-key conversations to practice with.[8]
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    Pick a person who doesn’t look too busy or uninterested in speaking. Approach them without stress, with open body language and an active interest in getting to know them. This often results in a good conversation.
    • Try to be confident when approaching a person. If you are too nervous you may make the other person nervous.
    • Remember to put away your cell phone. Checking your phone during a conversation annoys people, and makes them think you're not interested.
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    Evaluate the results. If the encounter went well, note what you did right and replicate it in the future. If things went poorly, re-examine the situation to determine what went wrong.
    • Did you approach someone who was occupied or who had closed body language?
    • Was your own body language open and inviting?
    • Did you start the conversation with an appropriate topic?
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    Talk to more and more people. Social skills improve through practice. The more you communicate and interact with people, the more skillful you will become.
    • Try not to let negative social interactions get you down. Oftentimes such encounters are not your fault.
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    Join a support group to develop your skills in a safe, comfortable environment. You are not the only one who wants to work on these skills. So why not practice with other people who understand your anxieties? The fact that you want to improve your social skills shows that you are open, kind, and willing to work on your own well-being. Surround yourself with similar people to help you keep growing.[9]


  • For those who suffer from social anxiety and related mental health issues, studies show that group therapy focused on social skills training can have beneficial effects.[10]
  • If you have been diagnosed with a form of social anxiety, consider seeking out group therapy opportunities in your community.[11]


  • Drinking alcohol or consuming drugs may temporarily boost your confidence, but they will not improve your social skills in the long-run.
  • Be careful with physical contact in social interactions. While some people may welcome forms of touching, others may find it inappropriate and even offensive.
  • Social skills are culturally relative. Remember that what you observe as appropriate in Western societies may not be accepted elsewhere in the world.

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Categories: Social Gatherings