There comes a time in most people’s lives when they are not sure how to behave toward others. When you get into a situation where you feel out of your depths, you need to know how to develop social skills that others take for granted, especially if you are shy. There are certain tricks that help you to do this, and I hope that some of these will be useful to you.
When you are a child, you tend to get more drawn toward people who have the same interests as you. For example, a kid that likes video games is attracted to others who have similar skills. Social skills mean interacting with others. When you know that there are common links, this helps you to become part of the general conversation because you have something to say. However, until you get to know someone, how do you know what those common links are?
Learning to Listen Intently
Finding out about someone is the best way to break the ice. Thus, if you don’t know what those connecting links are, the only way to find out is to do something known as active listening. Active listening means listening to what the person says to such a degree that they know you are listening and interested in what they have to say. This can take the form of:
- Agreeing in all the right places
- Nodding your head to show you are interested
- Looking someone in the eye while listening
For shy people it isn’t easy to do these things, so the things you need to practice are eye contact, regularly agreeing with people, and listening to such an extent that your body language shows that you are actually hearing what is being said. There’s a way that you can practice this at home.
If you don’t tend to react when someone says something important, try to develop your social skills by paying attention to what is being said. Show that you’re interested, even if you usually simply nod your head at the end of what they have said and don’t really pay attention. Look the speaker in the eyes.
This is easy to practice at home because you know that the people in your family are safe and know about your shyness. But what you don’t know is that all of this practice helps you to automatically respond in that way when you are talking to people you don’t know that well. You have the answers to your social behavior available to you in your everyday life so use it every time someone talks to you, and you will find after a while that you do these things automatically.
If you want to know how to develop social skills, there’s no better way than asking questions that need full explanatory answers. Forget about those that ask for a yes/no response and delve a little deeper. That way, you put the onus upon the person that you are with and take the pressure off yourself.
If you want to look for common ground, write down some questions that suit different situations, and that cannot be answered by simply saying yes or no. Some examples of these are shown below:
- a) Tell me about your life
- b) Tell me your worst habit
- c) Tell me about your most embarrassing moment
You will be allowing that person to tell you about things that are fun to talk about and thus breaking the ice between you. Look at the way that you interact with family members because you are familiar with them and there’s no better way to get familiar with someone than by asking questions that delve into their lives and then listening to what they have to say.
The best part about listening is that you don’t have to make a fool of yourself by being overly keen to talk. Thus, you build up your bravado gradually, and by the time it’s your turn to speak, you will have a better idea of what to discuss.
Spotting the Shy Girl
You can always tell when a girl is as shy as you are. She may be set apart from the rest of the crowd. She may be sitting alone, or she may be the one who isn’t dancing when all her friends appear to be. If you do spot the shy girl, you may even recognize the body language of someone who feels socially inadequate, and it’s not a bad thing to go over and say “hi” but don’t put any pressure on her. Simply use small talk to get to know her a little better. Here are some phrases that may help you to break the ice with her:
- 1) I see you are enjoying this party as much as me (add a smile)
- 2) A pretty girl like you shouldn’t be sitting all alone
- 3) I can see you are as shy as me – can I join you?
The Importance of Small Talk
You may not think that you know how to develop your social skills, but if you have made any friendships in your life, you’re not as socially inadequate as you may think. However, you do need to work on small talk because it provides you with a bridge between you and a stranger.
That bridge opens up the potential of a friendship or a relationship. Since you are shy, chances are that you are very observant because shy people tend to stand in the shadows and you can develop your social skills by merely observing and joining the small talk when there is a gap in the conversation or when people are talking about something that you are interested in.
You don’t have to think you are clumsy. No one is expecting anything when they are at the small-talk stage. They are simply opening up the potential to get to know you better so instead of avoiding that bridge, walk toward it with your shoulders held high and see where it leads you.
Look People in the Eye
One of the best ways to develop your social skills is to look into the eyes of people you intend to speak to. Shy people tend not to look others in the eye because they are embarrassed and don’t like to feel that anyone is looking at them. However, when eyes meet, magic happens. You get to know someone else, and they get to know you, but you needn’t worry. If the person doesn’t turn out to be someone worth getting to know, you have still gained something.
You have gained the ability to use your eyes to send messages. When you can do that, you don’t have to worry too much about being shy. Developing your look using a mirror at home is a good idea. Friends who know you will be happy to help you out and you’d be surprised by how hard some people find it to look someone square in the eyes. The importance of this is that the eyes hold so many messages.
You can tell if someone is angry, afraid, happy, encouraging or telling you lies simply by using eye contact. You can also determine if someone is feeling sad and that makes you a potentially empathetic person. Empathetic people can sense the feelings of others and it helps them to know when to speak and when to sit quietly.
If you observe your own family over the dinner table, you will already know when it’s a bad time to approach your father to ask a favor or to interrupt the conversation between your parents and your siblings. You may not realize it, but what you are learning through observation is how social skills work. You can also observe friends who have more confidence than you, but don’t copy them. Simply see how they make contact with others through body language.
Be yourself but display the kind of body language that is confident, even when you are trembling in your shoes. Shoulders straight, eyes looking straight ahead and a smile on your face all encourage social interaction, so practice these so that you can use them when the opportunity presents itself. You may not know it yet, but the opposite sex is particularly attracted to sensitive men. It means that they are not afraid of emotions and that’s a great way to be.
Observe the mistakes of others and continue to learn from them, just as you did during childhood. You will pick up so many ideas and want to try them out as social interactions present themselves. Above all else, BE YOURSELF, but try to be the best version of YOU that you can.
Shyness should never present hurdles. If you look at opportunities as hurdles, you will trip over them and make mistakes. Tell yourself that these are opportunities and enjoy challenging yourself to talk to others setting yourself small goals and being very pleased with yourself when you tick off those goals as having been tried. Saying “hello” is a massive hurdle to a shy person, but when you get beyond that initial introduction, there is so much opportunity waiting for you.
Stop seeing your approach as being hard and try to relax and think of it as an opportunity to shine. There is every possibility that the people you meet over the course of your life will both please you and disappoint you, so go into relationships with others in a polite and respectful way and value all relationships individually. That way, even though you may be shy, you are also open minded enough to know that strangers present opportunities to develop your social skills and eventually you will be comfortable with the relationships you are able to make.
When the little voice inside you says “I am afraid” talk back and tell it that nothing ventured means nothing gained. You make all of the opportunities that happen in your life, and it’s up to you to let people into your life so that you can develop the social skills that you will need to continue to nourish your life.