No-one seems interested in my interesting life - how can I do better in social situations?
Penny Bell Says...
My goodness you have been busy in your life! And what amazing things you've done, and are doing! I imagine I would be very interested to hear about your exploits and ambitions! And, as a counsellor, that is my job, to listen as people tell me about themselves. They do this partly because in their day to day life, this never happens. No-one will sit and listen whilst they tell their story. Instead, exchanges of conversation take place between people, called "turn taking". In turn taking, one speaks while the other listens, and then the listener speaks whilst the person formerly speaking listens. When this works well for both parties, it is said that they are exercising "social skills". Social skills are really unwritten but well delineated rules of communication, and following these rules ensures that you will be at ease in any social situation. The primary rule of social skills doesn't involve talking at all - it is,rather, listening, and listening actively. This means that you show great interest in the other person, in every respect of your being. Having an open posture, leaning in, making eye contact are the beginning, and invite the other person in to your world. Your responses to what the person is saying need to signal that you are remaining interested - and your facial expression says "tell me more". Nodding, giving minimal responses such as "uh huh", "ah!" and "mmm" show the person speaking that you are fully engaged. Paraphrasing what the person has said also shows that you are really listening, for example "so, your day ended well, in spite of all those other things that happened?". Asking questions is also part of exercising social skills - open or exploratory questions that require more elaboration rather than a yes or no response. You could engage the person further in conversation by asking their opinion about something else, and then responding with your own thoughts on this.
Can you see there is nothing here about being a witty, exciting, or dazzling a captive audience when it comes to being socially successful, and instead, it's all about listening to others and being interested and empathetic? But don't worry, your interesting life hasn't gone to waste. All those marvellous experiences will have built a wealth of understanding and maturity into the matrix of your personality, making the acquisition and exercising of your social skills just another challenge that you can take by the horns and accomplish!
So next time you’re in a social situation, make sure you are standing or sitting with an open posture, signalling that you are interested in engaging with people. Make eye contact, listen carefully, respond in an interested way, and listen some more. Then, you will be well on your way to being an interesting, socially skilled guy!
Page last updated Jun 29, 2013