Improving my emotional intelligence has been a focus of mine for the last couple years. Part of that involves observing what works and doesn’t in my social interactions and how I feel.
I’ve learned a lot of lessons throughout my reflection, feedback from those better than I, and testing that are worth sharing. These tips may not work for you if you’re outgoing or talk too much, but if you’re like me, they could be what you need. This advice is not set in stone, so don’t take them as gospel truth. Instead, these are things I’ve learned, and they’re subject to change as I learn more about the world.
1. Sometimes, speak up and contribute in group conversations. It’s great that you let people talk and actively listen. Most people talk too much and pretend to listen. But if you never talk, you’ll often be fazed out or seen as invisible.
2. Occasionally, you have to talk over others rather than wait for an opening, especially in group settings. It’s awesome that you’re respectful enough to wait for a pause and let someone finish talking. But often, there never is a gap in conversation for you to chime in. And people will assume you have nothing to say. Some people will fill in any small pauses with their words because they’re nervous or they don’t know you’re waiting for that moment.
3. Awareness and intention are often the first step. Most people don’t know what they’re doing wrong or care about improving their social skills, so they stay stagnant. If you don’t know you’re coming off cold because you never smile or make eye contact, how will you get better? You can observe that in others and improve, but if you don’t care about improving, you probably won’t.
4. In settings where you will bump into people again (work, personal events, etc.), smile, greet people, and show positivity if there’s any doubt what to do. Don’t wait for them. Say something kind rather than nothing when there’s uncertainty or awkwardness, especially when first seeing a person that day. I usually default to avoid eye contact and not saying anything but that’s not the right move. Even if it’s more comfortable or appears safer, you’re better off showing an attempt that you’re trying to be warm and friendly rather than appearing distant.
5. Build rapport with commonality. This one may seem like common sense or gimmicky, but many people fail to do this well or don’t believe it works. People will feel more connected and warm towards you if you draw commonalities, like similar hobbies, cities you’ve visited, or types of food.
6. People sometimes just want to laugh and enjoy themselves. People usually welcome a bit of humor and moments when they can smile. People forget some of what you say but remember how you made them feel at the end of an interaction.
7. Understand people’s baseline behavior. Everyone is different. If you know someone for a while, you may discover that they appear distant or cold at first glance, but they’re really just shy and will talk if you give them a chance. That gives you vital information: this person is not being mean or doesn’t hate me — they’re just shy. Those understandings can help you navigate and communicate with people better. Their baseline behavior will help you infer how they’re feeling. Body language is so important to understand. Everything from their foot movement to their finger movement to their facial expression can give you useful information so you can better understand their perspective and feelings, communicate better with them, and meet their desires (which can help you meet your desires). The books by ex-FBI agent Joe Navarro have helped me a lot.
Since I like to over-deliver, here are some more tips. I’ll keep adding to this list as I learn more.
Don’t dwell or worry about stuff that’s out of your control. If someone doesn’t like you and you’ve done nothing to hurt that person and you’re proud of who you are and what you’ve done, stop thinking about it.
We all have to compromise to what other people prefer in certain ways to work together, and that is part of life.
You shouldn’t have to change your personality completely or put on a persona to please someone.
If you’re pretending to be someone you’re not to make someone like you, they’ll figure it out eventually.
Say what you want to say sometimes. Dont always hold back since you’ll feel like you missed out.
A fool speaks too many words. Occasionally, listen more than you talk. And actually listen and acknowledge what they said. Don’t just wait for your moment to talk or use what they say to transition into what you want to say.
Make jokes you find funny. Don’t worry all the time about other people’s approval or what other people find funny. Sometimes, it’s good to just amuse yourself. Who cares what they think?
You are awesome and valued even if most people are mean to you or don’t like you.
The world doesn’t owe you anything. Be grateful.
Relationships should blossom naturally. Don’t force it too hard because it won’t work.
You will not staying at home. You have to go out to meet people. (This one’s more of an idea than a black-and-white fact. Yes, you can technically meet people through the Internet and apps, but the point is that you can meet a lot more people if you go out of your comfort zone and meet them in person in gatherings.)
Get feedback from others to identify whats real and what is your own faulty thinking such as you thinking someone hates you because of a slight in behavior and they actually dont
Investigate and come to terms with past trauma that may have caused your faulty or inaccurate psychology or thinking
Take one baby step at a time and just keep making an effort to get better
Surround yourself with people who have a good sense of humor and better social skills and it will rub off on you life will be more enjoyable and you will be happier when you see things with a sense of humor.
You don’t need boat loads of friends to be happy. A few strong friendships is better than lots of shallow friends. It’s normal to have many friendly acquaintances. You don’t have to be good friends with everyone you meet.
Realize that what people appear may not be how they are or what their real intentions are some people look like theyre trying to be the life of the party or don’t care about work when in reality they do it to make others happy rather than to be the star and they may care a lot about work but may just want to inject some humor into their work to make it fun by poking fun at it which may come off as if they dont like it
Some people may look like their life is so great on the outside but the inside looks worse or is a mess
Don’t underestimate your workplace as a place to make your best friends
You can create the culture and camaraderie you want at work or whatever community if you want to
Don’t bend over backwards or start acting unnaturally to please someone or get them to like you because if you do that too much then they control you and your emotions.
Don’t put too much of the responsibility on you to make a social interaction work while some of it is in your control realize it still takes two to dance. If you did what you could maybe it is their issue and you never know what could have caused them to react negatively that has nothing ti do with you maybe they had a bad day
You will inevitably run into someone who doesn’t like you if you meet enough people but don’t worry about people like that. Sometimes, they dislike you for ridiculous reasons. You can’t control that or change it. Move on.
Social skills and emotional intelligence isn’t black and white, right and wrong, or something that can be measured by numbers or a score (despite what tests will make you believe).
Don’t think of yourself as below or above average in social skills. Think about it as being naturally who you are as a personality, amusing yourself, and enjoying your time on earth — and observing what you can well to communicate harmoniously with others.
Keep doing what you like about yourself and discard what you don’t like.
Knowing specifically what you want to improve and work on is half the battle. Most people never take a moment to reflect on what they want to improve or what they’re doing wrong. Whether it is self esteem, dwelling on things, being more vocal, or making friends, choose what you want to improve upon.
Friendship and trust builds over time. Asking people to do something can come from demonstrated performance when they see you would do the same for them.
Sometimes, you have to be the one to actively ask to stay in touch and invite people out to do things. Not always, but usually, if you don’t do it, they won’t. Sometimes, they’re shy too or they didn’t consider it until it’s too late. Worst that can happen is they say no. The upside is that you could make a friend.
You don’t need a lot of (or any) people who like you to think you are an awesome person sometimes just one person who does can be enough.
People are mainly concerned about their own interests, problems, and desires. They think mainly about how things affect them and like talking mainly about themselves. The times they’re actually thinking about or worried about you versus themselves is much less than you think.
Avoid the spiraling feedback loop from hell. This loop is when you misinterpret or interpret someone to be disrespectful or rude to you and you respond by being rude to them. They interpret you as being rude first and be rude back. Both first impressions get worse as you feed off each other to hate each other.
Pay someone respect longer than you normally would, even if they were initially disrespectful. Sometimes, one misunderstanding can turn into a feedback loop of hatred. If they cross multiple repeated behaviors, then you can stop being so respectful.
Social relationships are important. Don’t fall off on that stuff. People regret working too much on their deathbed.
When you say yes to everything, you start having more fun. Pushing your boundaries is always good for you. It teaches you how to interact with more people and be more flexible.
You can form new connections, maybe not lasting but still useful with travel.
Even if conversations dwindle into topics you can’t partake in, you can learn something from them.
It’s not in what you say but how you say it. Be aware of what you’re asking them. Acknowledge their problems and constraints and let them know that it’s okay. You catch more bees with honey rather than tar.
The more positive interactions you have with people (social capital), the more confident you will be when talking about negative topic/experience.
If you rub people the wrong way, they’ll let you know.
Make opportunities to observe someone who you have a problem communicating with to learn.
Show some leniency, but be assertive when necessary. It takes a long time to develop that nuanced, balanced understanding.
People are different. Some don’t have the same values or motivators as you. Speak to what they care about.
A good way to disarm yourself in assertive confrontations is to poke fun at yourself and your values.
If someone is getting difficult, don’t make self-suppositions, ask open-ended questions. Address it in real-time rather than run the risk of something festering.
If you only hang around shy people or spend too much time around them, they will drag you down by making you even more shy. I learned that from my personal experience in middle school. If you hang with shy people, you’ll get less people chances to practice, and they’ll pull you towards what they’re most comfortable doing, which is to run away.
Still, to this day, I feel compelled to reach out to the shy person in the room that isn’t talking to many people because I want to help out. But sometimes they don’t need your help. They can find their own way. Focus on improving yourself to a level first.
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