Probably the greatest gift you can have in life is the ability to get one with other people. We have already written about emotional intelligence and you can follow that up at the link. But this is simply a piece about getting on with others – simple but very important. Some of us are born with the gift; for other our parents teach us how to do it. Unfortunately, some people just slip through the net and they can’t understand why they don’t get on with others. Going through change ,as in life, social skills are invaluable. Happily even later in life you can learn some techniques to help.
You need to be able to concentrate on some one else and in order to do that you need to be relaxed enough to forget yourself. We have provided a simple relaxation technique at the link which you might like to practice for 15 minutes before any really challenging social situation. If you don’t have that much time, then take yourself to a quiet place, take some gentle deep breaths and just think of your favorite place in the world for a few seconds – one more deep breath! Now you are ready for an adventure! Remember when you meet someone that you really do have lots of things in common already. We all share the common human condition. Most of us worry about our health, having enough money our families and what other people think of us. The Dalai Lama thinks of everyone as an old fiend – that way he can relax and be warm towards them! Try it – its very useful skill and well worth practicing.
2. Concentrate on them
Here is this other person, with all their life history, before you! They are an unopened book! There are very few people who don’t like talking about themselves and their interests, if you give them the opportunity. Don’t get too personal too quickly and its a good idea to relate your question to the even. |You can always ask – have they been here before, why have they come, what is their special interest? Parties you can always ask who they know? Concentrate on them, listen to them and then ask a follow up question based on what they just told you – keep them talking! Focus on them not you!
3. Use your listening Skills
We’ve already written on listening skills – more at the link. But briefly – let the other person know you are listening by making ‘I’m listening’ noises – ‘Uh-huh’, ‘really?’, ‘oh yes?’ Feed back what you’ve heard – “So he went to the dentist? What happened?” ! Refering back to others’ comments later on – “You know how you were saying earlier”. Pay attention!
Take an interest in what they saying – try to keep still, make eye contact (but don’t stare) and smile (if they are telling you something neutral or nice and don’t if they are telling you something sad). A fascination (even if forced at first) with another’s conversation, not only increases your comfort levels, it makes them feel interesting. Remember what I said about sharing the human condition – they are interesting – they have a whole life to tell you about!
Rapport is a state of understanding or connection that occurs in a good social interaction. It says basically “I am like you, we understand each other“. Rapport occurs on an unconscious level, and when it happens, the language, speech patterns, body movement and posture, and other aspects of communication can synchronize down to incredibly fine levels. Rapport is an unconscious process, but it can be encouraged by conscious efforts.
- Body posture ‘mirroring’, or movement ‘matching’ – stand or sit the way they stand or sit etc! For example – if they cross their arms, cross yours. But not obviously!
- Reflecting back language and speech - use the same words – if they are talking quietly – you do too. If they are talking quickly speed up etc
- Feeding back what you have heard, as in 3) above
6. Self Disclosure
You need to think about how much to talk about yourself and when. Talking about yourself too much and too early can be a major turn-off for the other person. Initially don’t tell them your family secrets, your politics, your religion, the details of your medical complaints or your divorce. Keep those things for when you know each other a little better. You can talk about the weather (in UK), television, films, the theatre, – ask them what books they are reading. Keep it balanced and in the neutral space – let them take it on to more personal things when they are ready. As conversations and relationships progress, disclosing personal facts (small, non-emotional ones first!) leads to a feeling of getting to know each other.
7. Appropriate eye contact
If you don’t look at someone when you are talking or listening to them, they will get the idea that: you are ignoring them or you are untrustworthy or you just don’t like them. This doesn’t mean you have to stare at them – staring at someone while talking to them can give them the feeling you are angry with them. Keeping your eyes on them while you are listening, of course, is only polite and smile when its appropriate. But note rules vary and eye contact in particular varies between culture.
Remember this is a skill and you have to practice. Do it consciously and do it often. You will find you lose yourself in it and become really interested in the other person and therefore interesting to them. It will become second nature and you will begin to wonder what the fuss was about. Above enjoy your practice and begin to enjoy meeting people.
Good Luck –I would love to hear how you get on!