Whether introverted or extroverted, we could all stand to handle at least a few social situations better. We might fail to make decent smalltalk, handle a job interview, or just stop being plain old awkward. Regardless of your shortcomings and goals, a few tips and tricks can help you boost your skill set this weekend.
Stop Being Awkward
We’re all a little awkward, and that’s okay. After all, we decide if we do or do not feel awkward and that provides an easy solution to the problem. Basically, you just have to let go.
You can overcome awkwardness with ease by breaking out of your comfort zone. This not only helps you feel more comfortable with a variety of situations, but reduces your overall stress level. The more you learn to handle things you don’t generally like, the more you teach yourself that you can survive them. You can only find that comfort if you make yourself uncomfortable once in awhile. Consider doing a few weird things you normally wouldn’t do each week, or require yourself to confront at least one social fear each week. You don’t want to push yourself too hard right away, but the more you move away from the things that make you comfortable the more you’ll find that you can get comfortable with anything.
Negotiations are a bit of a gamble, but you can improve your odds greatly with the right approaches. First things first, you need to let go of any aggressive tendencies and stop trying to intimidate people. Television likes to give us the impression that this sort of thing works, but it just pisses most people off. Fear can motivate some people to act, but when you want something you don’t really want to take the risk. You want to make friends, not enemies. Friends do you favors. Forego the intimidation tactics and show a little appreciation instead.
On top of that, work on your listening skills. Active listening can improve your negotiation abilities. How does this work? Put yourself in their shoes for a second. If you were talking and the other party interrupted you or appeared to stop listening, would you feel more or less inclined to give them what they want? Listening makes a big difference and it’s easy to do regardless of the quality of your social skills.
Finally, plan in advance. You should write down what you want to accomplish at the negotiation (and why) before you go. This sort of planning will help you keep on point and not shy away from your needs. While negotiations mean you’ll need to compromise, you want to make sure you don’t give up anything that matters to you most.
Nail a Job Interview
Job interviews make many people nervous and interviewers often ask tough, intimidating questions. You don’t have to melt on the floor the moment you get there, or shake in fear the entire time. You can navigate your way through a job interview comfortably by practicing the right body language and prepping yourself in advance.
First things first, learn about negative body language cues for job interviews. In general, you want to avoid extremes like sitting too rigid or too relaxed. You don’t want to fidget or touch your face too often. You want to appear natural and seem relaxed. That puts your interviewer at ease, too. If you have to, fake it until you become it. We can’t just decide to feel comfortable and confident, but we can pretend. After enough pretending, we eventually become what we decided to fake in the first place. This happens easily with body language because you start to develop muscle memories the more you do things. Don’t worry if you don’t change right away—enough practice will make you a pro.
The idiom “practice makes perfect” applies to many other aspects of nailing a job interview. To make sure you arrive on time, take a test drive. To give a great first impression, learn how to smile well and practice walking into a room with confidence. You also want to prepare answers to questions in advance. You can’t prep for everything in advance, but you can bring a few versatile stories you can tell in several situations. The more stories you can tell and the more you can engage the listener, the better your interview will go.
Don’t forget to prepare a few questions of your own. Even if you don’t really want to know anything, it helps to appear inquisitive and request information. That makes you seem interested in the job and employers want that kind of worker. If they end up answering the questions you prepared, you can always ask how they like working for the company. While you might not get a fully honest answer, it allows your interviewer to share information with you on a personal level and can establish a helpful connection.
Handle Conflict Like a Pro
We may not like conflict, but it’ll always find us whether we like it or not. Life becomes excessively frustrating if we never embrace conflict or learn how to deal with it, so don’t shy away from those tougher moments. Face them head-on and with a calm demeanor.
Whenever you engage in an argument and want to have a calm discussion, employ the Socratic method by asking questions. When someone states something like “you did a lazy job on that report,” don’t disagree with them. Instead, ask them why they feel that way. Inquire how they could have done it better. If you feel inclined to provide an excuse, form it as a question as well. Stay calm and keep asking. Sometimes you will have to make statements to avoid sounding weird, but the more you ask questions the more you force a person to think about a specific issue rather than just hurl insults.
While you can encourage a person to think before they speak with questions, you can’t compel them to do much else. You can, however, change the way you approach a conflict so you don’t worsen any tension. First, you need to recognize that you have two problems: your emotions and the situation. You not only need to solve the problem of feeling upset but also the problem that created the conflict in the first place. Although it seems counter-intuitive, venting frustration actually makes matters worse. If you want to feel better, have a calm and productive talk instead of a heated argument.
You want to start with your emotions first and work your way to the originating problem. Keeping yourself calm and giving the other party and opportunity to explain their side by answering directed questions, as previously discussed, can help you get there. Once you feel a little bit better, use that calmness to approach the problem with a level head. If you can keep your emotions in check, you’ll handle conflict like a pro.
Nothing happens overnight, but if you learn the tips in this post over the weekend and practice them for awhile you’ll boost your social IQ in no time. Have a happy Friday!
Photo by Leremy (Shutterstock).