When a person feels confident, others feel more comfortable around them and communication is much easier. If you are one who feels uncomfortable in social situations, here are some tips to help keep the conversation flowing.
- It is important to remember that a conversation is meant to be a back and forth exchange between two people. It should not feel like a lecture, speech or interview.
- When the other person is talking, pay attention! This may sound simple, but it’s easy to forget if your surroundings are distracting (like when your cell phone rings or your Blackberry is buzzing).
- Demonstrate that you’re paying attention to what the other person is saying. Maintain eye contact, nod when appropriate, and occasionally repeat back what they said, a technique called “mirroring”. People appreciate it when they know you are really focused on what they are saying.
- Try to get the other person to talk as much as possible. You can start by asking open ended questions (“What are your travel plans this summer?”), instead of yes/no questions (“Are you going on vacation?”).
- Say the other person’s name. It’s simple to do, but very meaningful, as people love to hear their own name. It makes them feel acknowledged and remembered.
- Listen before answering. When someone asks you a question, make sure to listen to the entire question before answering, otherwise you may end up giving an improper response. If someone should ask you a question that you would rather not answer, try responding with another question. You can also use humor and/or change the subject.
- If someone asks you what you do for a living, don’t give a one word answer. If you’re a consultant, for example, you might say, “I help small business owners learn how to increase their revenue while decreasing their work hours.”
- Never ask someone, “What do you do?” During these difficult economic times with layoffs, restructuring, downsizing, etc., it could turn out to be a very awkward conversation. Instead, ask something like, “How do you like to spend your free time?”
I have read a plethora of reports, statistics, and studies that state social anxiety is experienced by 50 to 90% of people attending networking, business, and extended family functions. The best social solution I have found to quell social anxiety, is to go to an event with the intention of putting another person at ease. Take the focus off of yourself and place it on enhancing the other person’s social ease and confidence.
When we think and act beyond our own needs, hopes, and wants… we glean vast rewards. I think this works for just about everything in life, putting value, time, and energy into other people, yields magical results for all that all are involved.
Stretching to put more kindness and compassion out there is like planting a tree. It takes time, money, and work to plant a tree. We tell ourselves we are giving the tree life and helping the environment… yet, the rewards of planting that tree are 10 fold. It brings shade on a hot sunny day. Comfort and shelter for beautiful birds to live, sing, and nest. Adventure for our children as they climb the strong branches for views far and wide that can’t be seen from the ground. The goodness comes back to us in multiple forms.
Don’t get discouraged if you can’t remember every suggestion, just focus on being kind, considerate, and respectful toward others and you can’t go wrong.