By Florian Direny || Contributing Writer
In an increasingly virtual world and with the rapid rise of online communication, people are becoming less and less engaged in in-person interactions. A main consequence of that has been a decreased incentive for individuals to polish their conversational and interpersonal skills. In fact, loneliness in developed countries is an epidemic. In the United States, as many as 36% of Americans have been reported to experience serious loneliness, with as many as 61% of young adults being affected (See Harvard Report). Part of the process of making connections and building relationships involves mastering certain minor interpersonal skills that may not be obvious or may be downright counterintuitive, but are nonetheless at the heart of building a successful social life. This article is not about pressuring those who enjoy spending their time alone or are introverted. Some individuals genuinely enjoy some level of solitude and may not be attracted to the perks (and downsides) of an overly social life. But for those who want to better their social skills for professional or social reasons, these tips might be helpful.
The first thing that can help in building relationships or interacting with others is vulnerability. The tendency when engaging in an interaction with a stranger might be to impress them by bombarding them with a list of your accomplishments, achievements, and amazing experiences. Although this is completely valid, overdoing this might lead to them feeling alienated or intimidated. Something that can make you instantly more likable is being honest about your minor shortcomings. Admitting that you have a fear of heights, that you snore in your sleep, that you get anxious when speaking in public, or that you are sometimes liable to procrastination might make you look instantly more human and help you create a bond. This also helps the other person understand that you are not overly judgemental of yourself and that you might be more accepting of their minor flaws as well.
The second thing is listening. Listening intently and engaging meaningfully with your interlocutor can go a long way in helping you create a lasting bond. It is easy to see whether someone is genuinely interested in a conversation or not. Things like nodding and smiling are great but not sufficient. Following up with thoughtful, appropriate questions that show clear understanding of the other person’s point of view is more important. Also, simply validating someone’s emotions rather than trying to explain or address them can sometimes be more appropriate.
Another great tip for being better with people is to not be overly prideful. Conceitedness is probably the single most detrimental trait when it comes to successful social interactions. Not being conceited involves being willing to reach out first without expecting any specific outcome, acknowledging that people may not want to interact with you and not taking it personally, being willing to compliment first when it is appropriate, and taking criticism, and remarks positively.
The fourth tip is to be willing to disagree and to also accept disagreement from the other person. Nothing helps create friendships better than successfully and respectfully navigating a disagreement with someone. Being unwilling to challenge ideas that are problematic or being positive when the situation at hand warrants firm disagreement is dishonest and can be a form of manipulation. In fact, agreeing with everything someone says can make them feel compelled to reciprocate which might lead to an unproductive, superficial, and inauthentic exchange that leaves both parties feeling depleted and unsatisfied. Instead, be willing to disagree and be willing to accept disagreement from the other person.
Some of these tips might work for some but not others. In fact, most of these tips I haven’t fully mastered myself. But based on my observations, people who incorporate these into their interpersonal lives tend to be the most successful socially.
Junior Florian Direny is a contributing writer. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.