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4 Experts Give Their Best Tips to Improve Your Social Skills

You have the pleasure of listening in on four experts give answers to a variety of questions I asked. Get tips to improve your social skills, discover simple body language adjustments to be better with people, and be more compassionate with yourself seeing their own struggles and what they learned.

Each of these unique individuals have impacted my life in some way through what they teach. I’m excited for them to reveal their best tips right here.

Notice similar answers because what is shared clearly matters. Notice different answers because you learn from various perspectives. Then change your behavior otherwise what you learned is not learned.

Leil Lowndes

Leil Lowndes

About: Leil is an internationally recognized expert on dating and conversation skills. She’s written many books on these topics including How to Talk to Anyone, How to Make Anyone Fall in Love with You, and How to Instantly Connect with Anyone. Larry King with Leil’s advice said, “You’ll not only break the ice, you’ll melt it away with your new skills.” I love what she teaches because it’s simple, practical, and effective – it’s what I used to become more sociable.

Q1. I see a pandemic developing in the past 20 years where children struggle to develop social skills through activities and role models. Young people lack solid friendships because connections are formed based on what is liked and commented on. Intimacy is easily avoided as conversation is substituted for connection. Quantity of relationships is favored over quality. This carries through to teenage years, employment, intimate relationships, and into young adult lives. It’s not all doom as forums, groups, and amazing guides exist at the finger tips of anyone who wants to learn how to build good relationships. What do you think about modern social skills development?

You’ve asked an important and multifaceted question, Joshua. I am afraid that, thanks to Facebook and other social media sites, the word “friend” has taken on a new connotation. Unfortunately, other than words which suggest a romantic connection, no word seems to be replacing what people, of my generation at least, think of as a “friend” — someone you know well and who knows you, someone you’ve spent a good amount of time with, someone you would help in time of need and someone that you could depend on. Younger people have much less time to establish these relationships because they primarily know that person in two dimensions – literally (on the computer screen.)

Having grown up with these two dimensional relationships, they are inexperienced at forming deep friendships and don’t quite know how to go about it. Lack of real face-to-face human contact seems to be, in my experience, one of the causes of social anxiety.

I agree, there are forums, groups, and guides to help. But reading something on a website is not the same as experiencing it. And “friendship groups” and seminars which are intended specifically for that purpose are also not “real life.”

Q2. Is it acceptable to approach people in public for conversation? If so, what’s the easiest way to do it?

ABSOLUTELY! It is often difficult but it is a crucial skill and, seriously, so easy once you get the hang of it. At gatherings, I make it a habit to look for someone standing alone, approach them, and say simply “Hi, my name is Leil. And yours?” Then follow up with an open-ended question, something like “what brings you here?” Or “how do you know the host?”

So simple, but it works almost every time.

Q3. What’s a common misconception about making friends?

I would love to hear you your answer on this one Joshua. What misconceptions do you feel exist?

Josh: That you have to be this iconic, interesting, and impressive person to befriend others. Such expectations put what you think your imagined self needs to be to make friends, on an elusive pedestal, which makes you anxious. Yes, you should learn how to be interesting and impress others because there’s a skill set to make friends. Friendship has existed since the beginning of time with people who had no knowledge of complex social skills (useful for fine-tuning relationships).

There’s an “effective minimal dose” of abilities you need to make friends. The best one coming from a question: “How can I be friend right now to this person?”

Q4. What’s the single biggest thing someone can do to get out of depression and loneliness to high self-esteem and a happy social life?

…every time you avoid a social situation successfully, you get a short lived ‘high’ that can be addictive. So avoid avoiding.

For those of us who have suffered clinical depression (I have,) “depression” is a horrific mental condition which needs counseling and medication. Feeling in the dumps and lonely is also excruciating and I think that’s what you’re talking about.

My two answers to this are “force yourself to get out there and mingle.” And “fake it till you make it.” As I said in my book “Goodbye to Shy, “every time you avoid a social situation successfully, you get a short lived “high” that can be addictive. So avoid avoiding!

Q5. What’s the simplest body language adjustment someone can make to become better with people?

When talking with someone, keep things out of your hands so that you can have “open body language” with nothing between you. I liken it to the Chinese feng shui which means arranging a room so people come into it comfortably. With open body language, people can approach it more comfortably.

You can also stand a tad closer to someone because we stand closer to people like and farther from those we don’t. However, if he/she steps back, don’t move in. That means you have arrived at their comfortable body space.

And we both deeply know how crucial good eye contact is. (In Asian societies, as you know, it differs.)

Q6. What’s a piece of wisdom you discovered to help with a struggle in your social life that you wish someone told you earlier? (If you’re willing, share your struggle.)

Wow, I guess the short answer is, again, “fake it till you make it.”

The reason I am so passionate about helping you become a more confident and charismatic communicator is because I know the anguish of not being one. I first became obsessed with communicating when I entered first grade. I was so shy that I clammed up whenever I talked with teachers or other children. My severe shyness, or “social anxiety disorder,” lasted through college and beyond. (Attending an all girl’s high school and university didn’t help much especially when it came to talking to guys!)

About the time I graduated, my mother had a stroke so I came home to care for her and became an elementary school English teacher. I loved the kids but didn’t do much communicating with people over the age of 14! Sadly, my love-life was non-existent.

When Mama died six years later, I decided that at the end of the school year, I was going to leave teaching and, to cure myself of shyness, only work in jobs which put me in constant touch with a wide variety of individuals.

My first job after teaching was extreme immersion in interacting with people! I became a flight attendant for the now defunct Pan American World Airways. Traveling around the world meeting people from every country was a great help, and fabulous fun. I credit airplanes full of people for giving me a lot of the “people skills” I had so desperately craved. But it wasn’t a job I wanted to do forever.

Still craving to be a better communicator, I decided to try something very scary—performing in front of people. Much to my total amazement, I landed a starring role in a Broadway show! But it totally bombed due to my lame performance.

After that, I’d had enough of acting and, craving more travel and connection with people, I became a Cruise Director. Making the same stupid jokes for hundreds of new passengers every week on a cruise ship was the final cure! I could officially say my shyness was a thing of the past.

I then became substitute host on New York’s #1 late night talk show and wrote my first book on communication skills. That led to my second current profession and passion, sharing my techniques with the public as a professional speaker.

Now, every time my audience applauds, a poignant image of that shy little girl floods me.

Every day we can thank whatever God we worship for living in a country and in the times when anything is possible for anyone with a passion.

Q7. Have a favorite quote about social skills and personality development? What is it?

Well, you’ve heard the first one twice now. And the second, I alluded to earlier:

Avoid avoiding at all costs.Leil Lowndes

Nick Savoy

Nick Savoy

About: Nick is President and Program Leader of Love Systems. He’s been on Dr Phil and The Tyra Banks show. I first discovered Nick after he rebuilt the primary company mentioned in New York Bestseller The Game. A lot of what he teaches took me away from being unable to talk to women.

Q1. I see a pandemic developing in the past 20 years where children struggle to develop social skills through activities and role models. Young people lack solid friendships because connections are formed based on what is liked and commented on. Intimacy is easily avoided as conversation is substituted for connection. Quantity of relationships is favored over quality. This carries through to teenage years, employment, intimate relationships, and into young adult lives. It’s not all doom as forums, groups, and amazing guides exist at the finger tips of anyone who wants to learn how to build good relationships. What do you think about modern social skills development?

Clearly there’s a problem. If it were very easy for everyone to have the social life and dating life that they wanted, then there would be no need for Love Systems. But clearly there is, and every day we turn guys who are unhappy or frustrated or settling into men who have the dating and social life that they deserve.

As for the WHY our world is so screwed up – that’s probably a much longer conversation. Every generation complains about the one after them. I think there’s something more fundamental going on here – that our instincts, biology, and deep-rooted culture are not designed for the modern world.

Human biology has not changed much in the last 5000 years, but human society has changed a lot. Our instincts about how to connect with people and how to date are designed for a world where we live in tribes and no one we deal with on a day-to-day basis is a stranger. I wrote about this mismatch in my book Magic Bullets, and why men need to ignore their instincts sometimes if they want to date quality women.

Q2. Is it acceptable to approach people in public for conversation? If so, what’s the easiest way to do it?

Of course. Many Love Systems clients have gotten married to women they approached in public during or after one of our programs. The easiest way to do it is have a default go-to “opener”, understand the secrets of body language (as it affects attraction), and to know where to go next. Usually within the first hour of a Love Systems bootcamp, we have men approaching women successfully.

(Nick opted to not answer the third question.)

Q4. What’s the single biggest thing someone can do to get out of depression and loneliness to high self-esteem and a happy social life?

Taking action, no matter how small, builds momentum… do something.

Remember Lao Tzu “Every journey begins with a single step”. Taking action, no matter how small, builds momentum. The worst thing you can do is let negative thoughts bounce around in your head without addressing them. Get a gym membership, sign up for a Love Systems program, or call some old friends – do something. Action is valuable in itself.

Q5. What’s the simplest body language adjustment someone can make to become better with people?

That depends on what your body language is like now. There’s no one-size-fits all model – when we got two of the world’s biggest experts in body language and social dynamics together, the end result filled 5 DVDs (update: no longer available).

The Beyond Words DVD course has a ton of insights. One that comes immediately to mind is when Derek Cajun said to “move like you’re moving underwater”. It’s amazing what slowing things down does to your presence.

Q6. What’s a piece of wisdom you discovered to help with a struggle in your social life that you wish someone told you earlier? (If you’re willing, share your struggle.)

To stop making excuses and to start taking action. I wasted five years messing around before I got on the right track.

Q7. Have a favorite quote about social skills and personality development? What is it?

I gave you some Lao Tzu earlier, and his stuff is full of great insight. But I’ll go in the other direction for this one, to the Rocky Horror Picture Show:

Don’t dream it; be it.

Henrik Edberg

Henrik Edberg

About: Henrik lives on the West-coast of Sweden and for the past 7 years he has written about improving social skills and happiness on The Positivity Blog. He teaches how to improve your people skills in the Smart Social Skills Course. Check out his post on 10 conversation mistakes for a sample of his solid advice.

Q1. I see a pandemic developing in the past 20 years where children struggle to develop social skills through activities and role models. Young people lack solid friendships because connections are formed based on what is liked and commented on. Intimacy is easily avoided as conversation is substituted for connection. Quantity of relationships is favored over quality. This carries through to teenage years, employment, intimate relationships, and into young adult lives. It’s not all doom as forums, groups, and amazing guides exist at the finger tips of anyone who wants to learn how to build good relationships. What do you think about modern social skills development?

I haven’t done any research into how social skills development has changed over the past decade or two. But one big thing that has happened since I was a teenager (I’m 33 now) is:

It has become easier today than ever before to not confront your own comfort zone…

How much more people interact from a distance. Like online and via cell phones. This does on one hand give people the opportunity to get to know people far away in the world or more easily find others with the same perhaps narrow passion that they have. And the internet does of course make it very easy to find really helpful information quickly that someone in the 1980s might have had a very hard time to get a hold of.

But on the other hand I think that communicating in this distant way and how easy it has become to do so can have a negative impact on people’s social improvement. It has become easier today than ever before to not confront your own comfort zone when it comes to shyness and social skills for example. And that can have a negative impact.

Q2. Is it acceptable to approach people in public for conversation? If so, what’s the easiest way to do it?

Sure, I think so. One way to do that is to simply comment on something in the environment.

Like what kind of cake he or she recommends if you are trying to pick something out in a café.

Q3. What’s a common misconception about making friends?

That you should try to impress them and be as interesting or cool as possible.

Being genuinely interested in them instead tends to work better in my experience and if there is a good connection then they will reciprocate and get interested in you too.

Q4. What’s the single biggest thing someone can do to get out of depression and loneliness to high self-esteem and a happy social life?

To take one small step after another and to not take failure or a stumble too harshly and as a sign that the world is ending. But to get up on your feet again and keep going, step by small step.

By taking action in this way on improving your conversational skills, listening skills and self-esteem you can over time make a huge positive change in your own relationships and life.

Q5. What’s the simplest body language adjustment someone can make to become better with people?

To smile more. A simple smile will relax you and help you to reconnect with positive feelings.

And by doing so the person you are talking to will be more relaxed too and positive towards you from the first minute you meet.

Q6. What’s a piece of wisdom you discovered to help with a struggle in your social life that you wish someone told you earlier? (If you’re willing, share your struggle.)

I used to be quite self-conscious about what to say and well, about just anything in a conversation. I spent too much time in my own head over-analyzing what I should say, what someone said, how I looked, what might happen next and so on.

A great tip and habit I learned that helped me with this was to be more mindful. To be in the present moment fully instead of off somewhere in my head while in a conversation.

A good way to apply mindfulness practically in social situations is to slow down and to focus on your breathing before you step into a meeting or a date.

So a few minutes before you go into this situation slow down. Walk slower to the meeting place. Move slower. Even stop for a minute if you like and stand still.

Then breathe. Take a little deeper breaths than usual and make sure you breathe with your belly. Not with your chest (a common problem when people get anxious).

Focus on just your slow in-and-out breaths for a minute or two. This will calm you down, make it easier to think normally and that singular focus can draw you back into this moment again and what is happening outside of your own head.

Q7. Have a favorite quote about social skills and personality development? What is it?

I love this one by Mark Twain and think it can be applied to anything you may dream of, including better social skills:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.Mark Twain

Barrie Davenport

Barrie Davenport

About: Barrie is creator of the Simple Self-Confidence course and blogger at Live Bold and Bloom. Her passion is in helping others find their passion after she felt unfulfilled in a PR career of 20 years. I particularly like the angle of her words on topics like how to be beautiful and curing a victim mentality that contribute to self-confidence and a great social life.

Q1. I see a pandemic developing in the past 20 years where children struggle to develop social skills through activities and role models. Young people lack solid friendships because connections are formed based on what is liked and commented on. Intimacy is easily avoided as conversation is substituted for connection. Quantity of relationships is favored over quality. This carries through to teenage years, employment, intimate relationships, and into young adult lives. It’s not all doom as forums, groups, and amazing guides exist at the finger tips of anyone who wants to learn how to build good relationships. What do you think about modern social skills development?

I have mixed feelings about it as you outlined in the question. In my work as an online entrepreneur, the ability to connect with people all of the world through my blogs (Live Bold and Bloom and BarrieDavenport.com) and with social media has been amazing. Not only has it helped my business, but also I’ve made some real friends whom I’ve met in person and remained connected with. It is so much easier to share information, find clients, and create partnerships than it ever was prior to the explosion of the internet.

That said, many of the social skills I learned as a young person seem to be lost or irrelevant to the generations behind me. I had to pick up a phone, get in my car, or write a letter if I wanted to interact with someone. Socializing was a face-to-face activity. And conversation was a skill you had to develop in order to build friendships and survive in the business world. I guess every generation feels wistful about the loss of the “old ways” of doing things.

I think the horse is out of the gate in terms of modern social skills. The internet and smartphones are defining a new way of socializing, whether we like it or not. So the question is, how can we maximize this technology in a way that fosters real relationships? And how can we redefine social etiquette and manners using technology? I think this will evolve in the same way people in the early 20th century had to acclimate to the telephone. Change is inevitable, and we must adapt.

Q2. Is it acceptable to approach people in public for conversation? If so, what’s the easiest way to do it?

Yes it is absolutely acceptable in the right circumstances. You don’t want to interrupt someone who is in conversation or clearly focused on something else. And if you’re good at reading body language, you can generally tell when someone doesn’t want to be approached. But the ability to strike up a conversation with strangers is a sign of self-confidence and sociability.

I think the easiest way to begin always is to start with a smile. It’s the universal icebreaker. And then you can open a conversation with a comment about the event, the weather, a question, or an observation. Or you can simply say, “Hi, I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Barrie. It’s very nice to meet you.” Most people are responsive and open to someone who reaches out and makes conversation. I recently wrote a post on this very topic called 30 Conversation Topics to Kickstart Your Speaking Confidence.

Q3. What’s a common misconception about making friends?

I’d say the most common misconception is that all friendships happen spontaneously. Sometimes this is the case, especially when you’re in a situation where you’re around the same people day in and day out (like school or work). But quite often you have to seek out friends and work on building relationships. For a lot of people, this can be intimidating.

Friendships are like gardens. You have to plant the seeds, water them regularly, and pull the weeds before you really enjoy the fruits of a lasting friendship.

Friends don’t fall out of the sky. So if you don’t want to be isolated and lonely, you need to put yourself in situations where you meet new people. You need to strike up conversations, ask questions about the person, and find common interests. You need to reach out to new friends to build rapport and trust. And you need to be an initiator, rather than waiting for the other person to always take the lead in getting together or planning events. Friendships are like gardens. You have to plant the seeds, water them regularly, and pull the weeds before you really enjoy the fruits of a lasting friendship.

Q4. What’s the single biggest thing someone can do to get out of depression and loneliness to high self-esteem and a happy social life?

If someone is clinically depressed, the most important thing they can do first is seek proper treatment with a doctor or therapist. Depression isn’t something to take lightly, and you certainly can’t build self-esteem when you’re depressed. However, if you are simply feeling blue and lonely and somewhat down on yourself, the very best thing to do is take action. Don’t sit around ruminating on how lonely you are or what a bad social life you have. Do something about it. Join a club. Invite people over for a party. Get involved in a volunteer activity. Initiate social interactions and reach out to people. Not only will this improve your social life, but also you will feel more in control of your circumstances which improves self-esteem.

Q5. What’s the simplest body language adjustment someone can make to become better with people?

Look them in the eye. Be truly engaged with them so they feel you are actively listening and interacting. Also, notice when you have weak or defensive body language like crossing your arms, looking away or at your feet, or slumping your shoulders. Body language is the first clue to others about how you are feeling on the inside.

Q6. What’s a piece of wisdom you discovered to help with a struggle in your social life that you wish someone told you earlier? (If you’re willing, share your struggle.)

Don’t use sarcasm when you first meet people. I have a sarcastic sense of humor that some people appreciate and others find off-putting. I’ve learned through experience that using sarcasm with the wrong people can end the relationship before it gets off the ground. Always begin a relationship being straightforward, open, and kind. Save sarcasm for later with those you know enjoy this kind of banter and don’t take offense.

Q7. Have a favorite quote about social skills and personality development? What is it?

You can make more friends in two months by becoming really interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. Which is just another way of saying that the way to make a friend is to be one.Dale Carnegie

Josh: Share in the comments below your answer to one of the questions. We’d all love to hear what you have to say.

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Joshua Uebergang aka "Tower of Power"

Joshua Uebergang, aka "Tower of Power", teaches social skills to help shy guys build friends and influence people. Visit his blog and sign-up free to get communication techniques, relationship-boosting strategies, and life-building tips by email, along with blog updates, and more! Go now to https://www.towerofpower.com.au/free/

Comments

John Hammond
Reply

Hi,

Love the comment about smiling. This is a great body language hack we can use in social situations. Makes us feel positive.

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