by Jeremy Willinger for www.EtiquetteOutreach.com
Imagine showing up at a wedding with an uninvited guest, or bringing up the personal joys of religion at a dinner party full of atheists. Let’s assume our readers would not even consider such gaffes. Still, everybody could stand to polish their social skills. Social awareness actually goes far beyond avoiding offense, and knowing to bring a bottle of wine to a dinner party. It tells us how to make our way through the world and maintain relationships that we hold dear.
The essence of social skills comes down to likeability - the ability to glide happily through life, making everyone who interacts with you feel accepted and special. Good politicians have this in spades. Bill Clinton makes people gravitate toward him because he knows how to make them feel comfortable. An oft-heard observation is that Bill makes you feel that you’re the only person in the room. His attention is total, especially in the presence of certain comely young ladies.
White House interns aside, good social skills means knowing how to pick up on verbal and nonverbal cues, and interpreting/adjusting your own behavior accordingly. Much like the subtle dynamics of crisis management, you would never know you had offended someone with good social skills because they would deftly change the subject.
Emotional alertness and sensitivity are the bases of good communication skills. Being at ease in a social setting also extends to being considerate of others’ needs. Monopolizing a conversation, talking over someone, and interrupting are all signs of underdeveloped social skills.
Awareness and practice of social skills makes navigating the world of business that much easier. From work dinners to chatting by the water cooler, your emotional maturity and integrity are constantly broadcast. People will assess your current status or judge your future potential based on your ability to persuade, amuse, empathize, and socialize with others. No one wants to make deals with someone they do not trust or enjoy; everyone wants to engage with people they respect and who genuinely care about them— and even if they don’t, you would never know.