You can Learn Social Confidence
Social Confidence is a subject that has interested me greatly throughout my professional career. I still remain surprised by how people can look so confident but be lacking in confidence internally. I have also discovered that people can also be wildly confident in certain areas of their life and quivering jellies in others, social confidence being one of them. Simon was just such a person. We met for coffee with Simon looking relaxed and confident in the corner of our designated café. Would anyone have guessed at my mission to increase his social confidence? I hardly think so.
Simon works as a fundraiser for a charity and at work is fearless in pursuit of sponsorship and donations. However, when it comes to socialising and social confidence, he feels like the constant outsider. He confided that he has no idea how to approach people and not a clue what to say to them. Whereas at work he feels totally in control of every interaction, in his social life he is quite the reverse. Two areas gave him particular concern: dinner parties and large social events.
Looking into his past he realised that both his father and his sister were shy and thinks he may have adopted their style of interpersonal skills. I reassured him that these skills, despite genetic inheritance, are learnt just like driving a car. Social confidence is a skill like any other.
He felt strongly that his friends would not be interested in anything he had to say. For the most part they enjoyed different pursuits to him for example football versus visiting the latest exhibition at the National Gallery. When talking about art he was enthusiastic and animated, all lack of confidence gone. Football didn’t get quite the same response. He had a belief that you had to talk and sparkle in every social situation or you had failed. Pretty exhausting and pressurising
I asked him how he might feel if he were in control of his social interactions and didn’t have the pressure to talk and sparkle at every turn. ‘Released’ was the word he used in reply. So below is what I suggested he might do to become socially confident and develop his social confidence.
- To be considered a great conversationalist you may think you have to indulge in permanently witty repartee. Not so. The best way to initiate debate and conversation is to ask questions. It is a change of spotlight away from you and onto the other person. After that all you need to do is to respond occasionally and nod a lot in encouragement.
- As for the content of your questions try the FORE trick.
F = FAMILY
O = OCCUPATION
R = RECREATION
E = EDUCATION
These four areas of questioning work because they represent commonalities. We have all come from somewhere, had some kind of work at some point, had a hobby or pursuit even if it was in the past and we have all had to be educated.
Of course you do not have to ask them in that order. Start with recreation if you are at the opening of a new fitness club or education when at the school reunion. Frankly the content of the questions hardly matters it is the connection you make that counts.
- Treat your next social encounter as an experiment. Move round the room talking to as many interesting people as you can in the time available. Be bold- say ‘you look interesting can I talk to you?’ Be prepared to move on if someone starts to bore you or conversation flags. Thank them for the chat, smile and move. Practising skills like these will raise your social confidence very quickly.
Simon had two dinner invitations for the weekend following our meeting so his challenge was to talk to at least six people at each event. This was the email he sent me after the weekend.
Well, what a weekend I’ve had!
Friday evening – Round at a friend’s house to watch the footie. I spoke to everyone using FORE and even managed some sort of conversation with the kids (a bit of a breakthrough). It was useful that one of the most gregarious and vocal of the group wasn’t there so I could get a word in edgeways, but none the less, I believe I would have held my own.
Sunday evening – out for a meal with our neighbours and I think I did alright. She’s emailed me this morning to say thanks for a lovely evening, so that’s grand.
So far, so good. I am determined to make a concerted effort to keep it up and develop this now. Fingers crossed I can.
You certainly seem to have set me off on the right foot, so very many thanks for your help and advice – I am very grateful.
I’ll keep you posted.
I think that a lot of people suffer quietly with they social confidence and don’t realise that it’s a skill that many people had to learn. At Ros Taylor we help people develop the skills they need to succeed in in their personal as well as professional lives.
The suggestions above are just a few examples of kinds of things you can do to improve your social confidence and skills. It’s important that you combine both skills building and exposure to maximize your growth and learning. Keep in mind that the more you practice, the more natural it’s going to feel. Be proactive and look for opportunities to enhance your social confidence skills!
At Ros Taylor Company, we believe that any manager or senior executive has the potential to become an even more effective leader.
Through a series of monthly sessions or a shorter programme of master classes, Just Leadership TM empowers the talent that already exists within your organisation to develop greater resilience to deal with business challenges and become more innovative in their approach to problem solving and inspiring teams.
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