Social Skills
March 17, 2011 3:19 PM   Subscribe

One of my friend cannot interact with people, he is a loner. He is a really nice guy. How would you advice him to be more social. He says he cannot make a small talk, he is shy and he feels others hate him because he does not talk much.
posted by kirang to Human Relations (16 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Learning small talk, when it doesn't come naturally to you, is the kind of thing that is a matter of practice and confidence. I'd tell him people don't hate him because he doesn't talk much, it's more likely that he's just making himself invisible by not participating in conversation and they're just not noticing him. I would advise him to get one of the many books that discuss how to make conversation read it, and try practicing some of the techniques with his more outgoing friends, or a therapist, who can role play conversations with him. It will seem fake at first, so he'll have to go out and practice with real people until conversation comes more naturally.
posted by lsemel at 3:27 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Getting involved in a group with others of similar interests could be a great starting point. Check out and show your friend that there's a club out there for just about anything he might enjoy. Finding commonality is a great way to overcome inhibitions!

I should stress that your friend needs to want to become more social, or this will end in disaster. If you shoehorn him into a situation he's not self-motivated to deal with, only awkwardness will result. Talk with him about it first, and go with him so he's not alone. And only when he is ready.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:33 PM on March 17, 2011

I used to be your friend. Still a loner, but now I can do small talk without the irritation I felt when I was younger. You might tell him that humans use small talk as a way to get to know each other, and most can't get to the big talk without some preliminary small talk first. The worst topic for me is sports, or what was on TV last night; but you can always find common ground in the weather or traffic/commuting.
posted by Rash at 4:13 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I have been there. Small talk is tough. Some days it's just about all I can do to respond at all when someone asks me how I am. It helps to take little steps. When someone asks you how you are, volunteer a little bit more than the basic information. Instead of "I'm fine", go with "Good, how are you?" Extend it to "I'm great, just spent a weekend visiting family, so that was pretty fun." It takes time, and it's not a ton of fun, but networking/small talk is what a shapes a lot of our world, so it's something that you've just gotta deal with.
posted by specialagentwebb at 4:13 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

It all depends on your friend - do they really want to interact with people? If not, stop reading now.

If so, tell them to get some interests that they can talk to others about - it doesn't matter whether it's watching or participating in sport; going to nightschool and learning something; or even geeky stuff. The important point is that these are interests that they can talk to others about, that they can enjoy.

I went for years with interests that I felt I couldn't talk about to strangers (computer games, cryptic crosswords, and so on), and I was painfully shy for many years - I got some other interests that I could actively talk about to total strangers and it helped me massively. Small talk is crap and most people find it crappy, it's just a conduit for other stuff - find something you can talk passionately about and people will love you for it, even if they have no interest in it themselves.
posted by BigCalm at 4:18 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As a data point I f'love people who don't talk. Most of the people I know never shut up. Tell him there are plenty if folks out there that will find that appealing.
posted by fshgrl at 4:35 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is he an introvert?
posted by carter at 4:54 PM on March 17, 2011

It might be worth talking to doctor about social anxiety.
posted by Chenko at 5:25 PM on March 17, 2011

The Meetup suggestion is a good one. I also think organizing board game nights could also be good. It gives plenty of opportunity to interact with others as well as providing something to talk about. Small talk will be involved, but it won't be the only talking happening.
posted by smirkette at 6:12 PM on March 17, 2011

Goodbye to Shy by Leil Lowndes
posted by John Cohen at 6:12 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I find the *only* way I can be comfortable in free-form social settings like parties is to adopt a specific role to play. Kitchen helper, drink filler, child-minder, player of board/card games... something specific which brings me into contact with other people but keeps my mind in a "you have a REASON to approach these people" mode and gives me a fallback position to drop into when I run out of conversational steam. Maybe that's an angle to work?
posted by Ys at 6:55 PM on March 17, 2011 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: @carter yes he is an introvert. HE is very interested in people and what they do. It is just that he likes to be invisible. I mean he hates personal interaction in day to day things. Once he gets used to some people, he talks very well and shares his knowledge. He is smart. People get shocked with his talks when he does.
posted by kirang at 8:06 AM on March 18, 2011

Response by poster: @chenko HE went to a psychologist. He feels he gets anxious in social set up. HE hates giving presntations. He hates meetings. But he talks very well with strangers.
posted by kirang at 8:08 AM on March 18, 2011

I agree with John Cohen- have him check out It is a nicely written resource and captures a lot of issues from the right point of view. I really recommend it.
posted by aabbbiee at 8:13 AM on March 18, 2011

Best answer: For the practice angle, I'll link to my comment from a few years ago on how I practiced being more outgoing with new people.
posted by sweetkid at 11:13 AM on March 18, 2011

I'm not sure this completely fits, but the Victorian waltz community here in the Bay Area that seems to cater to guys who have bad or non-existent social skills, especially where women are concerned.

You have to learn the skill (dancing), which they teach for 2 hours before each dance for $12, but your responsibilities are limited to very ritualized things. Men's formal clothes are practically a uniform, unless you decide to get costume-y (which is ok, too). You ask if the woman wants to dance. If she says yes, you offer your arm and lead her to the dance floor. You dance. The steps are pre-determined and simple (more simple than modern waltz). After the dance you ask if where you should take her, (and there are only two possible answers- her next partner or the punchbowl) and then you take her there. And that's it! No actual conversation is expected. No improvisation is required.

As a bonus, after a couple dances, people get to recognize you and you're suddenly part of the group. It's chock full of awkward guys (many of whom seem to be engineers, scientists and programmers, just to fulfill the stereotypes, I guess, or maybe it's because there are so many of them in the Bay Area) who are learning to relate to women and generally get along in a more heterogeneous setting.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:22 PM on March 18, 2011

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