social skills tips / resources?
June 29, 2005 1:48 PM   Subscribe

social skills tips / resources?

im looking for some tips / resources on social skills. what i find for 'social skills' seems to be about 'teaching social skills to children' (read: basic). 'social etiquette / social graces' seems to get books from amazon about how women can attract good husbands and hold dinner parties. im just looking to soak up anything about how to interact with people favourably and maturely. what is polite/rude, the art of conversation, social protocol, finishing school, mentors, anything! hit me!
posted by GleepGlop to Human Relations (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
posted by rocket88 at 1:52 PM on June 29, 2005

here are some issues: if someone smiles at you with a broad smile kind of just to be friendly, do i have to kind of mimic the smile back to them? i obviously dont frown as a response, but i dont exactly have my quick smile practiced. i try to acknowledge their smile with a positive facial expression, but maybe it just looks like im snubbing them. not smiling back. who knows?

another one: i have a habit of studying peoples faces when i talk to them. like watching their mouths when theyre talking to me. is this noticeable? i find that when i just lock eyeballs with someone i feel like im in a stare down with them. and if i glance away, maybe it makes it look like im bored?
posted by GleepGlop at 1:54 PM on June 29, 2005

*shudder* man i just downloaded that in audiobook. i that book must have informed the baby boomer generation. i dont know, i dont like that style. i guess i agree with the negative reviews of that book. kind of how to manipulate people in a transparent, walter cronkite kind of way.
posted by GleepGlop at 1:57 PM on June 29, 2005

People will notice you're staring at their mouths if you're only a few feet apart, but not if you're more than, say, a body length. I'm talking out of my ass, but it has seemed to be the case in my experience.

The question is, do they mind all that much? I personally can't stand eye contact for more than a few seconds either, for the same reason you give -- always seems either confrontational or intimate, never merely polite. People who stare into my eyes the entire time I'm talking make me uncomfortable. It boggles my mind whenever I see two people who don't know each other very well staring into each other's eyes for a whole ten minute conversation -- how can they stand it? Are they about to make out?

Generally, I initiate eye contact every time someone else starts talking, to indicate I'm going to pay attention. I shift my posture towards them. After a few seconds, I'll move my eyes up to their forehead, then maybe glance elsewhere briefly a few times, before moving back into eye contact for another short time. When I'm talking, I usually look away for most of the time (in their general direction, but not at them), and hope it signals concentration rather than boredom or something. When I say something important or personal, I'll make eye contact for the duration of that part of the conversation. I guess you could say I treat eye contact like punctuation marks -- use when necessary or it detracts from the message.

I'm not exactly an expert social butterfly, but that's my method, for however much it helps.
posted by Hildago at 2:09 PM on June 29, 2005

here are my paltry notes on the subject:

- dont be negative/cynical/complain habitually
- generally carry and conduct yourself in a confident, positive way. dont kill the mood.
- for the younger people: dont act coy. no more walking past someone you think is cute but pretending you dont see them walking past you.
- dont be weird or a dork if you want to get laid ever and you are older than 13
- give proper handshakes, hugs. generally conduct yourself as should be expected for your age.
- everyone knows small talk is boring. dont act like its killing you. its about getting past that to bigger talk, or at least not being socially selfish and acting like you cant wait to not be talking to the person.
- conversation can be just about having fun. you dont have to have anything in common. otherwise, it can be a good opportunity to exchange information.

also im thinking of recording my interactions with people for feedback in case anyone was going to suggest that.

on preview: yeah maybe looking down in concentration is better than say, glancing out the window behind them like something more interesting is going on... i find it funny the people that never once look at you. i look around like maybe theyre talking to someone else!
posted by GleepGlop at 2:15 PM on June 29, 2005

If you can't look people in the eye, at least stare at their eyebrows or something. I get creeped out when someone has shifty eyes.
posted by sid at 2:21 PM on June 29, 2005 [1 favorite]

oh yes. be sure to take personal responsibility or whatever you call it. be sure to pitch in, offer to pay your share, etc.
posted by GleepGlop at 2:30 PM on June 29, 2005

The eye contact thing seems to be more common in the US than UK. Coming to US from UK, it freaked me out for the longest time. I kept thinking the other person was sizing me up for a "Glasgae Kiss."
posted by carter at 2:34 PM on June 29, 2005

dont be weird or a dork if you want to get laid ever and you are older than 13

This is vague and perhaps inaccurate. It depends on the company, the circumstance, and the kind of weirdness you're talking about. I love a weirdo!
posted by redfoxtail at 2:57 PM on June 29, 2005

i guess i mean in the immature way. it can lead to immaturity i guess.
posted by GleepGlop at 2:59 PM on June 29, 2005

The Vice Guide to Everything.
posted by driveler at 3:07 PM on June 29, 2005

A point about small talk: it's not a chore. The literal meaning of what's being said is not the full meaning of the exchange. You may talk about the weather, but what you're doing is opening up dialogue and forming the basis of a relationship. Conversation is more than Human Data Exchange Protocol 1.0 -- there's a lot of warm and fuzzy neurochemical stuff going on. Monkeys pick lice, we talk about reality TV.
posted by 4easypayments at 3:28 PM on June 29, 2005 [1 favorite]

i remember reading somewhere (i think it was vice actually) small talk is supposed to go: i give an anecdote, you give an anecdote, we come up with some conclusion about the world, or something. i dont know if it was a joke, are there protocols for that kind of thing? maybe it would clear up the problem of not having anything to say...
posted by GleepGlop at 3:39 PM on June 29, 2005

You have things to say. You've said many things in this thread that were all perfectly good conversation topics (and I'm paraphrasing here...):
- "I listened to "How to Win Friends and Influence People" and I thought it it was hopelessly lame and this is why..."
- "I'm thinking of recording my interactions with people for feedback..."
- "I reading somewhere (i think it was vice actually) small talk is supposed to go: i give an anecdote, you give an anecdote..."

Vice is a funny magazine, but as far as their life-advice goes... I've met people who seem to follow it. And in my humble opinion, they are all dicks.
posted by 4easypayments at 3:51 PM on June 29, 2005

I tend to be a quiet person. I've improved on that somewhat by noticing that when someone told a story, it would often remind me of some story I have, but my internal mental filter then cut in, pointing out that my story doesn't have much to do with the other person's story at all except for one minor point, and/or it's a stupid story, so I wouldn't tell the story, and would just make some generic response instead..

Once I became consciously aware of that, I began to deliberately ignore that part of my mental filter and tell my story anyway. And it generally went over well. Friendly conversation isn't a formal debate; people aren't going to call you on the near-non-sequitur. And your story probably isn't quite as stupid as you think it is.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:12 PM on June 29, 2005 [1 favorite]

Damn if the Asperger's label isn't thrown at anyone these days who doesn't intuitively know where to put their eyes during a conversation, but some Asperger's related material (especially the first-hand accounts) can be really useful for those (like me) who've had to piece together social skills as adults.
Marc Segar's Survival Guide and the books of Liane Holliday Willey and Temple Grandin cover (explicitly or implicity) where to look, where to stand, what to say and more. Also check out's huge page of social skills links.
posted by ellanea at 7:23 PM on June 29, 2005

shift between looking at the eyes and the mouth
posted by malp at 5:56 AM on June 30, 2005

Pay attention to the conversation! I know someone who is smart and interesting in one-on-one situations, but around a dinner table with a group, for instance, he stares down at the table and lets his eyes glaze over (during a not uninteresting conversation). As a result, people ignore him. If you don't keep up with the conversation (you don't have to actually say anything) you'll always be on shaky ground.
posted by scratch at 6:42 AM on June 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

People will notice if you're staring at their mouths. Definitely.

I started reading "Conversationally Speaking" awhile back and have found it helpful.
posted by suchatreat at 8:28 AM on June 30, 2005

« Older temp to perm memory   |   Can I hoard gasoline? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.