Learning social skills are no different from learning cooking skills, or handstand skills. It helps to have exposure at a young age, but with time and effort, you can learn, and even master, cooking, handstands, and social skills.
Why do social skills matter?
Most people get along fine with their friends, and don't particularly enjoy the "go out and meet new people and make small talk until you each promise to stay in touch and never actually talk again" game.
That game is dumb. Social skills are important.
Here's the reconciliation:
Social skills can be defined in many different ways, from pick-up artists (ugh) to boiler-room sales guys.
No one wants to be either of those two types, and no one is telling you to do that. Here's my take on social skills:
They can help you increase your impact on the world around you by meeting new people (and building stronger relationships with existing acquintances) and giving them something nice.
That's right. You can serve others with social skills. If you're trying to have a positive impact on the world around you, a great start is by:
- Putting others at ease
- Finding out meaningful things about people
- Being able to help them
Usually, the "help" you can offer is just information. Sort of like I'm doing right now.
"Oh, you have a problem with X? I read a thing about that who had some good advice. I'll email you a link to the article."
Boom. You've helped that person. Easy as that.
I'm shy, and don't like stupid small talk
A harsh read of shyness is "shy people are selfish". Here's why:
- If talking to someone, you force the other person to carry the conversation. (This is draining and not much fun)
- If not talking to someone, you'll never start, so you miss an opportunity to care for them, encourage them, or make them laugh, feel joy, etc.
- If in the same area as another shy person, you'll both be miserable because neither will break the ice.
Like I said - that's a "harsh" read of being shy.
As far as small talk - if you don't like small talk, don't participate in small talk. Guide the conversation elsewhere. You and whoever you are talking to will appreciate it. Once you own the relationship trajectory, you can't complain about small talk, because you're facilitating it.
Social skills will help you grow as a person more than most other skills
We learn from people, either by observation or interaction. You'll get more from both if you are comfortable talking with others in a range of situations and about a range of topics.
If you want to grow as a person, start with how you interact with others. It's a gift that keeps on giving.