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The most essential skill for social success

The most essential skill for social success image

If you are nervous going into social situations, especially if you aren’t familiar with the people who will be there and you don’t know much about them, it is often easy to get so stressed out that you might even have a panic attack! If you are super stressed when you get there, you’re less likely to be able to focus and make decent conversation. Also, if people are trying to connect with you it’s likely you will miss actually seeing their overtures as you are probably too wrapped up in your own anxiety thoughts and feelings. You could end up just avoiding the whole thing, which leads to having to make excuses- and you feeling really horrible about yourself for all of this. So what can you do to help yourself cope with these situations?

If you are faced with a social situation you’d rather not be in, but have to attend, these are many skills you can learn that can make a difference, but there is one among them that will make all the difference!


The magic skill is that of the open-ended question. Let me explain- any question that starts with a who, what, why, where, when, how or how come is going to open up a whole conversation.  In contrast, closed-ended questions are those that start with do, did, have- these all end up with yes/no answers, which is not going to help you. For example, at a wedding: do you know the bride/groom? This is a yes/no. A better option is to ask: how do you know the bride/groom? If the person knows him/her, there’s a space to follow up with ‘How did you meet’ or ‘how long have you been friends/worked together, etc’ If the person answers that they know either the bride or groom, but not the other, you can continue to ask about how they know the person they do, how they met, what they think of the venue, and so on.


It’s important not to interrogate, which can happen when you are nervous and you start firing questions. Allow some space for the person to think before they answer, and keep things moving along with a gentle ‘how come/ or ‘that’s interesting, how did that come about?’


Not all people are chatty, but the open-ended always gives space for a degree of conversation, even for a few minutes. By then you may have relaxed a bit, and the conversation may begin to flow or you may be able to draw someone else into the chat. If all else fails and you need to make an escape, you can still take your new skill with you to the next conversation!


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Get Social Phobia: everybody’s watching, By Dr Colinda Linde- Click here

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