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The Social Skills Guidebook

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Having A Realistic Idea Of The Effects Of Improving Your Social Skills

Working on your people skills will undoubtedly make your life better if you're currently weak in that area, but it does only go so far:

You may never becoming a super outgoing, confident, social butterfly

Why? Because you may just not be that motivated. You could be the kind of person who's perfectly happy with two very close friends, a healthy romantic relationship, the odd interesting plan on the weekends, and relief from the unhappiness and low self-esteem your so-so interpersonal skills previously caused. Being the fun, charismatic party animal with 50 friends may not do it for you.

I believe if you worked at it for long enough you probably could become super outgoing and confident, but I think your first priority should be getting good enough to get by; to be happy with yourself and your life and eliminate your most painful problem areas. Then, if you want, you can try to go to that next level. There are undeniably benefits to it. But you may never want to get there. Maybe it'll forever remain as a 'should', something that would logically be nice to have, but that your innate character isn't all that interested in attaining.

You'll never become socially flawless or impervious to harm

When you improve your people skills the social world will be easier to navigate, but you'll never become totally immune to its difficulties:

Also, sometimes you'll know you should do x,y,z to act more socially adept, but you won't feel like it. This comes down to being human. No one is going to follow the advice they've read all the time. You may go to a party one day and just decide you're not going to act very social, and that you can accept the consequences. Or you might be in a bad mood and not do what you logically know is ideal. Everyone has days like this, socially or in regards to other things.

No matter how much you improve you'll still occasionally backslide into your old ways

Even if you get to a point where you can handle most social situations without a problem, you'll still occasionally do things like meet a new group of people and come off as awkward and withdrawn. Your thinking may digress into its old negative, unproductive tendencies. You may temporarily forget how to have a proper conversation. Your nerves may inhibit you from doing something you're usually comfortable with. It's not great when this happens, but everyone has their off days. The good news is that you generally recover from these hiccups pretty quickly.

Improving your people skills won't make your life perfect

Say someone reads this site and makes more friends and gets better at chatting to people at parties. That's not magically going to prevent them from having problems with, say, their career going off track, or their car breaking down, or a relative getting sick. Social skills are important and reach into many areas of your life, but there are other factors in play too.

And if you think about it for half a second, you'll easily come up with a few people who have great social skills, but who still have plenty of problems. A way with people doesn't guarantee you'll act in a psychologically optimal manner in other personal areas either. You could be charismatic and self-assured but still be self-destructive, flighty, unmotivated, prone to certain mental illnesses or addictions, pathologically jealous, and so on.

The odd person may also unconsciously assume that if they get their social skills sorted out, they'll somehow become this calm, centered self-help master overall. But skills like impulse control, self-discipline, conscientiousness, and being organized have to be built up separately.

The causes of your social difficulties could be seen as a life-long manageable issue

Some of us just have a natural tendency to be a bit inhibited and anxious. Our personalities might veer towards being too uptight or negative. I think these things will always be with us to some extent. It's kind of annoying, but everyone has some tasks that will always be a little harder for them. For some of us, those difficulties are going to be in the social realm. Our shyness or awkwardness is occasionally going to well up and sabotage us, or make us struggle harder to keep things on an even keel. Maybe on the outside we'll be indistinguishable from anyone else, but internally we'll be working a little bit more, and seemingly simple behaviors will always feel somewhat unnatural to us. We may never experience socializing in the same way as someone who's been comfortable with it since they were five, but we'll stumble through well enough.

I think of it as just being born unlucky in that department. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Maybe someone else is predisposed to being socially astute and confident, but they have a bad memory, anger problems, dyslexia, vulnerability to alcoholism, ADHD, or some other trait that makes certain parts of their life challenging.