Mastering Social Skills: Three Books To Get You Started

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You know those charismatic people who just seem to know their way with others? They always know just what to say and are considered funny. Although a sense of humor cannot readily be taught, the other qualities mentioned above fall under the heading of learnable social skills. The level of your social skills can determine whether or not you’ll land that job interview or get a second date with your crush. For this weekend’s reading, we have prepared three books for you that will help you in gaining and practicing actual communication and social skills.

Social skills
Social skills

Learn to implement social skills

In this article, you will learn how to implement social skills throw those books: How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie, Win-Win Negotiation Techniques: Develop the mindset, skills, and behaviors of winning negotiators by David Goldwich, and The Definitive Book of Body Language by Barbara Pease and Allan Pease.

Dale Carnegie was an American writer and a lecturer. He is famous for his self-improvement books, and his best-known publications are about social skills and public speaking. In How to Win Friends & Influence People, you can learn more about:

  • how to make new friends and increase your popularity,
  • how to be assertive when communicating with someone (that means knowing how to deal with conflicts and keep your relationships smooth).
  • How to become a better speaker and the life of the party.

Through his many personal stories and often very vivid examples from history, Carnegie makes you realize how human connections actually work.

At first glance, it might seem that the tips proposed are cliches, but Carnegie explains them very thoroughly and gives you an informed perspective on them. After every elaborated story, there is an extracted principle to follow.

Ideal for all those who like having clearly structured short lessons to post somewhere as a reminder. One of the greatest tips about getting people to like you revolves around this simple shift: instead of thinking about how you look and feel in front of someone, you should set the spotlight on your interlocutor.

The key is to make them feel important. So, in order to make people like you, you have to express genuine interest in them. Another tip is to smile since that is the most effective non-verbal gesture that says – I like you, you make me happy, I’m glad we’re having this conversation.

Also, it is important to be a good listener and to talk in terms of the other person’s interests. Particularly interesting is the way Carnegie underlines the importance of remembering and saying that person’s name:

Most people don’t remember names, for the simple reason that they don’t take the time and energy necessary to concentrate and repeat and fix names indelibly in their minds. They make excuses for themselves; they are too busy […]

People are so proud of their names that they strive to perpetuate them at any cost. For many centuries, nobles and magnates supported artists, musicians, and authors so that their creative works would be dedicated to them.

While there might be an egoistic subtext to this, it is a fact that most people find that it is pleasant and agreeable to hear their names spoken. Surely, you should not say it too often to make it weird, but instead of just addressing the person with you, try saying their name afore.

They will feel much more engaged in the conversation and perceive you as a much more pleasant person. The person’s name is the sweetest and most important sound to her.

This book will help you learn more about team management, leadership, and human connections in general. It is a quick-read, with many actual examples to help you get a better picture.

In Win-Win Negotiation Techniques, Goldwich presents essential tools and strategies that will make you a better negotiator.  The book also contains illustrations that highlight important learning points:

  • myth busters (crushing statements that other people believe are true and explaining them in a different way),
  • fast facts (useful snippets of information to remember),
  • Aha!moments (conclusions that come from discussions),
  • try-this interjections (advice on how to act in the future),
  • danger zones (words of warning),
  • and star tips (important notes to think about).

This makes the book much easier to use. Besides that, there are interactive moments in the book, such as the self-assessment test. We negotiate every day, whether we realize it or not.

However, only a few people actually know how to negotiate. While the book focuses on the win-win outcome, this result isn’t exactly common in the real world. Sometimes, people forget what negotiation really is:

Negotiation is a way of satisfying your interests, of getting what you need or want. We live in a web of relationships and interdependencies and rely on others to help us. Similarly, others approach us to help satisfy their own interests. Negotiation is the barter system that streamlines these exchanges.

So, while many people think that negotiation is simply an act of bargaining, it’s much more than that. It is a process of persuasive communication and it can be complex.

Goldwich explains five different styles of negotiation:

  • avoiding,
  • accommodating,
  • competing,
  • compromising,
  • collaborating.

The first two styles most commonly occur among people who aren’t comfortable standing up for themselves. They lack assertiveness skills and rarely get their way.

Competitive negotiators look for a win-lose result. Compromising negotiators seem reasonable at the first glance, but they actually take the easy way out. Collaborating negotiators communicate openly and try to win the trust of their opposite side.

Every single style is important and none should be excluded, since different situations require different negotiating approaches.

Win-win negotiators rely on a special cycle:

  • they ask questions,
  • listen actively,
  • empathize,
  • consider what’s been said
  • and explain their side,
  • think in a creative manner and again – they’re back at asking questions.

This book is extremely useful and detailed: you can learn a lot about negotiating tactics and counter-tactics, developing and using your plan b, dealing with emotions in negotiations, the psychology behind it. It is well organized and will open up a new perspective on many things.

Last but not least – The Definitive Book of Body Language! While verbal communication is extremely important, non-verbal communication might be even more of value in creating new relationships. According to Albert Mehrabian, the first impression that we make on new acquaintances is at least half attributable to our body language.

This book deals with all the subtle changes in our body language that give away a certain impression or body language contradictions, which empowers you to notice them in real life and read between the lines when it comes to communicating with someone.

So, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it and act while saying it:

Body language is an outward reflection of a person’s emotional condition. Each gesture or movement can be a valuable key to an emotion a person may be feeling at the time. For example, a man who is self-conscious about gaining weight may tug at the fold of skin under his chin; the woman who is aware of extra pounds on her thighs may smooth her dress down; the person who is feeling fearful or defensive might fold their arms or cross their legs or both.

The „gut feeling“ that something is wrong with someone’s story often comes from receiving body language signals, subconsciously. Fun fact: women are usually better at reading body language than men, because they are more intuitive, which has been scientifically proven, using MRI brain scans.

If you try to read the non-verbal signs intentionally, you should read them in clusters, in a context. There are some universal gestures, but one movement doesn’t always signal the same truth. As the authors said – scratching the head can mean uncertainty but it’s also a sign of dandruff.

So, you have to evaluate them critically and look for congruence.

In this over-400-pages-long book, you will find out the tiniest details about body language and the power it brings, from origins of gestures, categorizations, and cultural differences, to evaluation and deceit signals, most common gestures and the act of mirroring.

Extremely interesting book! After reading it, you might find yourself overanalyzing non-verbal language wherever you go, but definitely worth it.

We hope that you will plunge into these three books to begin the process of improving your social skills.  Each of them is equally important, and reading them all will create a well-rounded body of knowledge that you can put into practice, maybe even at the next party!


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