By Gan Ling Lin
Social skills can be defined as how we communicate with each other. Verbal or non-verbal. It is an important skill to have when you step into the workforce. You need this skill when you talk to your colleagues, boss, or clients.
In school or in college, you could get away with sounding a little rude because of your poor social skills. But in the real world, rudeness, even if unintended, can land you in a lot of trouble. One of the causes of poor social skills is social anxiety.
Understanding if you are socially anxious can help you find a solution. You are socially anxious if you are very self-conscious when interacting with strangers. You worry if your action, your words, or your appearance will embarrass you, so you avoid engaging with others. You are terrified of situations where you may be judged, a situation that requires all eyes on you such as public speaking. After your social event, you will think back and analyse all your actions, thinking if you made any mistake, did you accidentally offend someone or embarrass yourself.
Social anxiety can be managed through treatments and medications. If the condition is left untreated it can become more severe and eventually lead to other mental disorders. However, for a mild case of social anxiety, there are ways to cope with it. To start, remember all those negative thoughts you have about people’s negative judgement of you? Those thoughts are entirely false. Unless you purposefully try to insult them, they will not hate you over a little blunder. A quote that I find to be especially useful when dealing with this type of thought is “Don’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice from.”
Whenever I find this thought nagging at me, I remind myself of this quote. I remind myself that I have no intention of impressing this person and the opinion of this person about me regardless if it’s good or bad, serve me no purpose. These reminders have helped me tremendously to stop worrying about the blunders that I made. But what do you do when you have to impress someone, say for a job interview. For interviews, you can prepare beforehand. You can look up interview questions online and figure out your answer. Or you can have your friends conduct an interview with you. Run through it over and over until you have built your confidence.
All jobs, at some point, will require their employee to speak to clients or corporate partners, in other words, strangers that you absolutely cannot offend. To prepare for this, you can seek out a therapist for social skills training, read self-help books, or join Toastmasters. In every career, you need to network. Knowing people of different statuses in your line of work helps open doors for more opportunities. The purpose of networking is to build rapport. The skills needed for networking are listening and asking questions. Asking questions can be exceedingly difficult, especially when you’re engaging in small talk. For this, I will give you two tips: be curious and be interested. Be curious about the person you are talking to, throw out topics until you find a topic you both are interested in. Be interested in what they are saying, ask questions that will get them to talk about it more.
Another stressful aspect of working life is talking to your supervisor. In a medically reviewed article by Arlin Cuncic, founder of the website About Social Anxiety, finding a less threatening way can make communicating with your superior easier. This can be through email or through an appointment. Setting an appointment allows you the time to practice what you want to say, it gives you time to arrange your thoughts.
Social anxiety does not have to be an obstacle for you to experience a good life. It is not an incurable disorder. To treat social anxiety all you need is time, patience, and effort. Taking the first step in treating social anxiety may be daunting, but when you put in the effort, when your social anxiety is gradually disappearing, you will feel as if a weight is lifted off your shoulder. That will be one less stress in life.