Do you have the same desire underneath it all to overcome your fears and learn the skills for becoming a social master?
If so, read on, my friend.
Having a great social life is something many guys wish they had. I used to be one of them – sitting, wishing, waiting. But one day I decided to make it one of my major life goals to learn, from virtually nothing, how to be social and make new friends.
As I write this, I realize how much of my life I have dedicated to learning to be more social. As a traditionally shy guy who suffered from social anxiety, I sometimes find it hard to believe how far I’ve come.
I’m not some kind of rock star or playboy who has supermodels hanging around him, hangs out with the wealthy, and lives some “fabulous” lifestyle. I’m just a regular, thirty-something dude who hangs out with solid, smart, good-hearted people. And since I’m single, yes, attractive women, too.
I meet new people all the time and am well connected via my business and personal social circles, simply because I’ve applied what I’ve learned over the years and now teach in my Authentic Social Influence course.
I’ve put in my time.
Not every guy wants to discover how to be social, and not everyone should. It’s not for everyone. But even when I was socially awkward, I realized how having great connections and relationships was important to both my success and happiness.
Looking back, I can easily see why I had a hard time connecting socially. Back then, when I didn’t know how to be social and create social circles, I was a pretty miserable person.
Being social was like a foreign language I could hear but not understand, though I desperately wanted to.
I would see other guys roll into a room like the mayor and immediately connect with other men and women effortlessly. They totally owned the space.
Meanwhile, I stood on the sidelines, hoping people would come up to me. Sometimes they would, but even then, I’d often kill the connection.
It pissed me off, actually. I’d be angry at myself, jealous of the guys who were socially savvy, and resentful to the world for not having dealt me a better hand.
I was a total victim.
But no longer.
I am now a living example of what is possible for a guy who used to be aloof, anxious, awkward, and self-victimizing but who now is outgoing (yet still an introvert at heart) and takes responsibility for himself in social situations.
All those who meet me now can’t tell I used to be shy. Apparently, I’m a social guy and a great connector, or so I’m told.
On rare occasions, I can slip back into that aloof and awkward pattern, so I have to watch it. I’m by no means perfect, just an example of a man who worked hard to transform completely his life and social skills.
Looking back on my former life, I’ve come up with four mistakes I used to make that prevented me from meeting new people and fostering solid connections with men and women alike.
Mistake #1: Not Acting First
For years I expected people to come to me. I felt entitled. I rationalized if they didn’t come to me, either talking to them wasn’t worth it, or I was just weird. I lived in resignation, thinking my social life could not change for the better.
Funny thing is, once you become the one who starts the conversation, you notice how many people aren’t.
You have the power to act first, always.
This doesn’t mean you will always have to. As you gain more social experience and get better at initiating conversations, eventually you will refine your process. But if you are not as social as you want to be, you have to be the starter. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. It’s not just going to come to you. You have to go out and make it happen.
Before I was a social guy, it used to seem like everyone else was social and I was the only one who wasn’t. But that was a total cognitive distortion, a lie of the mind.
Now I really enjoy being the first one to start the conversation.
You can be that guy, too.
Mistake #2: Trying to Be Right
As men, we often connect and relate by talking more about facts and things, droppin’ our man knowledge. Sometimes it can become a battle of one-upping.
This is exactly what NOT to do.
Correcting others, trying to be the smartest guy in the room, or showing others how right you are and how wrong they are kills your social connections.
Why? Because it creates antagonism and invalidates other people’s perspective. It creates separation and pushes them away.
Socially savvy people create good vibes and experiences for everyone they can. If someone in a social situation says something you know is factually wrong, it’s best to let it go. Yes, sometimes you can skillfully and compassionately correct it, but rarely. I still screw this up sometimes and have to remember this rule.
You never want to be like a try-hard know-it-all, proving how much you know. It’s lame. If you choose to connect over being right, your vibe will improve, and your social connections will start to grow faster than you thought possible.
Mistake #3: Having Closed-Body Language
Without knowing it, human beings are highly attuned to reading non-verbal signals. One type, closed-body language, creates a barrier to connecting even before a conversation has begun.
Yes, stand tall and take up your space, which is all-important to being seen and heard before you open your mouth, but don’t force your posture or puff out your chest like in the military. That is way too try-hard and creates body tension. Rather, stay as relaxed as possible.
Think solid-yet-fluid in your posture and movement, while keeping your head up, gazing around the room, and making eye contact with people as you come across them.
The mindset driving your body language should be openness, warmth, and a desire to connect genuinely with others.
Mistake #4: Not Following Through
It may seem obvious, but exchanging contact information and then following up with people is the key to making things happen.
Most of the time you will need to be the social initiator to keep things moving forward.
Some social people know so many people they’re flakey and do not follow up. I do not recommend being a flake. Think wide (lots of connections) and deep (meaningful connections). In order to have deeper connections, you may have to sacrifice some width, but that is OK. The right deep connections will pay off for years to come, maybe even the rest of your life.
Staying on the Social Journey
I have nothing but gratitude for my journey, including the old days of being shy and awkward. If I hadn’t had that experience, I wouldn’t have learned how to be social or be able to help others who want the same.
No matter where you are, I hope you can look at your life today, or someday, with that same gratitude for your struggles in the social arena.
If you are looking to seriously upgrade your social skills in all areas of your life, I hope you’ll interact with me inside the Authentic Social Influence course
David Hamilton is the course instructor for Authentic Social Influence. He is a transformational coach and the founder of Everlution and Social Expression, personal development sites dedicated to helping people live each day with more confidence, expression, success, and fulfillment.