You may not remember a good handshake, but I guarantee you’ll always remember a bad one.
Your social skills, whether we’re talking about your personal or business life, are all those important first impressions that you make. Your handshake. Your eye contact. How you introduce people. Your conversation skills. How you put yourself together. These all add up to a total picture of you.
Let’s start with your handshake. Firm, but not crushing is your goal. Worse than crushing is the limp hand. Nothing says “I’m unprofessional” quite like the “dead fish” handshake. Don’t let that be you. Practice with a friend until you get it right.
Eye contact shows you’re interested in the person with whom you’re having a conversation. Try to maintain eye contact between 40 to 60 percent of the time you are conversing. Too much and the other person may feel put on the spot. Less and you can come off as shifty or uninterested. Effective eye contact for brief encounters (passing hellos, etc.) can be accomplished by holding your look at the other person as long as it takes to notice the color of their eyes.
A mastery of introductions will set you apart from your competition. Knowing who has precedence in a given situation (this is whose name is said first and has others introduced to them) and how to properly execute a comfortable introduction is a skill that will serve you well. And beyond simply stating names, if you say something about each person this can help spark a conversation.
Which leads us to your conversation skills. It’s good to always have a few conversation starters at the ready. Non-controversial topics such as a new restaurant in town, a great movie you’ve just seen, or a trip you’re planning are all safe choices. But the real key to good conversation is to focus on the other person. People love to talk about themselves and if you facilitate that by asking questions to show genuine interest you’ll likely be remembered as a great conversation partner whether you’ve actually said that much about yourself or not.
The final key factor in having good social skills is knowing what to wear when and how. Consider the expected attire for an event and then take that up a notch. Your clothing should be good quality, properly fitted, and clean and pressed. You’re heard the saying “clothes make the man (or woman).” It’s true. And a great outfit can make you feel more confident, thus enhancing those great social skills even more.
Effectiveness in these areas illustrate why social skills are important, but execution of these skills may not come naturally to everyone. That’s where practice come in. With a little effort anyone can improve their social skills to paint a picture of themselves that others will see in a positive way. Think of it as an investment in you. It’s worth it.