“We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.”The Dalai Lama
A person’s ability to thrive in society will always be vastly improved when acting in the spirit of interdependence and interconnectivity over individualism. As our lives have become more connected to everything and everyone, it also becomes more important to ensure our skills in making those connections, i.e., our socialization, is not just maintained but upgraded. With a mastery of socialization, you will see huge improvements both in your career and your social life as you are able to maneuver your way confidently through each conversation, creating stronger, high-level networks with every encounter. Average socialization creates average connections, whilst an extraordinary network results from the strongest socialization ability.
Building good relationships also helps us look after our mental wellbeing, since a good support network can reduce stress. This social support counters low moods and feelings of anxiety, forming an emotional buffer that lifts you up when you’re feeling down.
With the benefits upgraded socialization brings to career progression, social life, and mental wellbeing, there’s no reason not to upgrade. In this article, we’ll look at the seven steps necessary to take a person from average to excellent socialization.
So, How Do I Know If I Need to Improve My Socialization Skills?
There are two areas to look at that will tell you it’s time to start upgrading your socialization:
1. Look at yourself from the inside out. How do you respond to others? If your enthusiasm for creating new connections seemingly involves more effort and feels more draining than before, then it’s probably time for an upgrade.
2. Like Alice, wander through the looking-glass and see who you are from the other side. Do people respond to you differently? An example of this might be when previously you didn’t find it hard to hold someone’s attention, but now your conversations are increasingly met with glazed looks, unconvincing nods in superficial comprehension, and generally less enthusiasm to continue the conversation.
The Seven Steps to Upgraded Socialization
Unlike upgrading your phone or laptop, upgraded socialization requires a bit more effort. The more you can introduce the traits and characteristics listed belowinto your everyday interactions, conversations, and meetings, the more you’ll see your socialization improve. Every value compounds the positive effects of the one before it, and implementing all seven steps will truly enhance the way in which you connect with others.
It’s difficult to want to create a meaningful connection with someone who is entirely focused on their own agenda. How much time do any of us really want to give to someone who’s only making conversation so they can get something just for themselves? Socialization that is aimed at furthering one’s own agenda does not create strong relationships.
Seth Godin, former-dot-com-millionaire-turned-author, bases his “connection economy” (where value is created on the basis of relationships as opposed to material assets) wholly on generosity: he believes that the socializers who make the biggest impact are those who go into a conversation with a service mindset. They look to create value for others with nothing asked in return. This builds trust between parties upon which they can find true connection, which again builds on itself continually: “generosity is the invisible salve on our wound of loneliness, one that benefits both sides, over and over again.”
Of course, generosity is nothing new – it’s been written about time and time again – but there is one text that succinctly tells us what one can expect from displaying such an attitude of altruism:
“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”2 Corinthians 9: 6-8
As this biblical verse observes, a bountiful crop comes to those who sow the field generously, and the same goes for those for whom the purpose of socialization is for the benefit of others, rather than just for their individual goals.
2. Mercy & Tolerance
They say that variety is the spice of life. Well, sometimes we encounter a spice that might just be a little too hot to handle. Time and time again, we come across people in our social and professional lives who are equally painful to deal with, but who take more than a glass of milk to wash down. It’s Thanksgiving, and Uncle Hank, with whom you’ve never really seen eye to eye, is looking to get you riled up again – at this point it’s almost as traditional as the turkey. The key to upgrading your socialization here is to rise above him, showing a degree of compassion both to him and those around you so that the evening can continue without incident.
This doesn’t mean not standing up for yourself (we’ll cover that later), but, coming back to our idea of generosity, looking to prioritize the idea of the group over the individual. In this case, you might perhaps exit the conversation and find an out quicker than you usually would.
The world is a diverse place with diverse people who hold equally diverse opinions. We all come from different life experiences that have led to who we are today; recognizing this is the first step to understanding it, as well as gaining that measure of compassion that results in healthy debate rather than discordant disagreement, even in light of opposing opinions. As English physician Havelock Ellis said, “the conflict of forces and the struggle of opposing wills are of the essence of the universe and alone hold it together.” This type of discussion can lead to respect for one another with positive interactions and the building of even stronger connections.
At the same time, even amongst your differences, actively search for areas of commonality, probing for those common threads, interests, ideas, and beliefs you might hold. This will provide depth to your conversations, sweeping small talk aside for something more memorable and interesting to both parties involved.
What is integrity but the truth of being? And what better way to upgrade your socialization than by presenting your character in its truest form? People are scared that opening up can make them vulnerable to others who might exploit this supposed lowering of the drawbridge. What you will find instead, however, is your openness met in equal measure, forming stronger bonds than you might otherwise have had by hiding behind those castle walls. Welcoming someone in rather than trying to communicate over well-built fortifications is a far easier way to create the opportunity for greater socialization.
So, be true to yourself and to others. Socialization doesn’t mean agreeing with everything another person says at the expense of your own identity. Authentic conversations breed authentic connections. When people belie their principles and true thoughts, it’s a lot more obvious than you might think. This goes on to stifle conversation, especially as it becomes increasingly one way. Look to disagree without being disagreeable. Disagreements are not a bad thing. Volleying opposing thoughts between each other is what the most interesting conversations are made of. Don’t forget, tennis just isn’t as fun with an opponent who refuses to engage in a decent rally.
Integrity is a value that is not spoken about enough today. Businesses overstate their earnings, politicians distort the truth, and employees exaggerate past achievements to get that new job. Cutting corners and compromising one’s moral code are seen as shortcuts to success, but don’t let the superficial shine fool you: success might be achieved, but this kind is only ever short-lived, a house built on sand rather than rocks.
We’ve all been there: a drinks party where you realize too late that you only know one person, and that one person is, rather irritatingly, running forty-five minutes behind. So what do you do? Skulk in the corner drinking your glass of wine a bit too quickly and checking your phone every ten seconds for a notification that’s never going to come. It’s understandable: whilst all the other guests are strangers to you, it seems like they all know each other, and what they least want is to be interrupted by a random individual. In this mindset, of course, it’s certainly one of the scarier social situations.
However, the key phrase here is “in this mindset”. Change that mindset. Don’t think of it as a room of strangers. It’s a room of people, individuals like you, who do have something in common: this event, this place you are in now. Oh, and the fact that at the end of the day, you’re all just people.
Look to cast your fears aside and build up your courage with a new mindset that involves jumping into the midst of the throng. A great way of putting this into practice is rigorously adhering to the “sixty-second rule” every time: when you head into a social event, be sure (without fail) to be speaking to someone, whether it’s a person you know or someone you don’t, within a minute of arriving. Instead of the fear bubbling up inside, you’ll have broken the shyness wall before it’s even had time to build. This can work in business meetings too: sometimes all you need to do is hear your voice early, even if it’s just by introducing yourself. It can take some getting used to, so if you want to practice talking with a room full of people in a less intimidating environment, be sure to check out some of VideoSocialize’s mixer meetings on Zoom – they cater to a wide range of hobbies and interests, and you’ll be upgrading your socialization in no time.
Humility in a social situation is a powerful ally, since not only does it make your conversations better, it makes your conversations easier. Confidence is all well and good, but sometimes we end up overcompensating, dominating the exchange with our own voice and opinions. This can create a gradual and often unspoken fracturing between parties that is also pretty stressful if you’re just keeping up a pretense; taking on a posture of humility relieves you from such a burden.
The fourth-century theologian St Augustine continually climbed up through society: he got out of the tribal village of Thagaste, moved on to Carthage, Rome, and then Milan, deftly maneuvering himself into more prestigious circles and higher company. How did he do this? By entering each relationship from below, looking to serve upwards. As a Christian theologian, it was only natural that he should draw on biblical teachings as the bedrock of his practices, whether in the spiritual or social environment. He believed that the exalted in this life become humbled, and the humbled exalted. Take this stance into your socialization and people can only be drawn to a person who clearly sees every soul as equal, beyond the superficial distinctions we label each other with.
So what does this mean in practice? Start with aiming to project positive body language. Placing your hands by your sides for example, rather than keeping them crossed or standing with your hands on your hips, takes you from a posture of aggression or defensiveness to a stance of openness. In addition, look to invite others to speak rather than dominating the conversation, displaying a genuine interest in the subject at hand and looking upwards rather than down on the person you’re speaking with. As Augustine writes, “where there’s humility, there’s majesty; where there’s weakness, there’s might”.
Socialization is about connection, and connection is about, well…connecting. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. To take it to an upgraded level means that in any given moment you know how a person is feeling and can make sense of why they are acting the way they are. This is an important upgrade skill for socialization because being empathetic enables us to do two things: we can understand a person’s actions relative to their emotions and we can also act in a way that allows us to communicate our emotions to that person. An individual with empathy has unparalleled means of connecting to another beyond speech, and in a way that creates meaning on a deeper level of understanding.
It’s supposedly coming in shorter supply too: a University of Michigan study asked a research group to score their ability to understand how another person is feeling and found the overall results forty percent lower than the same group-demographic forty years previously. As an attribute seemingly on the decline, others will only find themselves appreciating empathy more when you come to identify and figure out their feelings.
If you’re looking to develop your ability to empathize, begin with the next conversation you encounter: when someone tells you of a problem they have, try to imagine yourself in that position and how it would make you feel at a deeper level. Look to develop a range of emotions built around different situations, and bring them back to any similar life experiences you’ve also gone through. This will create an emotion palette which you can draw from, continually cultivating your empathetic development.
It’s an oldie but a goodie: we have one mouth but two ears, so always listen twice as much as you talk. Being a great talker is one thing, but being a good listener shows a particularly special kind of generosity. After all, you are being generous with your time, the most limited resource of all. It’s not without its own perks for you either: you will acquire more knowledge, be able to exchange ideas, and you will be able to discern and learn from valuable constructive criticism when it comes your way.
But what does it mean to listen? We hear things all the time: the traffic around us, the hubbub of the café, the conversations around the dinner table, etc. Hearing is distinct from listening, however: hearing is a passive behavior, whilst listening is an active one. For one character in the Bible, cultivating the skill of listening was integral to his story. Samuel, a high priest of the Old Testament, heard God call out his name three times, only to mistake it for his teacher Eli’s voice every time. Once he took the opportunity to “listen” rather than “hear”, however, Samuel was able to figure out whose voice it actually was, and what was being said. He replied, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” It was only Samuel’s active “listening”, as opposed to his passive “hearing”, that allowed him to discover the life direction he was destined for.
If you ever feel like you’re dominating the conversation (a good indicator is when you’ve completely forgotten how the other person’s voice sounds), just finish your sentence, take a breath and let the conversation flow from the other side. Give the speaker the attention they gave you (or even better, more), and show that you’re listening with active body language like nodding or shaking your head. Take in what’s being said, and respond when the gap in conversation eventually presents itself.
If there was one takeaway point from all of this, it would be to practice sincerity and genuineness in the conversations you have and with the people you encounter. The world is filled with enough style over substance right now, with enough hollowness and fakery to fill a waxworks museum. Authenticity is in short supply, and not only will it be noticed more and rewarded in equal measure, but it is also something the world is in dire need of.
Upgrade your socialization, get out there, and make real connections.
If you’re looking for a good place to start your journey to upgraded socialization or having difficulty finding somewhere to encounter new people, Zoom mixer meetings are a great option for you. Whatever your interest, platforms such as VideoSocialize have plenty of conversations for you to get involved with, as well as opportunities to chat with an interesting and exciting community in a positive environment wherever you are.
- https://seths.blog/2014/04/26/ ↑
- Havelock Ellis, Selected Essays, 1936 ↑
- Augustine, The Works of St Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, ↑
- Sarah Konrath, Changes in Dispositional Empathy in American College Students Over Time, 2011 ↑
- 1 Samuel, 3: 9 ↑
Articles on the videosocialize.com blog are commissioned by VideoSocialize from talented writers with a variety of backgrounds. All articles copyright VideoSocialize. Would you be interested in sharing your thoughts on this article in a 4 person Zoom discussion which would be uploaded to YouTube? If so, please contact us.
Jonathan is an English-Singaporean writer based in London. He writes feature pieces and social commentary for a variety of publications, looking to enlighten, intrigue, challenge, and entertain. He holds a Master’s in Modern Ethics from the University of Oxford, and a Bachelor’s in Theology from Nottingham University. When he’s not putting pen to paper, Jonathan fosters a heavy addiction to coffee, tennis, and the novels of Haruki Murakami.