Becoming an Effective Communicator: Social Skills Boot Camp

If you care at all about improving your social skills, you’ve probably already sought out plenty of books, videos, blog posts, and more to help you perform better in situations like meeting new people, resolving conflict, persuading others, and attracting women. All the information you need to improve your social skills is readily available, but there’s one thing that trumps even the best book and the most inspiring video… experience.

Gaining The Experience You Need to Enhance Your Social Skills

No matter how much information you have, there is no substitute for experience. More importantly, there is no excuse for not diving in and getting the experience you need. Human beings are social animals. Sure, a lot of us are scared to death of socializing and go out of our  way to avoid uncomfortable social interaction, but the opportunities to hone your social skills are abundant nonetheless. If you don’t back up your knowledge with real world practice, don’t expect improvement any time soon.

The army relies on boot camp to prepare new soldiers because it works. Boot camp gets results because of immersion and repetition. The focus brought about by intense immersion and the lasting habit produced by sustained repetition assure the accelerated progress that turns new recruits into efficient soldiers. Whether you’re in desperate need of developing basic social skills, or you’re already confident in your abilities and you want to get better, putting yourself boot camp style drills will help you push your social skills to the next level.

To put yourself through social skills bootcamp, identify social situations where you want to improve, spend two weeks immersed in those situations, and challenge yourself to continuously practice exercises that will build your skills. Focus on rigorous repetition and always be ready for more, just like a new army recruit is always ready to drop and crank out more pushups. For two weeks, become your own social skills drill sergeant, and at the end of boot camp, you’ll have the reflexes and preparation to handle the real thing.

Here are some exercises to get you started. Choose the exercises that fit your needs, and complete them at least once a day for two weeks.


Basic Training to Build A Foundation

1. Eye contact and smile

Walk around a busy place. Make eye contact with every person and smile. Do this with 50 people, then take a break and find 50 more people.


2. Situational openers

Find a complete stranger and start a conversation based on something in the immediate environment. Try to make your opener as original and interesting as possible (“the weather” is not a great choice), and try to keep the conversation going for at least two minutes. Do this with 10 people.


Intermediate Skills

1. Learn about someone else

Have a conversation (with someone you know or a stranger) where you only focus on the other person and their interests. Instead of thinking of your response while the other person is talking, practicing listening to with genuine interest to what they have to say. Challenge yourself to learn as much as possible about a person’s deepest motivations and values in one short conversation. Do this with 10 people.


2. Physical mirroring to build rapport

Consciously mirror the positioning, posture and body language of a person you interact with. Once you’ve used mirroring to establish rapport with the person, break the physical rapport and see if they unconsciously begin mirroring your body language. Do this with 30 people.


Advanced Training

1. Storytelling

While in conversation with either a stranger or someone you already know, tell a story to evoke emotion in the other person. Focus on improvising stories that fit seamlessly into conversation and either change or intensify the listener’s emotional state. Do this with at least 5 people per day.


2. Make people qualify themselves

While in conversation, subtly prompt the other person to qualify themselves. When done successfully, the other person will not realize that you are inducing this qualification, they will simply be responding to the frame that you create. Do this with at least 5 people per day.


You might feel uncomfortable at first while performing some of these exercises, but by focusing on precise repetition of specific skills, you’ll be able execute the skills you need in a natural way when they’re called for in real situations. The harder you drill during boot camp, the stronger you’ll be when it’s over. Now drop and give me 20.