About The Site's Author
I'm Chris MacLeod. I've been writing about how people can overcome their social skills issues for over ten years, and thinking and learning about the topic for even longer. I started SucceedSocially.com in late-2006, when I was in my mid-twenties. Below I'll go into more detail about the two main aspects of me that make the site what it is: my own years of social awkwardness, and my education and training as a counselor.
My own social awkwardness
I've got plenty of firsthand experience with being shy and awkward, and trying to turn that situation around. As I explain in a bit more detail in another article, I started this site to create the kind of resource I wish I had when I was struggling myself, so that anyone going through the same thing may be able to get past it more quickly and easily than I did.
Up until the end of college I was really socially awkward. I had low self-esteem. I was nervous and inhibited around people. I was lonely and racked up long streaks of weekends where I didn't have any plans. Some of my conversations went okay, but in others I didn't know what to say, or unintentionally came across as weird or abrasive. My fashion choices were about as stereotypically dorky as you could get. I was even more anxious and bumbling around women, and was unsurprisingly a late bloomer when it came to dating. I had a sense that everyone else had naturally picked up all this social knowledge that I somehow missed. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. A good chunk of the social issues mentioned throughout the site have applied to me at one time or another.
I don't want to give the impression that I was a total wreck when I was younger. I had my good traits, and have some positive memories of the odd friend I did have. But my awkwardness often got in the way of my strengths, and while I did sometimes go out and have a good time, it wasn't nearly often enough, and I didn't feel like I had any control over when I spent time with people.
For many years I wasn't happy with my situation, but I didn't really know what to do about it. Towards the end of college I realized I needed to work on my social skills, and slowly started improving them. I pieced together for myself basic principles many people had figured out by middle school. I pushed my comfort zone. I purposely tried to catch up on all the practice I'd missed. If you're curious, this article goes into more detail about the changes that initially made the biggest difference for me.
By my mid-twenties I felt like the worst of my issues were behind me. These days I feel like I have a solid level of people skills where I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. I've got a good group of friends, and know that if I ever moved to another city I could make new ones before long. I'm way more comfortable in my own skin. I've had enough good conversations to know that if I talk to someone and it doesn't go well, it had as much to do with them as me. I didn't have to totally change who I was either. Anyone who's known me a while would say I'm still the same Chris. I'm just more polished version of him, with a better social 'toolbox'. I still have some quirks, flaws, insecurities, and shy or awkward moments, like any normal person. There's always more I can learn. I still make little mistakes I cringe about looking back. But that all happens less often and with less intensity, and I know how to work around it; those things don't totally sabotage my social life like they used to.
(I should clarify that while I was really awkward in a lot of ways, I've never been diagnosed with a condition like Social Anxiety Disorder or Asperger's Syndrome. I don't think there'd be anything wrong with me if I was, but I want to be clear about what diagnoses I do and don't have. Not everyone who's shy or had a hard time fitting in has an official label to explain it. I'm no stranger to anxiety, but my nerves in social situations were never quite debilitating enough to get me a social phobia diagnosis. Like many people who've had trouble socially I can read a list of Asperger's Syndrome behaviors and go "Ah, I've done that" to a few of them, but there's a big difference between that and meeting the full criteria for being on the autism spectrum.)
My education and experience as a counselor
I have a B.A. Honors degree in Psychology (2003), and a Master of Social Work (2011). I'm a registered social worker in Ontario, Canada, where I live. I worked in psychology and research-related office jobs in between getting the two degrees. My MSW focused on counseling (as opposed to community organization and development). Through various past internships and volunteer positions I've got about two years of experience as a therapist. So I'm still relatively new to it in the grand scheme of things, though hardly a complete beginner. I've been drawn to helping people with their personal problems since high school, and I think starting this site and seeking training to become a counselor are two outgrowths of that core interest. My original plan was to get a typical counseling job after graduating with my MSW, but ended up focusing on running this site full-time.
My education and work experience has certainly made the site better. It's fleshed out my knowledge of the topic and helped my research skills. At the same time, I don't want anyone to think, "Oh, he's got some letters after his name. Everything he writes is automatically more correct and authoritative." I think any advice should be evaluated on its own merits. A lot of what I've written I would have observed or learned even if I never got my degrees. I'm also not sharing any secret knowledge about social skills I learned in university. We never really covered that topic. I didn't arrive at many insights about communication skills while doing therapy either. For all but a few clients, I was working with them on issues other than their social lives.
Where I get the ideas for this site
Besides the personal experience piece, I also learn a lot through my informal research, mostly by reading web forums for people with social issues. When you've read a ton of that stuff you start seeing the same concerns, complaints, and themes come up again and again, and you get a good sense of the issues that people with social problems struggle with, and how they tend to think about them.
I read my share of more clinical sources as well, e.g., treatment guides on overcoming Social Anxiety Disorder or teaching social skills to people with Asperger's Syndrome. I have to say I don't find academic research journals particularly useful for my purposes, though every so often I'll get a good little nugget of information in an article.
My clinical reading mainly shows up in the site's articles on Moods and Thinking, which are mostly a summary of well-known psychological principles and treatment techniques for those issues, with some of my own thoughts sprinkled in. Researchers and therapists have those areas pretty well figured out, and there wasn't much new for me to add or deduce for myself. Same goes for the handful of articles on Developmental Differences.