Don't Boast About Learning Manipulative Social Techniques

There's nothing wrong with working to become more socially polished. Not all of us are lucky enough to have naturally learned every social skill we needed as we grew up. Sometimes we reach a point where we recognize we need to research and practice specific things in order to get what we want out of life. For example, it's fairly common for adults to realize they never properly learned how to make friends. They just fell into their friendships in grade school and college, but now that they're on their own in a new city it hits them that they have to research how to put together a social circle.

So there's not anything inherently bad about trying to develop your social skills. What about telling other people about it? Here you may want to consider a pragmatic approach. It may be fine to work on your interpersonal skills, but not everyone is going to get it. You may decide you want to avoid any unnecessary hassles or misunderstandings.

I think when it comes to talking about honing your social skills, it depends on what abilities you're developing and how other people tend to view them:

Trying to acquire "high-end" social skills like public speaking

It's fine to freely talk about trying to learn things like public speaking or leadership skills. People generally see these as useful abilities that most of us would like to have, but which not everyone has the time, discipline, or guts to develop.

Catching up on supposedly "basic" skills like making small talk or joining group conversations

If you don't want to tell everyone you're working on these types of interpersonal skills, that's okay. As I keep saying, there's nothing broken about you if you didn't effortlessly become socially capable as you went through your childhood. However, some people hold the mistaken belief that everyone should just know the core social skills. If you tell them you're actively practicing how to make eye contact or be a better listener, they won't understand. It's alright if you want to keep those goals to yourself, or only tell people you know will accept it.

On the other hand, you may be comfortable with the fact that you're improving your communication skills. You may also want to do your little part to battle the stigma that says there's something off about someone if they're a bit shy or socially inexperienced. In that case, feel free to be more open. But, I don't think anyone's obligated to do this.

Learning little social tricks to manipulate people

Here are a few examples of what I mean. I'm not saying they even work all that well, but if you research people skills you'll come across them:

I don't recommend using tactics like this, but I'll assume you have good intentions, and plan to use them every now and then to help build genuine relationships. Still, be careful about telling others you're learning this stuff. For one, it can make you seem manipulative. People have an aversion to social manipulation and inauthenticity. You don't want to come across as someone who's embracing it. Second, by talking about using interpersonal tricks, you can seem like you lack a bit of judgment and social savvy. As I just said, people are instinctively put off by manipulative behavior, and by casually bringing it up you read as if you don't grasp that it's not the most appropriate topic, or that discussing it isn't going to cast you in the best light. This isn't to say if you mention a little psychology trick you heard about, everyone is instantly going to hate you. Just give some consideration to when and how you raise the subject.

(I realize we all use mild social manipulation here and there. Like we may let a friend talk about their hobby because we want to make them happy, even though we're not particularly interested. Or we may subtly flatter an acquaintance, because we plan to ask them for a favor. But even though we can all be manipulative, and most of the time we don't have evil motives, we still don't like it when someone is open about doing it. It's not totally logical, but that's how most people think.)

What you really don't want to do is seem proud to have learned manipulative techniques. Don't brag about how you're teaching yourself to play people like a fiddle. Don't show off any tricks to friends., e.g., "Hey man, check this out. I'm going to use our waitress' name a bunch of times. Watch how I'll have her eating out of the palm of my hand." There's no sugarcoating it. Stuff like that can make you seem a bit naive and cringey at best, sleazy at worst.

Though if you've boasted about learning manipulative social tactics in the past, don't be too hard on yourself for it. It's a fairly common beginner mistake. If you're socially inexperienced, when you first come across these methods it can make you feel excited and empowered. You've struggled to connect with people your whole life, but now you've got these techniques that promise easy results. You feel like you've got this hidden knowledge that makes you special and impressive, and you want to spread the word. It's an understandable impulse. But it does come from naivete about how the average person views these things. It's best to keep it to yourself.