Some Things That May Happen As You Get Better Social Skills

As your social skills start to fall into place you may notice your perspective on certain things will change. People will also react to you in ways they never used to. There aren't a ton of teachings in this article. It's more just a bunch of observations that may give you some insight into how more sociable people think, and how your own viewpoint may develop as you sharpen your communication skills.

People will still assume things about you based on a first impression, but different ones than before

Everyone who considers themselves socially awkward probably has a few unflattering assumptions that people commonly make about them. Maybe others look at their appearance and automatically think they must be a stereotypically dorky Computer Science student, or after talking to them briefly they conclude they must spend all of their time in a basement watching anime.

If someone improves their social skills, and their interaction style changes as a side effect, people will still make unfounded assumptions about them based on a superficial impression, just different ones. It goes to show you can't really escape that kind of stuff.

Amusingly, the stereotypes they're hit with may be the opposite of the ones they used to get. People may assume they're a dumb, happy-go-lucky guy just because they're more joking and laid back now. They may talk about a recent night out at a pub and someone will assume they're just some generic bro. They may start to dress much more sharply, and people will think they're superficial and care about nothing but fashion.

You may start to have a harder time relating to more unsociable attitudes

This one doesn't happen right away, but if you improve your people skills you'll eventually get to a point where it will be years since you got over the worst of your problems. When that happens you may start to lose touch with some of the old attitudes you had towards socializing. For example, previously someone might have hated making small talk, but now they're fine with it. If they hear someone else complaining about it they may think, "Wow, did I used to be like that? Did small talk bug me that much too? It's fine, what's the big deal?"

Someone may even find themselves getting peeved when they hear a person express an attitude that they used to have themselves, but no longer relate to. Like they may hear a co-worker talking about all the events they have to attend over the Christmas holidays, and how they resent all the forced socializing they have to do. Even though the previously awkward person hated Christmas parties themselves back in the day, because they're fine with them now they may think something like, "Oh man, suck it up buddy. What's so hard about having to talk to people for three hours? It's supposed to be fun."

You'd think someone who's been there themselves would know better. That's human nature though. When we've moved to a new place in life we often lose touch with how we used to think. Sometimes it's due to that unempathetic thought process where as you get better at something, you start to take your skills for granted and forget what it was like being a struggling, discouraged beginner. At other times a more socially savvy person may be too mentally invested in the idea of no longer being like their past 'loser' self, and they overcompensate by looking down on anyone who used to be like them.

It's not always that extreme thankfully. Often someone will have a quick knee-jerk thought, and then a split-second later remind themselves, "Whoa, whoa whoa. I shouldn't be so hard on that person. I was like that myself one time. I know where they're coming from.

What's crazy is that if a person who's been there themselves can be unsympathetic towards unsociable attitudes, imagine what it's like for someone who's always had an easy time with people. They wouldn't have much insight into what it's like to struggle socially. They'd tend to conclude that if someone doesn't want to socialize, it's because of some flaw they have, or because they're choosing to be less social to be a jerk, not because it's difficult for them.

When you tell people you used to be a dork, they may look at you blankly

If someone has decent social skills but feels they used to be a big dweeb, they'll sometimes mention it in conversation. The reaction they're looking for can vary: to gain sympathy, to bond with people, to be funny, to look humble and self-deprecating, to get a free pass on any social blunders they may make in the future, or to fish for a compliment. Revealing this information often doesn't get much of a response though.

Maybe people see through the hidden agenda. Maybe it's obvious someone used to be a dork, so the information is redundant. Or maybe it's obvious someone no longer has social problems so the information is irrelevant.

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People relate to you based on what you're like now. In a way they have a hard time imagining you were ever different from the person standing in front of them. If you come across as fairly normal and put together, playing the "I used to be a dork" card doesn't really register.

It's also pretty cheap and meaningless to claim you used to be a loser. Genuinely likable and attractive people say they used to be dorks all the time, or that they still are ones deep down. It's hard to take seriously and tends to come off as either pointless insecurity on their part, or an insincere attempt to say, "Hey, I'm normal! I'm just like everyone else!" Terms like "dork" are also so subjective anyone can say they once fit into that category. Isn't it something of a joke that two thirds of people in the world will tell you they were awkward in high school?

When you talk to shyer or more socially inexperienced people, you can see the effect outgoing types have on them

Most of the people reading this site know firsthand what it's like to feel awkward as they have to chat to someone who's more confident and outgoing. You can really start to appreciate the effect though when the outgoing person is you, and you get to see the interaction play out from the other side. Maybe you'll be in a friendly mood one day and you'll start chatting to someone who turns out not to be very comfortable with that kind of thing. As you speak to them you'll pick up their body language, and because you've been there yourself, you'll have a good sense of the thoughts and emotions going through their mind in that moment.

In that quick exchange you'll see how off-balance and on the spot they are. How they want to get away and for the conversation to be over. How they are struggling to think of what to say. How they're overwhelmed and maybe a little intimidated by you. And it may not even be that you were super outgoing and cornered them for five minutes. You could have just said something like "How's it going?" or "How's your day been?", before realizing they weren't having fun and dropping it.

You can appreciate the mindset of being the chatty, friendly guy who just wants to talk to everyone

On a related note, you may get to know a bit more about what it means to be in an outgoing mood. In the past you might have sometimes gotten annoyed by friendly people, but you may come to get a sense of how it is they think, and why they sometimes act in the seemingly oblivious way they do. That feeling of, "I feel X, so everyone else must too" comes into play. In this case it's thinking, "I feel like talking to people. I like talking. Everyone likes talking. People are nice. Why wouldn't they want to talk?" At that moment you lose some of your ability to appreciate that not everyone may be on the same wavelength as you are.

You'll get better at accepting social compliments

When people start to become more socially adjusted they'll start to get offhand comments that they're funny or interesting or whatever. At first it's easy to be a bit taken aback and not believe these compliments. You can think, "No way that's true. I'm still a total dork." With more time you (more or less) learn to take these statements at face value. Your self-image tends to lag a few years behind how you are in the present, but it will eventually come around, and accept that descriptions like 'fun' aren't total mismatches with what you're actually like.

You may have to reject some people yourself

And it isn't fun at all. If you've always been awkward you may think it will taste oh so sweet to be on the other side and get to be the one turning people away. Nope, it's uncomfortable and often makes you feel bad. As you improve your social skills people may start trying to be friends with you, and you won't be interested in all of them. Also, if you get pretty good at chatting in a friendly, engaging manner and making a good first impression, you can unintentionally send people the signal that you want to be friends with them, when you're really just like that with everyone.