How Long Does It Take To Improve Your Social Skills?
Okay, you want to get over your social skills issues. You've come across this site. The advice seems pretty good from what you've seen so far. What a lot of readers want to know is, how long does it all take? How long until the awkwardness and all the pain that comes with it goes away? One answer would be, "Just don't worry about it, it'll take as long as it takes", but I find people still do want a sense of what the timeline will be like. I think that's totally understandable.
It's not the easiest question to answer because it obviously depends on a few variables:
- How shy and socially awkward are you at the moment?
- What are your goals?
- What's your exact situation?
- How long have you been that way?
- How motivated are you to change?
Where are you starting, and where do you want to end up? The further the distance between the two, the longer it will take. A deeply awkward person with dreams of becoming incredibly magnetic and popular will take a lot more time to get there than someone who's a little reserved, but pretty likable, and who just wants to get the hang of making friends.
One to three years
If I had to make a super rough guess, I'd say if you're fairly socially awkward and inexperienced, improving your people skills takes about one to three years. That may be longer than you'd like to hear, but based on my experiences, I think that's a realistic estimation. It's just a matter of you needing to catch up to everyone else. If you're two years behind your peers in your social development, then you've somehow got to get two years of catch up practice in. Social skills are built up of all these little sub-abilities, and you have to get them all into shape.
However long it will take for you, that hardly means things will be tough going the entire time and then only get better right at the end. You may improve your quality of life and social relationships quite a bit even when you've only moved partway toward your goal. You may only be at 30% of where you eventually see yourself, and recognize you still have a lot of work to do, but still be way happier than when you first started. Imagine what you could do if your issues were even a third less severe.
There's no way a time frame like this can't be really crude and imprecise though. For one, it's really hard to nail down exactly when you start, and when you finish. If you've been awkward for years, does that count toward the total, or does the clock only start when you really get serious about improving? And your social skills will continue to grow over your whole life, so when do you say you're done?
What will happen in the future, when you have improved your social skills, is that you'll be able to look back and have a general, intuitive sense of how long it was from when you got serious about changing to when you felt like the worst was over. You probably won't be able to pinpoint the exact date you stopped taking more half-hearted pot shots at your issues, and got more focused and serious. You also won't be able to tell someone specifically when you felt like the bulk of your work was behind you. You'll just have a vague idea of how long the process took.
When things can go quicker
As I said, the improvement window above is broad and meant to apply to an average reader. Here are some cases where you may make big changes in less than a year:
- Your social skills are already better than you give yourself credit for, and your real problem is you haven't been working toward your goals very hard. Once you commit to them things will click into place.
- You're missing a few key pieces of knowledge, like where and how to make friends in your area, and once you have that all the other pieces will quickly come together.
- You're held back by one or two core fears, and once you start trying to deal with them you find they dissolve fairly quickly (e.g., inviting people to hang out, opening up to others)
- You're extremely motivated and willing to do whatever needs to be done, plus you have lots of free time and resources to work on yourself.
There's no shortcut
It's not uncommon at all for people to turn over a lot of rocks looking for a magic pill to solve their social problems instantly. There isn't one. More details in this article:
Overall, it's probably better to know improving can take a while
Being told you won't be cured in two weeks can be discouraging. In a way it can also be a relief to have a reasonable idea of how long the process can take. If you know ahead of time improving is going to take a while, you won't get too demoralized if you're not making huge jumps in progress from one day to the next, or if you hit a snag and things slow down for a while. On the other hand, if you expect that you're going to get over your problems nearly instantly, then you can grow more and more unmotivated when that doesn't happen. You may even give up entirely.
This site will hopefully help you improve more quickly
It all still takes time, but ideally what this site can do is take some of the trial and error and guesswork out of the process. I figure that's got to save you at least a couple of months of work. Rather than having to figure things out from scratch and reinvent the wheel, you can draw on its information to learn what's been helpful for other people, or to become aware mistakes that have held them back. You can go into situations thinking more along the lines of, "Here's what I know I need to do and practice" rather than, "Okay, I have my fuzzy goal, but how do I even start moving toward it?..."
The more you work at it, the quicker you'll improve. That's not always possible though
The biggest determinant of how quickly you'll improve is how much you practice and catch up in your social development. If you make a deliberate effort to get as much social experience as you can, as quickly as you can, then you'll save a lot of time.
I am realistic though. I realize not everyone is a self-improvement cyborg who can tirelessly pursue their goals and evolve themselves with maximum efficiency. You're human and at times you may not put every last ounce of effort into your social skills. One weekend you may goof off and binge an entire TV series. You may put your social development on the back burner for a few months while you give more attention to other priorities. It's also common for people to have at least some ambivalence about changing. Like a part of them may enjoy being a homebody, and not even want to go out with friends all the time. These factors are one reason I give that 1-3 years time frame.
"But I already feel so far behind everyone and like I've missed out on the best of life. I don't have time to spend a few years working on my issues"
Don't worry. You've got way, way more time than you think. Your chances to have a rewarding social life don't suddenly dry up as soon as you're, say, out of college.