There are many different social skills and the impact they have on other people varies. Acting on two or three "easy" skills isn't enough. The best results are achieved when several skills are used in combination with one another. The expression "the total is greater than the sum of its parts" resonates loudly with respect to social skills. When individuals combine various skills such as listening, making small talk, giving compliments, maintaining eye contact, greeting others warmly, and many others, they will experience more social success in many different situations.

Strong social skills include (among others):
- active listening
- knowing how to greet others
- conversing and making small talk
- building a friendly rapport
- complimenting others
- offering praise and encouragement
- showing support and understanding
- acknowledging others
- saying 'thank you'

Techniques and methods are available to develop all social skills. Knowing what to say and how to act are basic social skills that anyone can learn. Here are five tips for improving social skills:

1. Start with the skills that feel the most comfortable to you.
There is such a wide variety of social skills to learn that you can begin with the skills with which you feel the most comfortable.

It can be as simple as constructing a meaningful "thank-you," a compliment or using a technique to remember names. Practicing these skills in situations where a comfort level already exists builds confidence and, as more skills are added, begins to establish good interpersonal relationships.

2. Work on your social skills before you're in a situation where you really need them.
When you're using skills such as giving quality feedback or negotiating, it's better to have established a rapport, whenever possible, with the individuals involved prior to beginning these discussions. These kinds of situations have the potential to be difficult and intimidating, so having positive interactions before these situations come up will make them much easier to approach.

Constant maintenance of good relationships builds a strong foundation so there's a better chance of weathering challenging times. These interactions can be very simple - from greeting colleagues in the elevator to acknowledging others on the workshop floor to making small talk at staff meetings. Over time, these small interactions make a big difference in your relationships and ongoing success.

3. Make a point of interacting with others in familiar situations.
When you've learned some techniques, start practicing your new social skills in your daily life. This could be at a work meeting where you speak to someone you haven't talked to before or to someone with whom you've never had any significant conversation. You could be at your vet's office talking to another pet owner about their pet or picking up your child from daycare and beginning a conversation with another parent.

These situations are based on common ground so a topic for discussion already exists and you're not trying to establish one. As well, you'll meet up with most of these people again - at work, in another meeting, the next day at daycare - so you can start to establish a friendly rapport with them.

4. Attend Events, Accept Invitations and Join Clubs or Associations
Once you have learned a few social skills techniques, challenge yourself by attending events or social gatherings to try out your new skills.

It's probably easier and less stressful for the beginner to go to an event where there is a main attraction - such as a keynote speaker, panel discussion or performance - so that the pressure to interact is lessened, but the opportunity to meet people and to interact is still there. If the occasion focuses solely on the interaction between guests, such as a dinner party, it may put more pressure on the beginner to be "on" for the entire evening.

Alternatively, if you're already comfortable in the company of others, a dinner party would be ideal to practice your social skills and reunite with friends and acquaintances, make new friends, have good conversations and simply have a good time with everyone else.

Membership in clubs and associations brings together individuals who share common interests and is a basis for mutually satisfying conversation and ongoing interaction. Implementing social skills in these situations is easier than having to discover areas of interest or expertise from scratch - although this is easy to do when you have the skills.

When working on your skills, it's very important to put yourself in situations where you can act on them - even if it makes you uncomfortable. Keep the techniques in mind, knowing that with practice the skills become easier and easier to use.

5. Practice
The more frequently you interact with others and put yourself in situations where you're meeting, working or getting to know someone, the more your skills will develop and the easier they become. Continual practice as you go about your daily activities is never time wasted - you're building and strengthening your interpersonal relationships as you improve your skills.

Social skills are, and will always be, an important part of ongoing, daily interactions. They're not something learned one day and forgotten the next. They require a continuous, conscious awareness of the various skills. Fortunately, it doesn't take a long time nor a lot of effort to develop good social skills; the rewards are certainly worth it.

Author's Bio: 

Laurie Wilhelm manages the Express Yourself to Success website, a one-stop e-source with information and techniques on interpersonal and social skills, public speaking, networking and conflict resolution. Achieve your success by working effectively with others. Get a free white paper, What Everyone Needs to Know About Social Skills, by going to