Communicating as a Leader

What Are Good Non-Verbal Social Skills?

Laurie Wilhelm asked:

Good social skills are key to getting along with others and they help us to connect with the people around us. They’re not about conforming, but having a healthy respect for others.

There are many, many different elements to social skills and if you’re looking for an all-in-one, short-and-sweet, how-to lesson on them, you’re going to be disappointed. There’s no magic formula for good interpersonal skills, no Social Skills Potion #6.

Social skills encompass a wide variety of verbal and non-verbal communication skills. Fortunately, social they can be learned and, with practice, you’ll reap the benefits in your career and personal life.

Building Social Skills

Here are three basic non-verbal tips for improving interpersonal interactions.


First thing’s first: smile. Smiling is a great way to make people comfortable around you and make you appear approachable. Try it when you enter a room, meeting, or event and see how it automatically creates a friendly rapport.

It’s not like you should paste a phony grin or a forced smile on your face – we can all see through that. Just a simple, sincere, greeting smile that is welcoming and appealing. If you’re not a “smiler,” at least be aware of your facial expression.

Make Eye Contact

In Western culture, making eye contact shows an interest in someone and what they’re saying while avoiding eye contact can show disinterest or boredom.

Eye contact should be friendly, attentive and relaxed. It doesn’t mean staring intensely into someone’s eyes – this can be uncomfortable for the other person.

If looking into someone’s eyes makes you uncomfortable, you don’t have to look directly into them. Try looking in that general area – their eyebrows or the bridge of their nose. At the very least, look at their face as opposed to your shoes.


This is probably one of the least developed social skills. Listening is different from hearing. Listening is making sense of and understanding what is being said; hearing is a physical ability. We tend to be good “hearers” but not always good listeners.

Listening goes beyond using your ears. It involves your entire face and even your body.

Your facial expressions let the speaker know that you’re listening and whether or not you’re following and understanding what he is saying. Focus on the person who is speaking by maintaining eye contact, nodding your head, using verbal cues such as “uh-huh” and “I see,” and standing or sitting still to reduce distractions.

Also, don’t interrupt. We tend to want to be the speaker and say what’s on our mind. You’ll have your turn to talk when the speaker is finished. Speakers need listeners and vice-a-versa.

Notice that these three tips don’t include talking. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk at all, far from it. These three skills have been isolated to emphasize their overall importance as good social skills.

Being aware of non-verbal skills is part of good social skills. If your goal is to have better interactions with others, simply keep these in mind.

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