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Shaping and Sharpening Social Skills

March 13, 2000|HARA ESTROFF MARANO

Great relationships, whether friendships or romances, don't fall out of the heavens. They depend on sophisticated but human-scale social skills that everyone can learn.

* Practice makes perfect, even for the socially secure. Stop turning down party invitations and start issuing invitations. Plan outings with friends or acquaintances.

* Think positively.

* Focus on others. The socially competent observe others and listen actively. "You don't have to be interesting. You have to be interested," explains John Gottman, psychology professor at the University of Washington. "That's how you have conversations."

* Enter conversations gracefully. Timing is everything.

* Learn to handle failure. It is a fact of life that even popular people will be rejected sometimes.

* Master your emotions. Recent studies have found that people who are the most well-liked also have a firm handle on their emotions. In other words, they have excellent coping skills.

* Defuse disagreements. Instead of fighting fire with fire, socially confident people apologize, make a peace offering or negotiate. And sometimes they just change the subject.

* Laugh a little. There's no recipe for a sense of humor. But even in your darkest moments, try to see the lighter side.

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