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Socialising for Success: The Practical Guide to Perfecting Your Social Skills By Clare Walker Crow

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Socialising for Success: The Practical Guide to Perfecting Your Social Skills By Clare Walker Crown House Publishing, Wales, U.K Copyright 2000 Reviewed by Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D.

The Practical Guide to Perfecting Your Social Skills Clare Walker
Now here is something you don’t see very often these days: An NLP book about socializing and conversation skills. After all, not everyone can walk into a dinner party and strike up a stimulating conversation, or dazzle co-workers with colorful witticisms at the corporate luncheon! Experts estimate that shyness affects 40% to 60% of the population in the U.S. and the U.K. So, perhaps there is a real need for Socialising for Success, by Clare Walker, who believes that an aptitude for workplace socializing is a prerequisite for corporate advancement. It is a manual for people who want social confidence at business gatherings.

Content

Socialising for Success begins with asking the reader to envision himself or herself with improved social skills. How will it look and feel? What conflicting values must one consider? The next step is building a belief structure that supports successful socializing. Write your beliefs about socializing, and identify those that exert a negative influence. Then select replacement beliefs, such as “I am good at socialising,” and “When I socialise, I always have a good time.” In fact, throughout the book, Walker demonstrates her own belief that socializing is immensely enjoyable and rewarding. Walker instructs readers to burn or otherwise destroy their list of negative beliefs and write new, more empowering beliefs and say them aloud---a ritual of change. Over the next few days, assume the new beliefs to be true and find evidence to support them. Write the new evidence in a daily diary or journal. What you believe shapes the evidence you find.

The next step is to create a motivating vision of successful socializing. For some people this can be a challenge, when they tend to bring to mind only their most embarrassing social blunders! Walker provides a useful exercise in which you can see the blunder in a dissociated perspective (as though watching a film), appreciate the lesson you learned, and then “let go” of the pain surrounding the memory.

To create a compelling image of yourself as a good socializer, concentrate on your best qualities first. You can even turn your “disadvantages” into advantages by framing them in positive terms. If you think that your tallness is a disadvantage, for example, you might think of yourself as “statuesque,” instead. Have your past social discomforts been due to criticism? Walker includes an NLP process for gracefully handling criticism, viewing it objectively, and perceiving it as feedback.

Social events are an opportunity to get your message across to others. What do you want to say? Write it down and refine it. Who do you want to say it to? Know your audience. How can you present your message in a way that your “audience” will receive it comfortably? Mentally rehearse what you want to say and plan how you will say it. Remember, everything about you can carry a message to others: your body language, silence, written communication, clothing, facial expressions, etc. Strive for consistency and congruence. Perfect your mental rehearsal by imagining “your perfect social event,” in which you are smiling and relaxed, and feeling genuinely sociable.

When it comes to describing the actual “nuts and bolts” of socializing, Walker includes a chapter on physical and verbal rapport skills. Here’s a common social dilemma: What about those little groups that form at social gatherings---how do you join in? The secret lies in relaxed, happy “hovering,”—standing comfortably at edge of the group, while deciding whether it is a conversation you want to join. If so, then smile, stand up straight, step forward and add something to the topic of discussion at the appropriate moment. Practice, practice, practice.

Listening is another valuable skill. Concentrate on what the speaker is saying. Be entranced by the person, rather than the subject. General listening techniques include pretending you have to give a report on what the person says, asking “open” questions, smiling, nodding, and giving encouragement, listening beneath the words to find out what’s important to the speaker, and trying on the speaker’s point of view.

Just let the information come at you at the other person’s speed without formulating questions, as if the conversation were a road or landscape unfolding in front of you….Then, when a question does seem genuinely relevant, you’ll automatically make it one which is going to enable the other person to share their experience more fully. (p. 52)

As a good listener, make comments that are relevant to the speaker’s topic, rather than changing the subject abruptly. Don’t steal the limelight with one-up remarks. Summarize your understandings of what you have heard. Respond in a genuine, sincere way. Behave as if every person and every topic is interesting to you in some way. Stay in rapport, ask questions for clarity, challenge yourself to be interested, and you might catch the speaker’s enthusiasm for any topic.

By careful listening, you can link up your ideas to another’s topic and have your turn with the conversation, adding what you know to the existing topic, or steering the conversation to a new direction. Walker includes conversation starters and tips for handling the possibly awkward questions other people may ask you. She advises that you develop the ability to speak extemporaneously on a wide range of subjects. In fact, you can become an engaging storyteller, by having an attention-getting opening, drawing listeners into the story, appealing to the senses, making good use of detail, including quotes, and by bringing in humor and analogies.

Properly armed with positive beliefs and conversational skills, you are now ready to “plan for the great event.” Preparing yourself is the key to successful socializing. You must make time in your calendar for social events, be open to making new friends, and maintain an open mind about various people you might meet or gatherings you might attend. Concentrate on seeing the best in others and yourself. It helps to know your own social character as well as the character of the event you plan to attend. Walker shows you how.

It’s all right to refuse an event that just doesn’t appeal to you. Where your attendance is required, however, you may have to stretch beyond your comfort zone---so focus on the positive aspects, whatever they are, and think of a positive reason for going. And while it’s okay to “blend into the background,” Walker lists several easy ways to feel comfortable when you must be the center of attention; wear bright, striking clothing, stand tall, and meet people’s gaze, for example.

The author gives a advice to party-goers to cover a wide range of contingencies and dilemmas. What if you must choose between conflicting events? How do your boost your confidence? How can you find out about the kind of people who will be there and the nature of the gathering? How do you avoid the hazard of drinking too much alcohol? How do you handle flirting? Can you socialize if you attend with a date or your spouse? How do you decide what to wear? Do you have enough money to cover expenses, such as drinks and a cab? When should you arrive and how do you know when it’s time to leave? Planning ahead is important.

Once you have attended a social event, follow-up on the acquaintances you have made. If you promised to call someone, make the call---be reliable in fulfilling your promises. As you become comfortable with socializing, you are creating ever-expanding possibilities for new friendships and business opportunities. You might even think of hosting your own event! You might also see where your social skills have other applications, as in business meetings or interviews. Successful socializing can enhance your “ongoing enjoyment of life.”

About the Author

Clare Walker is an NLP Master Practitioner who lives and works in London. She originally trained as a barrister and worked in the Civil Service, as well as in recruitment, publishing, and training. In 1998 she founded Selfworks, a coaching service and on-line personal development center, in which she helps individuals and organizations enhance their communication skills. For businesses she offers training in customer relations, accounts management, communication skills, effective meetings, corporate vision, and team building. For individuals she offers coaching in interview skills, telephone tips, getting promoted, confidence building, and happiness. Having thoroughly enjoyed every social event that she has attended for the last 15 years, she has now written Socialising for Success to help others do the same.

Conclusion

In Socialising for Success, NLP practitioners will recognize some tried and true NLP methods for helping people change from a negative state to a positive state: reframing, altering submodalities, anchoring resources, and mental rehearsal. There is also a bit of etiquette thrown in here and there. I liked the way the author breaks a conversation down to specific elements, such as conversational openings, tag questions, and links to related subjects. These descriptions help readers understand how conversations flow. I liked the way Walker described conversational strategies, such as getting into physical rapport, hovering, listening, asking questions, making a link, or telling a story.

This is a book for the true social klutz. While it’s hard to believe that there are actually folks who cringe at the mere thought of a dinner-party, there are, no doubt, people in that category. Socialising for Success is written for them. It is breezy, yet empathetic to the faint-hearted, and chock-full of good advice and encouragement. Not only is it fun to be sociable, it will help your career and expand your friendships! The practical, easy-to-understand exercises are for individuals—and could also be taught to groups. I do think this book could find avid readers among the shy and socially phobic, as well as practitioners, trainers, and coaches who work with them.