Why Social Skills Are the Shortcut to Happiness

People today are putting more conscious effort into figuring out what makes them happy and pursing that happiness. And there are many ideas out there about happiness, coming from a variety of sources: parents, teachers, friends, books, articles, media and advertising.

But I think that a lot of these ideas miss the mark; which is why I’d like to share my own perspective on the importance of one key asset in achieving happiness: your social skills. I believe they matter and they can benefit you so much that I deem good social skills a veritable shortcut to happiness.

Relationships as the Main Pillar of Happiness

Over the past decades there has been a lot of research in the field of psychology about the factors that make us happy. And the one that constantly stands out is our relationships with others. Individuals with quality relationships, who feel loved and appreciated, and have an active social life, are typically the happiest out there.

This makes perfect sense considering that we are social animals, who’ve always lived in some sort of social milieu, either a band, or a tribe, or a social group within a bigger town or city. And social cooperation has been essential in our survival and progress as a species.

social skillsPsychologist and neuroscientist Matthew D. Lieberman really drives this point home in his book, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect.

For instance, he argues that what our brains do by default when they don’t have any particular task is to contemplate social situations and examine the social world; which shows the central role that social relationships play in our lives. Truly, there is no denying their importance.

The Best Path to Good Relationships Is Not What Most People Think

However, most people are drawn into poor views about the ways to get respect, appreciation and good relationships.

Society in general has taught us that the best ways to get such things are by being wealthy, or having a respectable profession, or following the latest trends. And so, a plethora of people are chasing these things, hoping they will get them the kind of fulfilling human connections they yearn for.

I find it particularly interesting to discuss with folks who wanna make a lot of money. There are lots of reasons why many people wanna be rich. Through money they seek experiences, variety, freedom or security.

But digging deeper into their motivations, I find that, above all, most believe money is the top way to earn the appreciation of others, in order to feel good about themselves and be able to build fulfilling relationships.

It’s such an illusion! Both my coaching and social experiences have showed me over and over that: not only is money not a necessity to be appreciated, but chasing money is the long and inexact road to appreciation. The power of wealth to nurture good relationships has been vastly exaggerated by the rampant consumer culture we live in.

Really, the most popular ways to gain appreciation, considering the time and effort they require (a lot), the amount of respect they earn you (often not that much), and the type of respect they earn you (often superficial and fleeting), don’t amount to good investments.

Social Skills Are a Much Better Path

I believe the methods described above constitute the long, roundabout path to appreciation and good relationships. The straightest and shortest path is in building sharp social skills.

You see, when you have good social skills you are able:

  • To express yourself in an articulate, convincing and alluring way.
  • To talk with a wide range of people, on a wide range of topics.
  • To empathize well will people, to understand their motivations and views.
  • To know how to adapt to others while staying true to yourself at the same time.
  • To show social intelligence and navigate complex social dynamics.
  • To manage your emotions well in social situations.

This makes social skills the direct and the best tool to connect with people, make a positive impression and nurture good relationships. All else takes longer to acquire and works less effectively.

Put two people at, say, a party, one who is a successful lawyer with lots of money, wearing a trendy suit, but with average social skills, and another who is a person with an average job, average income and average clothes, but really good social skills, and I guarantee you this second person will blow the first one out of the water in terms of likability.

While having money, working in a respectable job and being fashionable all have their merits and benefits, my point is that if you want great relationships, you should focus on developing your social skills above all. They will help you much more than these things.

Social skills take some work to improve as well, but the return on investment is much better. And fortunately, there are lots of resources out there to help you, from books and articles to classes and coaching programs.

With this in mind, I recommend you get onboard my free social success newsletter, to receive regular practical advice from me on sharpening your social skills, directly into your Inbox.

When you join, you’ll also get instant, free access to an instructional presentation in which I’ll show you my proven formula for becoming socially confident.

Go here to join the newsletter right now.

Life has a lot to offer. And social skills are a key tool to help you collect much of its fruits. Sharpen your social skills, get out there and use them, and I promise you that your happiness will soar.

The 3 Layers of Learning in Personal Development

There are many ways to learn and grow as an individual, using a variety of tools. But not all of them work as effectively, and each tool entails a unique mix of advantages and disadvantages.

I’ve been involved in the personal development field for more than a decade: first as a practitioner only, then as a trainer, and now as a coach. In time I’ve reached the perspective that there are only 3 major tools a person can use in their self-improvement, and each one signifies a certain layer of learning.

The higher you go with these tools and the deeper you go in these layers of learning, the better results you achieve in your self-development. So I’d like to talk about these layers and help you get a better image of what you can do to see the changes you want to see in your life.

Layer #1: Articles

The internet is riddled with how-to articles on every imaginable personal development topic. Such articles are the first and most basic tool for self-improvement.

Articles are usually short and simple, each one only takes a few minutes to read, they are fairly easy to find, and most of them are free. So it’s obvious why, when facing a problem in life, people are quick to jump online to search for some articles with advice on how to solve it.

The trouble is that, although reading articles is a good start to learning how to deal with a certain problem, if the problem is fairly complex (and most personal development problems are), it will not be nearly enough.

This is why often, people who try to solve intricate issues like a lack of confidence, poor social skills, anger problems or toxic relationships just by reading some articles, although they make some progress, they fail to fully fix the issue or they take a reaaaally long time. The tools of the next layer may just do the trick though.

Layer #2: Books

booksBooks are the next level in personal development. When you feel like you’re not getting good enough solutions for a problem from articles, it’s wise to look for and pick up a good book addressing your type of problem. This can be a physical book, an e-book, an audio guide, etc.

As a general rule, books provide a much better learning and growth experience for a few keys reasons:

  • They offer more in-depth advice, which works better when put into practice than the more superficial advice you find in articles.
  • They address the multiple facets of a problem, from more angles than articles do, because they have the space to do so.
  • They typically organize all the info into a system, a method, which is much easier to apply then a bunch of scattered tips and advice.
  • People who write books tend to be more competent than people who write only articles, which makes for a higher quality of information on average in books.

Of course, books have the disadvantage that they cost money, although usually not that much. Price tag considered though, if you’re serious about making a crucial change in an area of your life, it’s highly valuable to get at least one book on that topic instead of stopping at reading articles.

I’ve read many personal development articles over the years, but I’ve also invested in many dozens of books, and looking back, it was definitely worth it.

Layer #3: Coaching

Coaching is in my view the most advanced tool for personal development, and it reaches the deepest layer of learning. By ‘coaching’ I mean any type of one-on-one learning, whether it’s coaching, counseling, therapy, etc.

Coaching people on a daily basis, I understand its dynamics and I’ve witnessed its benefits clearly. The main reason why coaching is a very powerful tool has to do with the fact that, being a one-on-one experience, everything is entirely customized to deal with your particular issues, in your particular circumstances.

When you work with a coach, you move from, for instance, “here is how to gain confidence in general” to “here is how you can gain confidence, given your specific beliefs, personality structure, lifestyle, and life experiences.” Plus, you get constant support to implement effectively all the insights you’ve gained. And that matters, a lot.

The major drawback of coaching is that it costs, and it costs considerably more than books. While you’ll usually spend $20 to $50 on a good book (physical, digital, or audio), you can expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars for a full-fledged coaching program.

Provided you find a good coach, I believe it’s definitely worth it though. But I also realize that for many folks, such a financial investment is too much for their current possibilities.

So if you have a meaningful goal you wanna achieve and you can afford some coaching to help you, I definitely encourage you to use it. You’ll see much, much better and faster results with reliable one-on-one support. Otherwise, consider both books and articles.

Of course, working with a bad coach will probably help you less than reading a good book and applying it on your own. And a bad book will likely help you less than a few good articles. But a good coaching program is net superior to a good book, which is net superior to a few good articles.

On the assumption of competent authors and providers, it’s worth shifting your self-improvement from articles-based to books-based, and then, if you can, to coaching-based. By investing some money in the right tools, you save a lot of precious time and you get way better results.

For more personal development and social success advice and articles from me, I invite you to join my free newsletter. And to take your learning to the next level, check out my Conversation Confidence audio-book.

Why ‘Never Give Up’ Is Not Good Advice

If you read self-help or motivational literature even occasionally, you’re likely to have come across the advice to “never give up”. It’s a very popular piece of encouragement. Unfortunately, like much mainstream self-improvement advice, it’s also not very good.

The usual idea behind the encouragement to never give up is indeed noble. It’s the idea that your dreams are important, and if you persist in trying to make them come true, you eventually will, and that is all that matters.

But noble doesn’t mean accurate. This idea disregards some crucial aspects of reality, human life and human psychology, which makes the resulting advice really impractical and even hurtful.

3 Problems with Never Giving Up

I believe there are 3 main issues with never giving up.

1) It ignores the harsh but undeniable reality that you may simply be unable to achieve certain goals, no matter how much you try. Some things truly are outside your reach. The fact a few people have done them doesn’t necessarily mean you can do them as well.

Take the example of fame. According to a major survey done in the US in 2005, 31% of American teenagers believe they are going to be famous someday. But by its very nature, fame is something extremely few people can achieve: one in thousands or less. So clearly a lot of these teenagers will never become famous. This goal is unreachable for most of them.

2) It disregards that fact that the resources invested in reaching some lofty goal may be better used some other way. Even if a goal can be achieved eventually if you never give up, the amount of time, energy, money and other resources you pour in it might be huge.

And since these resources are limited, it’s prudent after some trial and error to sensibly consider if it’s worth further investing your resources in trying to reach that goal, especially if reaching it will not make you that much happier, or you might better invest them in pursuing some other goal. These kinds of practical computations are very important.

3) Your motivation system if setup to prevent you from pursuing unattainable goals, and that should tell you something. Have you noticed how when you fail at something big time, you feel down and lack motivation to try again? Contrary to conventional wisdom, that is actually not a bad thing.

You see, feeling down is, among other things, a way for your mind to try to make you disengage, reassess the situation, and possibly let go of an unrealistic goal. The problem is that we often ignore our feelings, and we keep striving for something we can’t get or we can only get with too much sacrifice. Then when we fail again we feel even worse, and worse, until it develops into a full blown depression.

It is true that we often become disheartened and give up too fast, and that’s when we wanna fight against the discouragement, but many other times it’s trying to tell us something true and crucial, and we should really listen.

When To and When Not To Give Up

So it is wise sometimes to give up. I don’t wanna create the impression though that every time you fail at something, it means you can’t do it and you should just quit. Certainly there is the common problem at the other extreme, which is that of the many people giving up too fast, because they make too big of a deal of any failure.

The message here is that you wanna have a sensible, pragmatic relation to your goals. Set big goals, seek to achieve them, and assess any failure rationally. Sometimes failure in reaching a goal is a sign you need to keep trying, and maybe adjust your strategy a little. Thus, it’s not wise to give up on a goal if:

  • You have only made a couple of tries to achieve that said goal;
  • There are lots of feasible routes you can still try to reach it;
  • Each new attempt doesn’t cost you much compared to the potential payoff, or
  • You’ve made visible progress towards your goal and you’re still moving forward.

Other times though, failure is a clear sign that your objective is farfetched or not worth it, so you might as well drop it. In the face of repeated, costly failure, when you’ve exhausted nearly every route and made almost no headway, it’s time to cut your losses and give up.

And giving up on a goal doesn’t mean giving up on life. Even if you fail at something, you are still a person filled with potential, and there are many other things you can achieve in life.

Even your initial goal, if you rework it a bit, you can usually turn it into one that’s more suitable for you, and you’ll achieve that one. You may not achieve the objective of becoming a millionaire, but you can still make a good income, doing something you enjoy.

On the social side, you may not end up with hundreds of friends who adore you, but you can still have a solid group of cool friends. You may not get some former-supermodel-movie-star to be your partner, but you can still have a meaningful relationship with a great person.

As a social confidence coach, I assure you these are realistic social goals, even if you’re very shy or socially awkward right now. You just have to find the right approach to improve your social confidence, social skills and social life, and use it some time with some consistency.

Speaking of which, check out this free social confidence presentation, and join my free social skills newsletter as well. I share lots of proven social advice in them to help you improve in these areas.

As you let go of unrealistic goals and you focus your ambition on bold but realistic ones, as you learn to recognize when to give up and when to keep going, you put your life on a path that’s certain to produce a lot of joy and fulfillment.

You hold the reigns of your life. Just bear in mind that not all roads are equally accessible to everybody.

Why Your Life Sucks: The Top 5 Reasons

Sometimes, while contemplating who you are, what you’ve accomplished so far and how your life looks, you may find yourself thinking and saying to yourself: “Wow! My life sucks!”

Many times, this thought is a blatant lie. Your life doesn’t suck; you have plenty of things to feel good about. Sometimes though, even if it’s still an exaggerated thought, there may be some truth to it. There may be several areas of your life where things are not going the way you’d like them to go, and you’re clearing not living up to your potential.

As a confidence and communication coach, I work all the time with people who feel they’re underachieving. Although a dramatization, “my like sucks” is almost a mantra for some of them. Drawing from this coaching experience, I’d like to discuss what I deem the 5 most widespread and crucial reasons why your life may not be how you want it to be.

1. You Don’t Know Yourself

Self-knowledge is critical if you wanna achieve something in life and be happy. If you don’t know what you want, you’re not gonna have clear, stimulating goals to go for. If you don’t know what truly makes you happy, you’re likely to aim for goals society says you should achieve but actually do little to make you happier.

If you don’t know your natural strengths, you’re gonna let them go to waste while trying to perform well in tasks you have no natural inclination for. A shortage of self-knowledge leads to heaps of missed opportunities and pointless frustrations.

So if you believe you don’t know yourself well, I recommend that you make understanding yourself better a priority. Introspection, feedback from others, personality tests, psychology books and coaching sessions, they can all help immensely in knowing yourself better. Use these tools.

2. You Let Yourself Get Distracted

boredThere are plenty of elements all around us to distract us from our goals: movies, games, TV, the web, Facebook, food, drinks, music, gossip, etc. They pull us to engage with them for a dose of brief but immediate pleasure, often losing sight of our long-term goals in life.

It’s very easy to fall prey to such distractions and end up ignoring your major goals. Then one day, as you look back at your life, you realize you’ve spend years entangled in activities that gave you instant gratification, but you’ve accomplished little that’s worthwhile.

People who get things done recognize the powerful pull of distractions, they learn how to manage them, and they do so daily. They learn how to balance seeking short-term and long-term satisfaction, and they take active steps to make distractions less available. If you wanna achieve something in life, you wanna follow their example.

3. You Expect Quick Results

I’m frequently shocked by how fast most people expect to achieve their goals. They have nearly zero tolerance for things going slowly and taking hard work. They want everything to happen now and happen effortlessly.

I see this related to confidence and communication skills building in particular, since this is my field. So often, severely shy people expect to become super-confident socially in literally just a few days. Or people with few social skills seek a few quick tips that will make them smooth and charismatic overnight.

When you tell them that social confidence and social skills, even with a highly-optimized approach, will still take weeks and months to improve visibly, many swiftly go looking for someone who will promise them immediate results. A year later, they’re back looking at your solutions, having made no progress in this time. That’s the paradox of seeking quick fixes: it actually delays one’s progress instead of hasting it.

Expecting quick but meaningful results is simply not realistic. Anything worth achieving will require time and work to be achieved. Change doesn’t happen overnight; success doesn’t come overnight. It’s crucial to accept that and let go of expectations to get quick, meaningful results. Only then, you’ll be able to put in the necessary work to get what you want.

4. You’re Not Willing to Invest in Yourself

Your success in any area of life (career, relationships, health, etc.) is greatly influenced by the quality of your education in that area. Quality education gives you the right know-how and helps you develop the proper skills to achieve what you want, in a timely manner.

But quality education rarely comes cheap, and it almost never comes free. Sadly, a lot of people are not willing to invest financially in their professional and personal growth. They try to get by with free information they can find on the Internet, or to figure everything out on their own.

That’s the very long, slow and frustrating road to success. As I mentioned above, no meaningful results can be achieved overnight, but you can sure speed up the process a lot by getting the proper education and help.

It’s worth investing some money in books, classes and training programs that help you gain key knowledge and develop relevant skills. I can vouch from experience that, if you choose the right education and teachers, the return on investment will be tenfold.

5. You Hang Out With the Wrong Crowd

The people you surround yourself with and spend your time with have a huge impact on where your life goes. Unsurprisingly, it’s very common for individuals with unfulfilling lives to hang out with people who pull the down instead of pushing them up.

These people they hang out with fit various negative profiles: some are pessimists who discourage them from following their dreams, some are slackers who encourage them to waste time, some are needy and drain them of resources, some are dumb or prejudiced, and some are toxic or manipulative.

If you have such people in your life, it’s crucial to distance yourself from them, so they’re not able to influence you. You will do much better when you’re out from their negative spell.

Your life really doesn’t have to suck in any way. Like all other people, you’re not perfect, but you do have the ability to live a pretty damn good existence. However, it won’t happen by accident. You need an effective approach to life. I have laid out its fundamentals in this article.

For more advice from me for your personal and social success, check out my free social confidence training video, and join my free social skills newsletter. You won’t regret it.

What Makes a Good Leader?

As my coaching experience grows and my communication coaching skills improve, I find myself increasingly more working with people in high management positions. The business world is an interesting kind of jungle and the activity of a top manager is quite fascinating to me.

But a person in a top management position is more than a manager. He or she is also a leader. So in my work, the question of what makes a good leader often comes up. I believe there are many traits that make a good leader, but 5 of them are particularly important. Here they are and here’s why they matter so much:

1. Vision

One of the most important roles of a leader is to inspire people. But in order to do this, they need to have a clear vision of what the organization they lead is about, of what exactly and how it seeks to achieve. And this vision must have the power to inspire others.

If you look throughout history at great political, social, religious and business leaders, you’ll frequently discover the presence of such a clear vision in them. Think of the “I have a dream” speech made by Martin Luther King. The ideas conveyed in that speech express the kind of compelling and relevant vision I’m talking about. Whatever field a leader is in, they can have such a vision.

2. Public Speaking Skills

The work of a leader involves a lot of communication, and much of which occurs not one-on-one, but with groups of people. Whether delivering a presentation to a dozen people in an office meeting or speaking to hundreds of people at a conference, a good leader must have good communication skills in general, and great public speaking skills in particular.

Business Talks

Sharp public speaking skills make a brilliant combination with a clear vision, because these skills allow the leader to articulate that vision in a persuasive way.

In their absence, the vision will likely remain just a good idea that few people actually understand or buy into. How it is communicated indeed makes all the difference in the world.

3. Self-Confidence 

As any true leader can attest, being in a leadership position involves a lot of responsibility and pressure. Good leaders work hard, take risks, deal with uncertainty constantly and face unthinkable challenges. Dealing with such situations without losing your sanity takes a lot of emotional strength, and this strength comes from a serious dose of self-confidence.

Good leaders have this solid self-confidence. They trust themselves to make good decisions. At the same time, they can accept that they will make mistakes, because they trust themselves to learn from them and quickly get on the right track. They strongly believe that, one way or another, they will get the job done.

If you wanna learn more about where this kind of powerful self-confidence comes from and how you can develop it, I suggest you check out this special video, in which I’ll show you just that.

4. Empathy 

In big organizations with hundreds or thousands of people, it’s common for a leader at the top of the management structure to lose touch with what’s going on at the bottom of the organization, at the level of the ordinary member or employee, and thus make many faulty decisions, which in time erode the organization.

This is why it’s crucial for a leader to have empathy. Empathy manifests itself in the desire of the leader to stay connected to people at all levels of the organization, and in the ability to understand what these people do and experience. Good leaders know when their people are satisfied or dissatisfied, and they know why. They never lose touch with others and they realize when a change is needed.

5. Integrity 

I define integrity as the alignment between what one thinks, says and does; the alignment between thoughts, words and actions. I believe Integrity is an integral part of what makes a good leader. Good leaders say what they truly think, and they do what they promise.

Because they are honest and they keep their promises, good leaders are trusted and respected by those they lead. People genuinely want to follow them. This makes it much easier for them to have good communication with people, to engage them, and to make things happen. It’s no surprise that integrity is often quoted in the business literature as a key trait of good leaders.

These 5 traits largely represent what I believe makes a good leader. In my experience, few people on the path towards leadership positions have all 5 of them. Fortunately these traits can be developed. They are mostly thinking, emotional and behavioral patterns, which, with practice and the right guidance, can be learned.

So if you wanna be a good leader and you are serious about it, there is nothing to stop you from becoming one. For more help from me in developing the traits of a good leader, I suggest you check out my coaching services and get onboard my free social advice newsletter.

How to Be Memorable in 4 Practical Steps

As a species, we human beings are outstandingly social creatures. We crave companionship and connection. We love to be accepted, appreciated and admired by others. But perhaps one of the most fascinating social desires we have is the desire to be memorable.

We want others to remember us, to think about us, and to recognize us immediately when they meet us again. Having a place in their memory makes us feel proud, makes us feel valued, and sometimes it almost makes us feel immortal through their reminiscence of us.

The subject of being memorable often comes up in discussions with my communication coaching clients. I’d like to share with you 4 key pieces of advice on how to be memorable that I often discuss with them.

1. Start with the Way You Dress

I had a period when I used to wear colored hats a lot. Almost everywhere I went, I had a colored hat on my head. That taught me a valuable lesson about clothing: dressing in a unique way can really get you noticed and remembered.

People would constantly comment about my hat. They’d first get curious about it, then they’d get curious about me. After seeing me once, many would recognize me on the spot the next time they saw me due to the hat.

I even learned that some people would talk about me after having met me at some event, but they hadn’t remembered my name, so they would just describe me as “the guy with the colored hat”. The other person would instantly say: “Oh yeah, I know who you’re talking about”.

I’m not suggesting that you should dress in a really outlandish way. But having just one or two interesting and unique items on you can make you a lot more memorable. You’ll easily stand out from your average person, who dresses in a bland and unremarkable way.

2. Say Things Others Don’t Dare To Say

Hanging upside down is funThere are crucial truths that most of us need to hear, but we rarely do. Because others don’t want to upset us, get rejected, or seem impolite.

That’s one of the reasons many companies hire coaches and consultants: to tell key employees what nobody inside the company dares to tell them; to give them honest and complete feedback.

If you tell people what nobody else dares to tell them, you’re guaranteed to be remembered by them. Being very honest is great for becoming memorable.

In order to be so honest though, you need to be able to risk upsetting people. It’s worth taking this risk, but to be able to do so you need a solid dose of social confidence; which few people have. This is why most folks play it safe with others and hide the truth when honesty is risky.

Gaining social confidence is something I’ve coached many people in achieving. Based on my 6+ years of cumulated experience, I’ve created a practical presentation in which I will show you step by step how to gain social confidence fast, so you can be more straightforward with people. If this is something you sometimes struggle with, you’ll find this presentation very useful. So go here and watch it right now.

3. Notice Subtle Details about People

When you can observe and point out something to somebody that few people notice about them, or maybe even they’re not aware of, you’ve hit the jackpot.

You don’t necessarily have to notice something positive, and thus pay them a unique compliment (although you get bonus points for that). The main thing is to notice something subtle and make an insightful comment. For example: “Have you noticed that when I say something you agree with, you tend to start knocking with the tip of your fingers on the table? It’s cool how you do that.”

People love it when others notice subtle things about them. It makes them feel appreciated, and it shows you’re a keen observer, which is a rare quality. That makes noticing subtle details a great path to being memorable. So start paying more attention to others when interacting with them, and help them feel unique. You’ll be handsomely rewarded.

4. Help Others in a Big Way

Helping someone in a big way involves being there for them when they need you the most, and providing them what they need the most at that time. This can be emotional support, financial aid, proper guidance, etc.

It entails going beyond small acts of kindness like getting someone a box of chocolates (which most people can do), and doing something more meaningful for them. You have to exert yourself to help someone in a big way. But that’s exactly what makes it very effective as a way to be remembered.

People rarely forget big gestures done for them. When they look back at years or decades of their life, the persons they remember above all are the ones who contributed to their life in a significant way. You wanna be such a person for a good number of people.

Knowing how to be memorable and being so definitely have their benefits. And it’s not just about getting your ego stroked. When you’re memorable, since people pay a lot more attention to you, you have a special channel wide open to influence them. You have a genuine chance to change the life of other people. That’s the real benefit.

For more social success advice from me, please join my free social confidence newsletter.

How to Win an Argument and Do It with Style

My argumentation and persuasion skills were the very first communication skills I ever became interested in developing. This was many years ago, back in high-school, when I decided to join my school’s debate and public speaking club. Looking back, that was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Since then I’ve had a lot of experience in both formal and informal argumentation and debate, and I’ve honed my persuasion skills to the nth degree. I’ve learned a few important lessons concerning how to behave during an argument and how to win an argument, which I wanna share with you. Here they are:

1. Make Sure You’re Standing On Firm Ground

A lot of us have very strong opinions on topics we actually know very little about. We delude ourselves that we have a firm grasp on these topics, and thus our opinions are correct. So we’re quick to jump into an argument with anybody who doesn’t share our opinions, certain that we’ll be able to show them we’re right.

I’ve seen many arguments between a person with weak knowledge on the topic being discussed (but very opinionated nonetheless) and a person who was a near expert on that topic (plus a sharp orator). It’s like seeing a lamb in the slaughterhouse (the lamb being the former person). Just brutal!

This is why it’s key to make sure you are knowledgeable on a subject and your ideas are carefully thought-out before getting into a debate on that subject. This means to be standing on firm ground. Don’t assume you know all and you’re always right. Don’t engage in quarrels on topics you lack a firm grasp on. Arrogance is the biggest weakness during arguments.

2. Learn To Apply Solid Reasoning

The building blocks of persuasion are solid reasoning skills.

In order to be convincing, you need to know how to tie together ideas, facts and evidence in a way that makes them logically lead to the conclusion you wanna prove. You also need to be able to see and expose the flaws in the other person’s logic. This is what solid reasoning enables you to do.

I encourage you to study the field of logic, learn how to build logical arguments and how to identify logical errors. Then employ this knowledge as much as you can, and with practice, you’ll develop fast, reliable reasoning skills. Thus you’ll be able to prove your points and disprove contrary points convincingly.

3. Show Respect towards the Other Person

debateSolid arguments are important, but they are not enough to win an argument. If you don’t treat the person you’re arguing with in a respectful way, it doesn’t matter how strong your case is: you won’t win the argument.

Nobody wants to give into the ideas of somebody who is acting like a jerk. Even if deep down they know you’re right, if they feel disrespected they are likely to resist your arguments simply because they don’t wanna feel that someone who disrespected them won the debate.

Unfortunately, we often tend to become rude during arguments. It’s important to keep this tendency in check. Listen to the other person, try not to interrupt them, agree with them when they are indeed right, don’t give them condescending looks, don’t mock them and don’t insult them. Just because you’re arguing with someone, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it reverently.

4. Always Keep Calm and Composed

Speaking of respect, one of the main reasons why we sometimes end up being rude during an argument is because we get pissed off. And when we do it’s much harder to behave civilly.

Other times we get nervous, which makes it hard to think straight, which makes it hard to reason properly, so there goes our persuasive power in the dispute. That’s why it’s crucial to able to stay calm and composed.

In order to stay calm and composed during an argument, you need to address the root of your anger or anxiety and do some effective emotional management. This is a pretty serious and complex topic, so instead of addressing here, I created a special presentation where I discuss it in more detail.

So I suggest you go here and watch this presentation. In it I describe how negative emotions like anger and social anxiety arise, and how to deal with them in order to be calm and confident, not just during arguments, but in all sorts of social situations.

5. Know When to Cut Your Loses

You can’t win all arguments. In fact there are many arguments you can get into that you have almost zero chances of winning. Not because you don’t have a strong case, but because the other person is too emotionally invested in their own point of view. They desperately need to believe they are right.

There comes a point in these arguments, sometimes a few minutes in, sometimes just a few seconds in, when you can realize that you’re in a dispute you can’t win. Many times we blindly pass that point; because we don’t wanna accept that it’s time to give up.

But if you put your ego aside and you pay attention, you’ll be able to spot that point, and you’ll know when to back out of an argument and cut your losses, because you’re wasting your time going further with it. It’s not easy to do it, but it’s a lot better than the alternative.

If you wanna learn more about dealing with your ego, building persuasive arguments and other related topics, I recommend you join my free social success newsletter, where I share regular advice.

Persuasion is a great skill to have. You’re not gonna win all arguments and convince all people, but it’s wonderful to have some real influence over those around you. It makes you feel like you can truly help people change and make this world a better place.

When People Tell You That You Don’t Talk Much

When I was shy, I didn’t talk very much in conversations, especially with people I didn’t know well. So I often received comments and questions like: “You don’t talk much” or “Why don’t you participate in the conversation?”

I remember that these kinds of remarks and questions made feel very uncomfortable and I didn’t know how to react to them. I didn’t like being shy, and I liked it even less when people realized that I was shy.

Then, coaching shy people for a living, I discovered that almost every shy person deals with such situations and they don’t know how to handle them effectively. So I’d like to share some practical idea with you and clarify what you can do when people say you don’t talk very much.

Do Not Get Defensive or Try To Be Witty

Usually, when a person gets told they don’t talk very much, their first impulse is to justify themselves. They will go into this elaborate and often phony explanation designed to prevent them from appearing shy because they don’t talk much.

Unfortunately, others typically see right through such explanations. And the very fact that you’re trying to defend yourself so hard is the first indication that the comment bothered you, which is a sign of insecurity in itself.

Other times they will try to be witty and deliver some sort of clever comeback. This is typically doomed to fail as well. As you may have experienced yourself, it is seldom that you manage to be witty when you’re put on the spot by somebody and you feel emotional pressure.

Defending yourself and trying to be witty are both anxiety-generated, approval-seeking reactions, and believe me, they do very little for you. Here is a much better alternative.

Just Provide a Basic Answer

criticI found that when someone tells you that you don’t talk much, the best answer is a short, simple one. Something like “Yeah, sometimes I’m not in the mood to talk” or “I just don’t have anything to say right now” is enough.

You’re still explaining yourself, but you’re not over-explaining yourself so it doesn’t come off as needy or defensive. Most importantly, by giving just a basic answer, you’re not making a big deal out of this whole thing. You give a basic reply to a basic question, and you move on.

In my experience, this is by far the best approach. The other person will take the answer you provided, be satisfied with it, and continue participating in the social interaction.

It’s even okay to admit that you’re a bit shy. Other people actually have a lot of understanding towards shy people. Not pity, as many shy persons assume; understanding.

And even if they may not seem like it, they are shy to some extend as well. Or they may have been in the past. Understanding that you’re shy typically encourages them to be supportive towards you, which is the best response to help you get out of your shell in social situations.

Focus On Overcoming Your Shyness Not On Hiding It

Overall, I feel that focusing on making others think you are social when you really aren’t is counterproductive. Your priority should be to learn to be more outgoing socially (which you can do), rather than managing how others see you.

Interestingly enough, the moment when you stop caring too much about comments like “you don’t talk much” is when you start to be more talkative and so you get less of these comments. It means you’ve begun to not fear disapproval, a fear that’s at the root of shyness and social anxiety.

So, focus on learning to see yourself in a better light, on overcoming your limiting beliefs and on building social skills. This is what will make you more confident socially and more talkative.

This approach helps you deal with the primary issue, which is the fact you’re shy, not the secondary one, which is the fact people see you as shy.

Shyness is not a disease; it’s not even a defect necessarily. But it is a thorny behavioral and emotional habit that can make it very hard to relate to others and make you miss out on a lot in life. And thus it’s the core issue to deal with.

To learn how to eliminate your limiting beliefs and overcome shyness, I suggest that you watch this instructional presentation, where I discuss this topic in more detail. Access it right now.

Work on dealing with your shyness, using proven psychological tools, and the multiple problems derived from shyness (such as pesky remarks from other people) will naturally disappear.

Image courtesy of jontintinjordan

Dealing With a Personal Development Information Overload

Information overload is very common for people who are into personal development. It’s essentially when you’ve learned so much theory that your mind is overburdened and so it’s difficult to put it into practice.

What happens is that you consume a lot of conceptual information from books, articles, trainings and so on, and then instead of applying it, you get even more information; and more, and more. And when you finally decide to start applying it, you find out there is too much competing information in your head, to many concepts, ideas and voices telling you what to do.

You can recall everything and nothing at the same time, you don’t know where to begin with practicing, you feel confused and overwhelmed. So you become paralyzed and all that information goes to waste, because you don’t actually apply any of it to build real-life skills or attitudes.

info

I think that personal development information overload is very common because many of us, when we decide to improve an area of our life, we want to get all the information from the get go, to make sure he have any hypothetical scenario covered, and only then start using it.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t work very well. There needs to be a continuous balance between theory and practice in personal development, otherwise is gets disrupted. Considering this, here are my top 3 pieces of advice for dealing with a personal development information overload.

1. Take a Clean Break

Obviously, you’ll need to stop learning new concepts in order to prevent burdening your head with even more info. However, at first it’s also good to not try and jump into practice right away either. Instead, it’s best to take a short but clean break from both theory and practice.

You see, if you have too much information and you wanna start applying it, you’re like a person who ate an excessively big meal and wants to go jump in the swimming pool. With all that food in their stomach, it won’t be a pleasant experience. What they need is to wait a while and give time to some of that food to digest.

Similarly, you need to wait a while and give time to some of that excess information to go out. Your mind will quickly begin doing a cleaning job in your memory, dump some of the surplus info and keep and reorganize the info it sees as the most relevant.

This does indeed mean that you’ll lose some of the knowledge you acquired, but it’s much better this way. Because with less knowledge, your mind is more flexible, it can dig through the knowledge faster and it’s much easier to apply it.

2. Select Just a Few Ideas to Practice

When you start to practice the theory, don’t try to use it all at once. It’s too much. Your actions will be all over the place and you’ll make little progress in terms of building new habits.

The best route is to select only a few key ides and concentrate on applying them until you feel they’ve become a part of you and you now employ them naturally. If for example you want to be more outgoing socially, pick just 2-3 techniques and apply them. Then select a few more ideas and apply them, and so on.

This is the step-by-step approach to personal development, which is much more effective than trying to make one big jump and be done with it. The human mind works best if it focuses on a few simple tasks at a time. With this approach you’ll make the most progress in the long-run.

3. Set a Theory/Practice Ratio for the Future

In the future you’ll want to prevent information overload from happening again. This implies keeping a balance between how much theory you learn and how much you practice it.

The top way I know to achieve this is by setting a theory/practice ratio that you find convenient and sticking to it. For instance you can set a 1 to 5 hours ratio, which means that after 1 hour of conceptual studying, you need to spend 5 hours applying what you’ve learned. And you only allow yourself to go back to acquiring more info after the 5 hours of practice.

There is no universally perfect ratio; you’ll have to find one that works for you and your personal development goals. Just keep in mind that whatever ratio you pick, it’s key to have relatively short periods of learning theory followed by much longer periods of putting it into practice.

One of the perks of setting such ratios it that it forces you to be selective about what you study, since you’ve put a strict constraint on your studying time. This in turn means that you’ll be particularly picky about what you learn and you’ll be much more concerned with the quality of the information you get.

You’ll want to learn from the experts, you’ll be more willing to pay for information if it’s more valuable than free information, and the benefits will show in the results you’ll obtain consistently.

Your self-growth will be real and effective; you’ll see your behavior, your emotions and your life improve day by day, and you’ll enjoy every moment of it.

PS: I recently wrote 2 articles for DatingAdvice.com. One article is about making women notice you, the other is on how to make a girl laugh. Check them out.

Image courtesy of Will Lion