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.

Are You Missing Half the Ingredients to Happiness?

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that in the end, all of the things we aim for are ways to increase our happiness and that happiness is our ultimate goal as living, breathing human beings.

It does take a bit of a genius though to achieve a high and sustainable level of happiness. Coaching others, I’ve realized that many people seriously lack in happiness because they have a bad understanding of what happiness is and what actually makes us humans in general happy. So, I’m gonna tell you.

The Two Sides of Happiness

One of probably the best things psychologists have done lately is to deconstruct happiness. Their conclusion, which I support wholeheartedly, is that although happiness has many sides to it, there are two basic ingredients that compose it.

The first ingredient is pleasure. It’s the basic, positive emotional state you get when you do certain kind of activities. We sometimes call these activities our passions. Examples of passions include: reading, writing, dancing, painting, organizing, evaluating, solving problems, talking, listening and so on.

The second ingredient is fulfillment. This is the more complex positive emotion you get when you look back at the things you have done and you find that those things are meaningful to you, because they’re aligned with your values.

Some people – such as myself – find fulfillment in helping others develop, some in making others feel happy, some in building a thing and some in creating a piece of art or poetry. Generally, we feel fulfilled when we have a contribution to something larger than ourselves.

Here Comes the Problem

In my experience the number one way people sabotage their happiness is this: going for one of the two ingredients above, while ignoring the other. Thus, two types of people are shaped, for which I have coined up names:

1. The party person. This is the person who knows how to have fun but not how to get fulfillment. Party persons do the things they’re passionate about; they typically have a lot of hobbies and they party a lot (therefore the name). However, they often end up reflecting upon their lives and feeling unfulfilled because something is missing.

2. The spiritual person. This is the person who is aware (mostly intuitively) of the importance of contribution and a higher purpose. Spiritual persons seek a higher plain of living and they stick to their key values. However, in their strict spiritual journey, they often work themselves like a mule and they forget to have some fun.

Of course, there is also a third type of people who don’t go after pleasure or fulfillment and they pretty much gave up on life, but I don’t even want to talk about them.

The Complete Life

By this point you probably already know where I’m going: you can only have a truly happy life if you:

  • Acknowledge both sides of happiness, pleasure and fulfillment, and
  • You seek to balance them out in your life.

Me, I love public speaking. When I’m doing a speech and I’m in front all those people dissecting a topic I’m knowledgeable about (such as people skills), I feel very good. At the same time, after a speech, I have this perception of having helped those people in the audience open new doors in their lives and I also feel fulfilled.

It is the mix of pleasure and fulfillment that’s key. I believe that what you want to do is combine activities that give you pleasure with activities that give you fulfillment every day. Better yet, find activities that give you both and spend as much time as possible doing those kinds of activities.

Get out there and wisely make the best of it. If life is worth living, life is worth living right.

Image courtesy of BoSquidley

Happiness Really Is in the Little Things

I’m on a train going to visit my parents. Next to me, there is this old lady with an enthusiasm to envy. She’s looking out the window and saying: “Look at all the trees! They’re so green! And look at all the beautiful houses!” I look at her attentively for a moment and I realize she’s probably in her 80’s, but her face is shining with youth, joy and vitality.

Meanwhile, I’m on my laptop, hurrying to answer all my emails before I reach my station, noticing that I’m loosing my Internet connection, thinking to myself “Damn! This isn’t fair! Why is this happening to me! I need to answer my emails!” and getting myself annoyed by the situation.

Then I suddenly realize how silly I am, in the way I think, feel and act right now. And how silly the vast majority of us humans are. Here we are, living in the most evolved society that ever existed, a world which our ancestors 2000 years ago didn’t even dream of, and we’re bitching about things like our Internet providers.

I instantly hear myself thinking: “Fuck this!” A split second later, I close Outlook with a click, deciding to leave my emails for later and I abruptly… relax. I start looking out the window; I notice: the trees are beautiful. Very beautiful! And I don’t even like green. Or so I thought.

How many moments of joy and happiness do we miss out on each day, because we get distracted and pissed off by small problems? How many of them do we miss out on in one month, one year and one lifetime? I don’t even want to make this estimate.

In psychological terms, it is called habituation: the process of getting used with something which exists in our lives all the time or a lot, so it no longer evokes the same emotional response. What it basically means is that our mind no longer interprets that thing as special. It sees it as normal, as a given, it takes it for granted.

This is how we take for granted almost everything in our lives. The personal car, the big plasma TV, the instant communication available with anyone on the planet at anytime, the skills we have as people and the things we can do. Then we start getting really frustrated when for some reason, one of these is no longer available to us. We feel cheated, betrayed, as if life owes us something. Forget silly: this is hilarious!

And so my lesson for the day emerges: if we want to live truly happy lives, we need to stop tacking things for granted. We need to look at even the smallest things in our lives and realize how great, how extraordinary they are. Then we can laugh at almost any modern life problem we have.

When you are able to enjoy the little things in life, not only that you become a lot happier, but you also radiate it. So in social interactions, you exude this positive energy which gets you noticed, impresses people and attracts them to you. This is one interesting way to improve your people skills.

I don’t believe in destiny, but if I would, I’d say that it’s manifesting right now: the old lady got off and now there’s this 8-9 years old kid who just climbed aboard with his mom in her place. He’s full of energy, he’s bouncing left and right and singing “Happy Birthday” like it’s the epiphany of musical creations. He’s so exited about this song!

This must be the second pointer to the same lesson, for reinforcement. I’m looking at the kid and I’m thinking: “I hope school and habituation don’t mess with his head too much”. My station is near; time to close…

Image courtesy of linh.ngan