Social Skills

Learned abilities that enable you to interact appropriately and successfully within a wide variety of social situations are known as social skills.[1] Common social skills are behaviors such as effective communication, active listening, emotional regulation, friendship-making, and interpersonal problem-solving. A person’s effectiveness at performing these social skills is known as social competence. This ability to evaluate a social situation, determine expected behavior and then successfully engage in the necessary social skills[2] is an important component of mental health, and it is a learned ability. With practice and awareness you can build social skills and increase your social competency.    

Good social skills require a high level of self-awareness. Understanding and identifying your own emotions, strengths and shortcomings is an important starting point to better develop key social skills. You can deepen your understanding of your personal social intelligence through a Social Skills Test and then work to further develop key social skills. 

Basic Social Skills

  • Eye Contact: Consistently making eye contact demonstrates your interest in the person and the conversation. When you maintain eye contact people are more likely to remember your face, what you have said, and perceive you as confident and intelligent.
  • Body Language: Relaxed and comfortable body language that mirrors the person you are speaking to provides important social cues about your interest and emotional state. Smiling and nodding your head can provide non-verbal encouragement in a conversation. Avoid crossing arms, legs, or turning away from someone.
  • Verbal Communication: Clarity of speech, tone of voice, pace of speech, and word choice based on the person you are speaking with all work together to either enhance or detract from your message and social interactions. 
  • Active Listening: Requires listening to understand, and not listening to respond. Be attentive, seek clarification, paraphrase what is said to confirm understanding, validate feelings and summarize what is shared. 
  • Rapport Building: Ask open-ended questions, reflect and clarify what the other person shares, be genuine and appropriate in self-disclosure, pay attention to the other person's body language and non-verbal cues and respond accordingly to develop meaningful conversation.

The most important elements to enhance your social skills? Practice and ask people you trust for feedback! Join in some low-key fun events, such as the weekly board game group, to give yourself a chance to practice your social skills. Contact Eric Arundel for more details about this group! The more you engage in conversation, the easier it will become. 

Social Anxiety

If for the past six or more months, you have been experiencing an intense, persistent fear of being judged by others or an overwhelming self-consciousness in everyday social situations to the point that it has become difficult to function at work, school, or in day-to-day activities, you may have a social anxiety disorder. Please reach out through the My SSP app, email or call the Center for Student Mental Health and Well-being at or 906-487-2538 for help. 

Additional Resources

Watch: The Secret to Getting Better At Talking to People

Read: An Adult's Guide to Social Skills, for Those Who Were Never Taught

Listen: How to Master Relationships Through Communication Podcast with Lewis Howes and Chris Lee


[1] American Psychological Association. (2022). APA Dictionary of Psychology: Social Skills. Retrieved on July 5, 2022, from

[2] American Psychological Association. (2022). APA Dictionary of Psychology: Social Competence. Retrieved on July 5, 2022, from