Assuming 8 hours of sleep(if we are lucky), that leaves 16 hours of consciousness.
Is it a lot?
Necessary tasks consume our time.
If you regard that statement true, is there time to practice conversation?
How is improvement possible if we cannot muster effort?
Are our social skills destined to stagnate?
To solve this, we identify the causal factors contributing to the problem.
My To-Do List Is Off The Charts!
Take care of the kids.
Make dinner, lunch, breakfast.
These tasks eat significant time.
I didn’t add auxiliary tasks, which are smaller tasks that eat chunks of time in the long-run(showering, cleaning the house, watering the plants, reorganizing the workshop, taking out the trash, etc.)
New tasks bombard introverts every day – many are unexpected(car breakdown).
Saying no to any of these responsibilities is out of the question.
Improving our social skills becomes a secondary responsibility, an afterthought. Who has time?
After 4 hours of studying, my brain melts.
After 8 hours of work, my give-a-crap meter malfunctions.
Not only must we make the time, we must have sufficient energy to practice.
Unfortunately, like time, we have limited energy. It depletes as hours go by until a sliver remains, enough to crawl into bed.
Lethargy is an issue. In the past, I tried to complete the remaining responsibilities with limited energy.
I didn’t learn anything or created a bigger hassle.
Conversation is the same way: if you operate on fumes, you won’t make progress or embed bad habits.
Talking Vs. Practicing
I’m sure some you wonder:
“Kevin, we communicate every day. Surely, that means our social skills will improve.”
It doesn’t work that way.
Take a listen to conversations, next time you stroll through your city.
What I hear is fluency in English. I don’t hear mastery of conversation.
Someone who jogs doesn’t become a marathon runner; thus, speaking English does not improve social skills.
You improve with concentrated practice.
The techniques discussed here possess little difficulty, but still require training.
Training induces creativity. Creativity produces interesting results. That’s how you realize what does and doesn’t work for you.
How can you create your conversational palette if you don’t practice?
The Introvert In Us Takes Over
Introverts enjoy solitude.
We relish silence.
After a long day, do we want to spend our free time out there in chaos?
I would rather spend time at home reading or browsing the web.
You could even find other ways to supplement your conversation practice ( *cough* this site *cough*).
However, even the introverted of us knows: study needs field-tests.
No matter how boring, dreary, or terrible other people can be, if you want to improve your social skills – practice.
So, life gets in the way sometimes.
Frustration doesn’t come from a lack of effort. Everyone on this site is trying. The solution must work in conjunction with the responsibilities of day-to-day life.
Start The Timer
Through trial-and-error, I may have found an antidote to our woes. It’s not ground-breaking or noteworthy as I would have thought.
The key to improving your social skills is to practice 10 minutes a day.
No secret formula. No supplement. No tricks.
Choose a technique, take 10 minutes out of your day and practice.
Let me elaborate.
Practice With Familiar People
The easiest way to use your 10 minutes is to practice with your friends and family.
Your friends and family know you, and want you to succeed.
You probably speak with them often, so use the opportunity.
They are perfect candidates to practice for 10 minutes.
You possess natural flow with them. I find it easier to talk to friends and family because I am not worried about what to say next or sounding silly.
If they wonder why your language is different, explain your goals. They will be okay with it(hopefully). It’s 10 minutes of practice, afterwards, you return your regular speech patterns.
Practice With Strangers
With the benefits of friends and family, why do I recommend strangers?
It’s because of the low risk, high reward mentality.
You come across hundreds of different people every day, and it’s unlikely you’ll see them again. If that’s the case, this is the perfect opportunity to test techniques you’ve wanted to try.
For example, do you want to practice sarcasm? Remark how fantastic the snowy, freezing weather is to the grocery cashier.
Strangers also meet numerous people every day; they will not remember you.
Practice with them.
What could go wrong? A weird look? A one-word reply?
You’ll never see them again. Go your way and forget.
Practice On The Go
The greatest benefit of practicing for 10 minutes every day is the abundance of people.
And…you’ll find them everywhere.
Taking the subway to work? Spark a conversation with your fellow passenger.
Going to the bank? Speak to your bank associate.
Going to the gym? Ask the receptionist how their day is going.
If you don’t feel comfortable spending 10 minutes on 1 conversation, that’s ok.
Break it into segments.
Most conversations are in passing, and doesn’t encompass serious topics.
The weather, the economy, a t.v show, or politics are topics you can enter and exit in 2 minutes (or expand if you’d like).
The point is: accomplishing your task means meeting people. Talk to them, then be on your way.
Choose A Technique And Focus
To best utilize 10 minutes, plan.
Would you like to practice approaching?
Would you like to focus on quick-thinking?
Would you like to keep a conversation going?
Stick with it for the entire week to get an hour of practice. One idea takes time to reinforce.
Stay with it for a week (or month if you want). After every conversation, reflect. Ask yourself:
What did I like?
What didn’t I like?
What could I improve upon?
What should I try next time?
These 4 questions should be involved in feedback. It’s the only way you can improve.
Plan-> Act-> Feedback-> Repeat
There are always questions and concerns. I’ll address some here.
By far, the most important attribute you’ll need on this journey is persistence.
Sometimes, you don’t get the results you want.
Sometimes, you’ll fumble and mumble your words.
Sometimes, the people aren’t approachable.
Opt For Low-Risk Scenarios
Friends, family, and strangers are usually low risk. Make a mistake and they won’t care or forget after some time.
However, I’d urge caution in more important scenarios.
Have a performance review with your manager? Maybe, not the best time for sarcasm (or maybe it is, up to you).
If you are not comfortable practicing then and there, don’t. If you are, go for it.
Practicing in extreme situations grants you massive experience. It’s like battling a video game boss rather than a minion. Just be wary of the risks.
Don’t Juggle More Than 1 Technique
You won’t learn anything by juggling two techniques at the same time.
Choose one and focus on it for a week, maybe even a month.
If you are switching techniques every day, you’ll never make progress because you cannot deploy plan->act->feedback with concentrated effort.
This takes consistency.
If you switch every day, you learn nothing.
Build a technique. Get feedback. Try again. Stick with it.
Remember Bruce Lee:
“I fear not the man that has practiced 1000 kicks once, but the man who has practice 1 kick 1000 times.”
Be Okay With The Unknown
A lot of introverts worry about intruding on someone else’s day.
“How will I know if they are open to conversation?”
“How will I know if they are having a bad day?”
And that’s ok.
Most people are polite and will not chastise you. However, you won’t know until you attempt to talk to them. Here’s how most conversations will go with the unwilling:
You: “Boy, all these cereals in the breakfast section taste the same.”
You: “I guess I’ll stick to Cheerios. Have a good day.”
You probably won’t be talking about cereal, but you will meet unresponsive people. Cut the conversation short, wish them well, and go.
Don’t dwell on it.
There’s someone else willing to talk to you.
10 minutes Is All You Need
10 minutes is the length of a shower. With perspective, if you can do an average of an hour a week:
10 minutes x 6 days = 60 minutes = 1 hour
1 hour x 52 weeks = 52 hours/year
52 hours x 5 years = 260 hours
When we are struggling, we rarely look at the big picture. In 5 years, you will marvel at the gains you’ve made. It starts with 10 minutes.