One very common thing I work on with coaching clients is social skills. Through that work I've seen a lot of common patterns and have come to use a three layer model to think about and discuss how people are interacting with the people around them. If all three layers are in good shape, you will have a great social life. If even one is missing or lacking, so will be your social life.
The first layer is who you are at your core. This is important for many reasons, but in this context it's important because any relationship with any depth will eventually expose your true self, so it better be something good or you will be doomed to surface level friendships and will find yourself spending most time with acquaintances.
I saw this problem a lot in the pickup community. Many people would fix the outer layers so they would get dates and have girls around them, but they were totally unable to have relationships because they hadn't worked on themselves enough.
The traits you should have at your core could be up for debate, but I think most people would agree that integrity, compassion, and a good moral compass would be included here. If you don't have these traits, you'd be well served to figure out how to cultivate them, though the path to that goal may be a long one.
The next layer is the experience you bring. How do people feel when they're around you? Do they feel inspired? Can they be themselves? Do they feel light and happy? Or do you bring the mood down by complaining? Do you make people feel uncomfortable? Do you overwhelm them or do you force them to carry the weight of the interaction?
It's not simply enough to be a good person at your core, you must also bring a positive experience to other people. This doesn't mean that you always have to be upbeat or happy and never rely on your friends for emotional support. It means that when you are around people you are aware of the group dynamics and are trying to improve them. You engage people who need to be engaged, you let people speak who want to speak, and you help act as glue between different people.
The last layer is proactive connection with other people. When someone new is part of your group, you should proactively reach out and make them feel included. You should engage them by asking about themselves or sharing relevant experiences with them. You can't sit there and expect for them to do all of this. You may even have to get out of your house and go to places that have people in them and strike up conversations.
Each of these three layers takes effort to develop. Social skills and a social life aren't easy things to build. To really have a good social life, you must have all three because they work in harmony. Not having all three is like having a car with no transmission and wondering why it doesn't drive even though it has nearly every single part. The effort is worth it, though, as our social lives are a huge factor in the happiness and satisfaction we have in life.
Photo is sunset on Lake Mead in Las Vegas. Did you know there is a huge awesome lake in Las Vegas?
I've turned off comments because I got too much spam and I'm not all that good at replying to comments anyway. If you tweet at me (@tynan), I'll probably answer, though.
Just for fun, here are all of my political views. I'm not super into politics at all - in fact before Bush started screwing everything up, I had zero interest in them. I definitely haven't done enough research to have definitive stances on most of these things, so take them with a grain of salt.
This is the one I care about the most. Our tax system is extremely screwed up. Did you know that we're one of only TWO countries in the world who tax their citizens if they don't live in the country or make money in the country? If I spend a year traveling the world, making money online, I STILL have to pay taxes in the US (there's a partial exemption that it's possible to qualify for).
I hated medical school. Well, that might be an overstating it. I didn't even go to medical school. I hated going out to bars with my wife while she was in medical school because everyone got really drunk and talked about medical school. This was before any of our peers were married and I was the lone spouse. Mostly I drank beer and offered a courteous laugh.
Back then my social muscle wasn't well defined. I didn't know how to talk to people even though I've been talking to people my whole life. I knew how to talk to friends and family but not strangers. Think about our lives, my guess is that 95% of your conversations are with people you know and see regularly. Work, church, family, rinse, and repeat. I was the same way and hated it so it was time to change.
The idea is to get people talking about themselves. People will say anything about their hobbies, interests and history. I once spent five minutes explaining to someone's mother the importance of holding a force when going upwind in ultimate frisbee. Is that Greek to you? It was to her.
I wish I had known these things ten years ago but what in life isn't like that. What do you and I know now that we didn't know then? The answer is everything. All we can do is make sure we don't spend another 10 years making that same mistake.