How to not be weird

Hello WSO ,

To be frank, I am a pretty weird guy, I was homeschooled and did not have a lot of social interactions during middle school or high school. For a while, I was actually very scared to talk to new people. Starting college helped me a lot with socializing, but my social skills are still absolutely terrible. I cannot seem to have a natural conversation with bankers during networking calls and there are often long, awkward pauses that I do not know how to handle. I seriously cringe during those moments. Currently, I am trying to improve my social skills through practice, and just taking as many calls as I can to get better at socializing and conversating. What other ways can I improve my social skills so I can succeed in forming new connections and translating those connections into referrals down the line?

Comments ( 24 )

  • Intern in IB - Cov

Force yourself to do more networking calls I guess. Eventually you will get better. If you want to be cynical than schedule like 50 calls with people in jobs you give zero shits and let them deal with the cringe.

chonkymonkey , what's your opinion? Comment below:

message me, i'm literally the same going through recruiting and we could probably help eachother out!!!

  • Prospect in IB-M&A

DM me. I have a condition that used to seriously inhibit my ability to hold a conversation and I just had a superday where the MD said it was one of the best conversations with a prospect in years and he gave me the offer.s

Icahnic , what's your opinion? Comment below:

It's funny, being a former non-normal conversationalist who's developed social skills, in my experience, can actually make you a fascinating person. You skip the usual small talk and get straight to things that interest people. Sure, you won't gel with everyone but when you do they are better conversations than any seasoned extrovert could have

bddjfj1345 , what's your opinion? Comment below:

Find a Toastmasters class near you, join your school's speech and debate team, find ways to present more (I present 8-10 per semester at my school), have 3-4 networking calls a day (You will get better and more comfortable), and potentially find someone on this forum to set up a weekly zoom call where you mock interview / do a networking call .

Practice make perfect.

iercurenc , what's your opinion? Comment below:

Practice is important. The more conversations you have, the better you'll get. I second the advice above to talk to people in careers you give 0 shits about. You won't be nervous, so use it as a testing ground.

A key mindset is to just ignore those awkward moments instead of cringing at them. The more you worry about something, the more likely it is that it will happen. Think less about the social dynamics of the conversation and more about the substance of it. Think about why you aren't nervous when talking to your friends. You don't care about how you sound to them, but you care about what they have to say. For calls, be genuinely interested in learning more about the person's career, ask the right questions, listen attentively, and it'll all flow smoothly.

The moment one of those awkward pauses happens, just say something like "one moment I just wanted to write that down" and keep pushing forward with your next question. People tend to reciprocate your behavior. If you get nervous and awkward, they'll feel that way too. If you treat the conversation like its normal, they'll feel normal too. It's all in your control.

  • 2
Most Helpful
Squirrel_CP , what's your opinion? Comment below:

Two different realms.

For business calls / networking: always have a prepared agenda or talking points. Make your points and pause for questions - "I'll pause here for questions". Then move to the next topic. Ask your prepared questions, listen, and then respond with an agreeable tone and an example of why you agree. For networking in particular, have questions regarding the industry, the business the person works for, and any cultural/personal questions to try and relate.

For social settings: keep it light and ask questions. Anyone can be charismatic despite their personality if they ask good questions and listen. Follow the FORD method asking people you meet about family, occupation, recreation, and dreams. Listen, remember, and ask follow-up questions. The more questions and the better follow-up questions you ask the more it makes people feel important. And if you make people feel important the more likely they are going to like being around you.

  • Incoming Analyst in IB - Gen

Practice makes perfect. I was horrendously weird through high school. Trials and tribulations my friend. Friends lost and gained, and lots and lots of awkward silence from failed jokes. Being able to know when you were wrong and correcting yourself.

Everything starts with you going out of your comfort zone.

TheGrind , what's your opinion? Comment below:

I had the same affliction.  Still do, actually - but I network "for fun" to work out the kinks.  Try reading books on sales techniques - Zig Ziglar's "The Secrets of Closing the Sale" really changed my perspective on common interactions.  Also, you'll have to practice projecting confidence. I define confidence as just being secure in an outcome, whatever it is.  Once you adopt a "just another day" sort of attitude for each new interaction it becomes easier.

  • 1
Restless , what's your opinion? Comment below:

I wouldn't limit myself to online comments, instead, I'll take a serious self-improvement path on improving your lack of social skills considering that it doesn't only impact your professional life but also your relationships, friendships, interactions in different circumstances, etc. for all your life. Also, I'm a big believer that success is 90% social skills and only 10% technical knowledge, so for the moment, start by reading those:

1. How to Win Friends and Influence People

2. Crucial Conversations

3. Conversationally Speaking

4. How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks

5. The Charisma Myth

Implement everything you read, otherwise, you'll forget it and the longer it passes the less motivation (hype) you'll have to implement it. Once you finish those, I'm pretty sure you can Google other book recommendations on this topic. Good luck.

  • 1
BkNT , what's your opinion? Comment below:

Some good advice above.

Also look into an improv theater for beginners class. Shouldn't be hard to find someone who targets business/management-type clientele. Massively uncomfortable for every person in the room which is precisely the point. Like anything performative, learning to gut through the anxiety and keep rolling is key.

Pug , what's your opinion? Comment below:

I have ASD (truly been diagnosed) and have done a LOT of practice and specifically worked sales roles in undergrad to make it better. I still speak pretty formally naturally, but am much better than when I was younger

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.” - Nassim Taleb
  • Intern in IB-M&A

I was just as you describe. Was social as a kid and had my quiet phase from 8-12th grade, tried hard to break out of it in undergrad.

It is painful and awkward, but you need to get on top of it, because I feel like you get cemented in your ways by your mid 20s. I started by breaking my habits that allowed me to avoid people (always looking down with headphones in, etc). Got more comfortable talking with my siblings, started talking more about interesting personal stuff with close friends, started small talk with people in the right environments (waiters, cashiers, etc). My last year of school I made more friends than I had in all of college combined by forcing myself to talk in clubs, class, etc. Networking calls got better as I did 20,30,50,100 of them and now I'm pretty confident going in to them. I work out more, I watch how I dress and how I smell, take more pride in who I am. It's a general approach to life that has improved my relationships, career, and overall fulfillment, etc. Take it one step at a time and keep doing better every week. Baby steps.

  • 2
  • Intern in IB - Cov

Something super helpful for me personally was to take notice of how people who interacted with others in the way I wanted to did it. By mimicking others' behaviors until you find you own personal conversation style, which will likely be a mix of others, you can learn a lot about how people interact. None of the tips and tricks helped me in the way that just listening to how others spoke did. But the tips here also seem better than those I had at the time.

nontarget_agreement , what's your opinion? Comment below:

Didn't pick it up for this intention, but the book "Never Split the Difference" is a book about a former FBI terrorist/hostage negotiator breaking down his techniques and how he applied it to a consulting practice (he started Black Swan Group). Have picked up a lot of great tips from that book.

  • Analyst 2 in RE - Comm

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  • Intern in IB-M&A

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