magine this: you’ve gone out to a bar with your coworkers after a long day at the office. You all sit down to chat over a couple of beers, maybe dish about the boss. But as you stare at your coworkers, you realize you have nothing to say, and worse, have no idea where to start. 

This social nightmare is all too common for adults, who, unlike their teenage and college-aged selves, don’t instantly have access to a vast network of friends through school, extracurricular activities, or sports practices. 

You’ve probably run into some social awkwardness in more places than happy hour and with more people than just your coworkers. For many adults, social anxiety is not something you can leave to your fourteen-year-old self along with all of those TeenBeat magazines. 

Adulthood is a weird and sometimes painfully awkward space that requires some semblance of social skills. As much as we would love to hunker down in our apartments and not speak to anyone all day, those happy hours with coworkers will force us out of our houses at some point. 

So for those of you who would like to polish your social skills and make adult interaction a little more bearable, check out the tips below. 

Understand the importance of emotional intelligence 

This area of study in psychology is relatively new, but it’s proved to be immensely important. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and regulate your own emotions, as well as understand the way others are feeling as well.

If you feel like you don’t have a lot of emotional intelligence naturally, don’t worry. Like many areas of psychology, this is something that can be learned. 

Part of that learning process is understanding your own emotions before trying to decipher the feelings of others. Experiment with tracking your feelings and your response to those feelings to gauge what is normal for you. 

When you can get a better grasp of your own feelings, you will become much more adept at navigating the complex social situations that come with adulthood. 

Let yourself be heard in low-stress situations 

One huge barrier to acquiring better social skills is having to practice them. We struggle to be social in the first place because it’s so hard to work on doing it! 

But the unfortunate truth is that you can’t learn to interact with other adults better if you don’t practice. However, as an adult, you’re in a pretty good position to practice them. Unlike a teenager who is bound to the whims of the adults around them, you have independence. 

Perhaps you have a car that can take you wherever you need to go on a moment’s notice. Or maybe you have some extra cash you can spend on a night out. Whatever it is, the freedom that adulthood gives you can and should be used to work on your social skills in low-stress environments. Take transportation, for example. If you’re riding the bus to work in the morning, try saying hello to one passenger. Maybe even comment on the weather. 


This type of low-pressure situation is perfect for practicing your social skills because you will likely never see your fellow bus passenger again. It’s a low-pressure situation that can help you practice for the real thing. 

As an adult, you have the wonderful ability to go where you please. You’re not stuck in school with the same people you’ve seen for the past four years. You have the agency to go out and live your life as you please, even if that’s something as every day as grabbing a coffee

This independence presents you with an opportunity to practice low-pressure social interaction that can help build your confidence in your social skills. Interactions such as asking a barista about their day or complimenting a fellow commuter on their hat can do wonders for lowering your social anxiety. And if it is totally awkward? You can walk away with the likely odds of never seeing that barista or commuter again. 

Take advantage of this awesome part of adulthood and travel around your city to give yourself the opportunity to chat with folks you might not have ever met and will likely not ever see again. Even an interaction as simple as a hello can help you feel more confident in your skills. 

As for where to find places to practice this low-pressure interaction? Try some of these locations that you probably already frequent:

  • Coffee shop 
  • Public transit 
  • Museum 
  • Grocery store 
  • Thrift shop 
Knowing how to ask open-ended questions can help make a social situation much less awkward. 

Learn how to ask questions 

While this tip might sound a little lame to some, a well-seasoned conversationalist knows that even the most chatty among us come up with a blank sometimes.

There are some people who we just don’t connect with but may still be forced to interact with. In this instance (and practically all others where you’re speaking with a human being), you’ll want to know how to ask questions. 

There is nothing we love to do more than talk about ourselves, and there is no better way to get someone to open up than by asking them a few well-thought-out questions. If your best friend dragged you to a brunch where you don’t know anyone else, asking questions about others might help save you from a mimosa-filled hour of awkwardness. 

It might seem simple, but knowing how to ask well-placed questions is the most surefire way to talk yourself out of an awkward situation. 

There are so many great questions to ask that don’t have to do with inquiring about their thoughts on the rainy weather. Try getting someone else talking by asking questions in interests most people are familiar with: 

  • Career (How long have you been at the company?)
  • Vehicle (Do you like the new 4Runner Model?)
  • Family (Have any siblings?)
  • Shared experience (What do you think of the DJ at this party?)

Asking questions can ease the awkwardness you might feel in a social situation where you might not know many people. It will help shift the focus away from you and onto the other person you’re speaking with. Asking questions might also make the person you’re speaking with warm to you. Questions indicate a level of interest, and it’s always nice when someone is curious about your life. 

But a word of caution. Be careful not to volley out questions left and right. There’s a fine line between curious and creepy, and too many questions too quickly might give off the wrong impression. However, as long as you’re staying within the realm of “normal” (i.e; Not asking anything outrageously personal), you should be just fine. 

Get comfortable being out of your house 

If you’re looking for tips on how to improve social skills as an adult, chances are you prefer staying in to going out. And we certainly can’t blame you — staying in to watch a movie or going out to a crowded bar? That one is a no-brainer for us. 

But if you want to practice your social skills, you won’t be able to do that in front of the TV. 

Getting out of your house is one of the best things you can do for yourself when trying to be more social. Placing yourself in situations where there are people around can work to slowly ease the anxiety you may feel in a crowded room. 

In these instances, you can try and chat up a random stranger in a type of low-pressure social situation mentioned above, or you can just try to take it all in. 

Observing the way that others conduct themselves in a public place can give you a pretty good idea of what to do — and also what not to do. 

Learning to improve your social skills might be a stressful activity, but try not to let it get to you. At the end of the day, everyone is trying to learn to navigate their way around adult relationships, and you’re certainly not the only one. 

Try not to panic about your social interaction 

This one is a lot easier said than done. 

If you struggle with social interaction, you might be worried about each conversation. But you shouldn’t be! At the end of the day, what good social skills are is completely subjective. Everyone will have their own idea of what is acceptable. Your definition is probably a lot different than your grandma who might think that not serving tea after dinner is a disgrace. 

You’re not the only one trying to navigate how to be an adult, all of your friends, coworkers, and family are too. And if you give them a little grace in social skills, they’ll likely give you that same courtesy back. 

Improving social skills as an adult takes time and patience. If anyone faults you for trying or making a mistake, remember that it’s them who has poor social skills, not you. 

Try to embrace the awkwardness. It’s part of the human experience, and sometimes you just can’t control every situation. No matter how much you may want to. Embracing an awkward situation might give you a good laugh, which we all need every once in a while. 

Improving social skills as an adult will take time, but if you make it a priority you’ll have better relationships in no time. 

Feb 24, 2023