in: People, Social Skills

• Last updated: June 6, 2021

Social Briefing #4: Your 4 Social Gifts

Commander briefing soldiers.

Social Briefings are short bi-monthly dispatches that offer practical tips to improve your social skills. Read more on their raison d’etre. 

In these first Social Briefings we’ve been laying the foundation for charm that needs to be in place for more practical social habits to be effective.

In the last briefing, we discussed the fact that when you make someone feel good about themselves, they often project these vibes onto you, and feel good about you, too.

But how do you engender these positive feelings in others?

By acting as a host, and presenting them with 4 social gifts.

You as Perennial Host

When we meet new people, we typically think of the encounter as the meeting of two mutual strangers — two “guests.”

Yet to be a charming socializer, it pays to think of yourself as the host in every situation. Regardless of who invited whom out, or made the first move, or whether you’re actually a bonafide guest in another person’s house. The host mindset is one you adopt in all times, places, and circumstances.

In thinking of yourself in the role of perennial host, your focus is always on making other people feel welcome and “at home” (even when you’re out and about). Your disposition and behavior says, “put up your feet and relax”; you seek to immediately make those you meet feel as comfortable and taken care of around you as possible.

As a host, you take the lead in initiating conversation, and picking it up when it lags. You ensure the other person is having a good time, and try to be “hospitable” in meeting their needs.

You’re socially generous, and come into every encounter bearing gifts designed to meet those needs.

Your 4 Social Gifts

What is it exactly that makes someone attractive, likeable, charming, magnetic? While there are many behaviors that demonstrate these traits, underneath them all, what is really being communicated is this: I have something to add to your life.

While we think of the dynamics of social interaction as sort of abstract and nebulous in nature, there’s really a more rational calculation going on. Every relationship represents both a privilege and a responsibility; friends and lovers will both add to your life, but also require your time, help, emotional — and sometimes even financial — support. People are thus looking to connect with others with whom the equation will be most favorable — folks who have more social “benefits” than “costs.” They’re looking for people who will be a net positive in their life and are repelled by those who will seemingly extract more than they give.

The “economics” of this “social exchange” perhaps sound awfully cold and calculating, but that’s human nature, yours and mine.

This is why you’re excited when you find someone who loves to talk religion as much as you do, or you meet a potential weightlifting partner who you sense is going to help you towards your goals. And why, conversely, when you meet someone who is painfully boring, or talks non-stop about all the “drama” in their life, you want to back slowly towards the door.

Knowing that people are looking for strengthening allies, and want to connect with folks who will enhance their life instead of burdening it, it’s easy to see why the key to being socially successful is being socially generous — demonstrating you’re the kind of person who may give more, or at least as much, as you take.

You do this by offering what the authors of First Impressions: What You Don’t Know About How Others See You call your 4 “social gifts.” These gifts fulfill people’s fundamental, universal needs, change how they feel about themselves (and thus you), and fall into four categories:

  • Appreciation — Recognizing, respecting, and praising a person’s positive qualities. Compliments.
  • Connection — Finding places where your life overlaps with another. Realizing you went to the same high school, like the same band, know the same mutual friend, love the same restaurant, have the same hobby, believe in the same things, etc. People like people who are like themselves!
  • Elevation — Lifting someone’s spirits, making them laugh, putting them in a good mood, introducing them to a fun new activity.
  • Enlightenment — Presenting people with novel, interesting information, ideas, and perspectives. These tidbits don’t have to be heavy, political, or academic, but can be stimulating trivia or news — any kind of insight that delights and edifies.

Of these 4 social gifts, you’ve probably got one or two that are more your strong suit — giving them comes more naturally to you. That’s great, but keep in mind that leaning too much on one gift invariably has an off-putting effect; if used excessively, a gift can become a burden, and move from social benefit to social cost. For example, someone who continually cracks jokes without making room for real conversation, or “lectures” the other person nonstop with all the “interesting” information they know, isn’t going to come off well. Charisma arises from giving all 4 social gifts in a balanced way.

Remember too, that you don’t have to put everything on the table the first time you meet someone. Instead, offer your social gifts as an enticing sampler platter that leaves them wanting to see you again.

When You Give, You Get

It’s wonderful to go through life as a “host” — bringing people literally and metaphorically in from the cold, and offering them the warmth of genuine recognition and uplift for which they’re so hungry — especially in this world where everyone feels hyper-connected and yet frequently hyper-lonely at the same time.

But it’s not a purely altruistic affair.

The paradox of social generosity, is that by giving people the social gifts they desire, you get that investment back in return.

First, by taking the focus off yourself and shifting it to the other person, you actually end up being less nervous and self-conscious, and act more confidently. By forgetting yourself, your best self gets a chance to shine.

Second, the surest way to get attention is to give it. When you act like you’re interested in other people, they get interested in you.

Finally, know that this “imbalance” won’t last; while it’s in your interest to initially be socially generous, after you establish a relationship with someone, it will naturally evolve into something mutually fulfilling; if it doesn’t, the other person simply isn’t someone you want to have a relationship with! Of course, occasionally you’ll meet someone who seeks from the very get-go to be as socially generous with you, as you are with them — in that case you’re in for a really good time. But that’s rather rare, which is unfortunate in some ways, but actually quite fortunate for you, dear reader of these Social Briefings, as such scarcity will make you stand out all the more!

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