An Adult’s Guide to Social Skills, for Those Who Were Never Taught

It’s a shame so few of us are taught the basics of how to interact constructively with each other. If you never were, we’re here to help.

Eric Ravenscraft

December 7, 2021 – Unlike topics like math or science, social skills are more of a “learn on the job” kind of skill. When you’re a child, you can learn how to manage conflict, make friends and navigate groups by doing it. But not everyone learns the same lessons the same way. Sometimes, they take a whole lifetime to refine, and many of us never master them.

Learning social skills can be difficult if you weren’t exposed to traditional group dynamics as a child, if you struggle with a mental illness like anxiety or depression, or even if you just didn’t have a lot of positive role models when you were growing up. Young people tend to learn how to manage their own emotions, recognize those of other people and manage them both effectively by socializing. If these weren’t skills you developed growing up, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

Before we get to specific social situations, we should discuss the concept of emotional intelligence (or E.I.). Put very simply, E.I. is your ability to acknowledge your own emotions, recognize emotions in others and use that information to guide your behavior. This is a relatively new area of study in the field of psychology, and developing your own E.I. can help you understand and improve your social interactions.

There are several models of emotional intelligence, but for our purposes, we’ll look at the author Daniel Goleman. He outlines five general categories of E.I. that complement and support one another.

Self-awareness: This simply means being able to identify your own emotions and how they work. Are you anxious in loud environments? Do you get angry when people talk over you? If you know these things about yourself, then you’re practicing self-awareness. This can be more difficult than it sounds, but simply being aware of yourself is all it takes for this step.

Self-regulation: Taking it a step further, self-regulation deals with your ability not just to know your emotions, but manage them. Sometimes that might mean handling them as they come up. If you get angry, knowing how to calm yourself down is important. However, it can also deal with managing the emotions you will face. If you know that stalking your ex’s Facebook is just going to make you feel bad, self-regulation would help you go do something to better your own life instead.

Motivation: External factors like money, status, or pain are powerful motivators. But in Goleman’s model, internal motivation is a key component. This means that you know how to manage your own motivation and create or continue projects because you choose to, not because something outside yourself demands it.

Empathy: It’s just as important to be aware of the emotions of others. This might mean developing the skills to recognize how people are expressing themselves — can you tell the difference between someone who’s comfortable versus someone who’s anxious? — but it also means understanding how other people may respond to the circumstances they’re in.

Socialization: This area deals with your ability to steer your relationships and navigate social situations. It doesn’t mean controlling others, but understanding how to get where you want to be with other people. That might mean conveying your ideas to co-workers, managing a team, or dealing with a conflict in a relationship.

Every social situation is different and there isn’t always a “correct” way to handle any of them. However, when viewed through the lens of these core competencies, most social situations become a lot more manageable. We’ll go over some common scenarios even adults might struggle with, but keep in mind how these principles can apply in all situations.

Confronting someone when you have a problem with that person can be scary. If you’re the type to avoid conflict, you might rationalize it away by saying you want to keep the peace, or you don’t want to upset anyone. However, this can be a way of avoiding your own feelings. If there wasn’t something bothering you, there would be nothing to confront anyone about.

Dr. Ryan Howes, a clinical psychologist, explained to Psychology Today that it’s our own fears that keep us from confronting others. Our fear that we’ll lose something we have, that we’ll hurt someone we care about, or that it will hurt but accomplish nothing. One of the first steps to constructively confronting someone is to recognize that fear in yourself and identify the real issues that led to the conflict in the first place. If you’re annoyed that your partner forgot your birthday, for example, ignoring how you feel about it won’t resolve the conflict.

Once you’re ready, Gregg Walker, a professor at Oregon State University, recommends having the conversation when there’s time to discuss the issue, focusing on “I” statements like “I feel hurt that we didn’t do anything for my birthday,” and describing behavior and your reaction to it, rather than hurling accusations. Healthy confrontations require a fair amount of awareness of your own emotions, so this is a good time to practice that skill.

Whether it’s a meeting or a party, any time you get more than a couple of people together in a group, it can become difficult (if not impossible) to get a word in edgewise. While most tricks on how to combat this involve managing how you talk — pausing in the middle of a sentence rather than the end, or finishing your sentence even if someone tries to interrupt — an often overlooked issue is managing how you react to being talked over.

It would be great if everyone was polite and let you finish or paused to ask what you’re thinking. This doesn’t always happen. If someone interrupts you and you become annoyed, that can kill your motivation to speak up again. Or you might become visibly agitated and demand to be heard, which can be off putting and make people less likely to want to listen to what you have to say.

Instead, Chris Macleod, counselor and author of “The Social Skills Guidebook,” suggests accepting that group conversations are a “vortex of noise and chaos” and going with the flow. Don’t spend all your time trying to fit in that one thing you badly wanted to say. Instead, go with the flow of the conversation and look for new opportunities to jump in. When you do, speak loudly and with confidence. More practical tricks like keeping your stories short or framing a complaint as a story can smooth over the experience, but regulating your own frustration and annoyance is the foundation these tricks build on.

When you’re young, making friends can be relatively easy. School often means that there’s a group of people you’re required to hang out with who are your age. You may share some interests, and you’ll see one another almost every day. As an adult, it can be harder. Everyone’s busy, everyone’s tired, and time feels in short supply. Or so it seems. What really may be lacking is motivation.

As Vox explains, one of the most important keys to developing a new friendship is, well, showing up. You both say, “We should hang out sometime!” but for some reason you never do. Why? Sure, you have things going on, but you still managed to binge watch the latest “Stranger Things.” There’s nothing wrong with a little “me” time, but it’s also O.K. to spend some of it reaching out to someone new.

When making new friends, you have to start with some internal motivation. Decide for yourself that you’re going to make friends and then put yourself in situations where that can happen. Take a class, join a club, or just talk to people you know but aren’t friends with yet. More important, follow up. If you find someone you want to be friends with — and especially if there are indications that person wants to be friends with you, too — put it on the very top of your to-do list to follow up. You’ll be surprised how easy it is when you do it on purpose.

Talking to a stranger for the first time — whether it’s at a party, a work event, or just on the street — can be complicated. You never know less about someone than when you first meet them. That’s also something you can use to your advantage. People like to talk about themselves. So much so that, according to research from Harvard University, people will sometimes even give up money to be able to talk about themselves.

You might feel awkward or uncomfortable when you’re out on your own, but practicing a little empathy can reveal a powerful truth: So does everyone else. Research from the University of Chicago found that less than 47 percent of its participants believed a stranger would be willing to talk with them. In reality, every attempt was successful. Most of us are willing to have a conversation, we just don’t always want to be the one to make the first move.

However, not everyone is open to a conversation with strangers all the time. An easy way to check is to pay attention to what they’re doing at the time. Are they wearing headphones? Do they seem in a hurry? Are they at their job and only making conversation as part of their duties? If so, you might try again later (or with someone else). If they’re not busy, start by saying hello or opening with a compliment. From there you can keep the conversation going with the “insight and question” method. Simply offer an observation or insight, follow it up with a question, and let the conversation flow naturally.

These are far from the only social situations you might find yourself struggling with, but the principles that can be applied are nearly universal. Acknowledge your own emotional state and manage your needs and feelings in a constructive way. Take the initiative to pursue the social outcomes you want, and empathize with others who are dealing with the same struggles you are. With practice, the rest of the complex nuances of social interaction will flow a lot more naturally.


Reprinted from the NYT. The author of this story is Eric Ravenscraft. The story was originally printed on January 23, 2020.

Diverse Supplier Certification: An Effective Tool for Business Growth

by Joanne Tica

Businesses that have robust supplier diversity programs report that they see improved quality and often extract other business benefits, including increased market share and access to new revenue opportunities (The Hackett Group, 2017). Companies and organizations that take the time to properly implement a supplier diversity program are in a better position to penetrate new market segments and gain new customers.

What is Supplier Diversity? Supplier diversity is a business program encouraging the process of sourcing products and supplies from minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, LGBTQ-owned, service disabled veteran-owned, historically underutilized businesses, and SBA-defined small business vendors. Some companies create supplier diversity programs to meet customer mandates, to leverage governmental initiatives or to comply with federal supplier requirements. What these companies eventually determine is that, in addition to these benefits, robust and well-designed supplier diversity programs can be instrumental in improving a company’s bottom-line and can impact more than spending.

Promoting Innovation through Supplier Diversity Smaller diverse businesses are agile and can implement change and innovation more quickly than larger, more established suppliers. Companies that continually use the same supplier network risk losing creative benefits that can be gained by seeing the depth of innovation that can be represented by a more diverse supplier base. Diverse businesses can also provide solutions for customer acquisition in more diverse markets. The knowledge base that diverse businesses can bring to a business or organization expands opportunity by bringing new ideas to the forefront of your research and development, or marketing, teams. New ideas that the market wants to see can result in growth opportunities and increased profitability.

Value Advantage through Supplier Diversity Suppliers want to give you the best deal that they can to win your business. By expanding your network of suppliers for similar products, you are engaging the supplier network to remain competitively priced and to analyze and offer other service factors, such as location, depth of product offerings, quality and overall customer service, as a way of differentiating their value proposition to you, the buyer. According to The Hackett Group, companies with well-designed supplier diversity programs spent an average of 20% less on their buying operations and increased their overall return on procurement investments.

A Positive Tool for Growth and Economic Impact Suppliers who invest in certification hope to differentiate themselves as forward thinking companies who are a part of the shifting demographic profile in our country. Major corporations and organizations who partner with diverse suppliers can potentially receive additional benefits by applying their spend toward diverse supplier requirements required to bid and win federal contracts. Small, medium and large corporations who partner with diverse suppliers can produce significant impact in their local communities while creating jobs at the local and regional level. Supplier diversity is usually a win-win for all of the companies involved.

References The Hackett Group. (2017, 02 17). Research Alerts and Press Releases. Retrieved from The Hackett Group: http://www.thehackettgroup.com/about/research-alerts-press-releases/2017/02162017-top-supplier-diversity-programs-broaden-value-proposition.jsp


Joanne Tica is an organizational development strategist who works with growth oriented companies seeking tools, tactics and strategies to support continued growth. If you are interested in learning more about how a robust supplier diversity strategy can strengthen your company’s growth curve, please contact Certified Impact by clicking here.

Make Board Engagement Your #1 Big Idea

by Joanne Tica

No one can do it alone. I’ve tried, and it doesn’t work.

Advice from others has shaped my most important milestones – from the early days of my father teaching me to tie my shoes to the graduate professor enlightening me on the finer points of andragogy right down to my current business advisers suggesting I focus on stage two companies. In the instances where I’ve folded my arms and said, “I don’t need anybody,” I have almost always fallen short. The fact is: We need others to succeed.

This is particularly true in business. As the founder and managing director of Certified Impact, LLC, a Chicago-based training and development agency, I serve on a number of advisory and nonprofit boards, offering advice on growth strategy and organizational development. Many people are familiar with the idea of serving on a nonprofit board of directors. You champion the cause, gain experience, network, and feel almost heady when your efforts make a tangible difference.

Another, less thought of, type of board is an advisory board for your own corporation or sitting on one for another company. According to American Express OPEN “State of Women-Owned Businesses,” one in five firms with revenue of $1 million or more is woman-owned. One breakaway strategy to surpassing that financial benchmark is to surround yourself with people who have accomplished what you are looking to achieve. Advisory boards fill confidence and knowledge gaps.

In my experience, I’ve found that many women believe soliciting help from others reflects weakness. The “we-can-do-it-all” mentality is not surprising. We run the business and the household. We plan the IPO and the family party. We’ve been “doing it all” for a long time. Asking for help, though, is a prerequisite for business growth. An advisory board of three to five people (think of them as professional mentors guiding your business with lodestar precision) can be the catalyst for your business to run at breakneck speed. Leave friends and family off the list. Go for colleagues possessing skills you don’t have. Typical honorariums may include equity interest in the company or a meeting stipend ($1,000 per quarterly meeting is not unusual).

Next, understand the objective of your board. Is it broad or narrow? Is social media a major deficit or will your board be architecting your business roadmap over the next five years? What records do you want to break? Where are your business’ greatest weaknesses and how can a board fill them? How will your board contribute to your sustainability and long-term vision?

Keep your board informed. Give them a copy of your sales goals, P&L, customer surveys, employee comments, and any other intelligence two weeks prior to each meeting. Reserve meeting time for strategic discussion, not as a sharing session. Your board’s performance is, in part, based on the information you provide. Clearly communicate your expectations. Embrace negativity and conflict. If you want to grow, forego umbrage for learning.

Now that we’ve looked at creating an advisory board for your business, let’s explore you serving on one for someone else’s corporation. This is a great way to elevate your business stature and plant your flag as a thought leader.

How do you find a seat at the table? Put your name out there via your network and industry trade organizations. Let them know you are willing to serve as a mentor or on a board and that you have demonstrated success in particular areas. Don’t be shy about showing your credentials. Your message to prospective board members and to the CEO of the company you hope to serve: “I’m going to be effective for you, and here’s why.”

Authenticity reigns when working on another’s behalf. Self-serving reasons proffer failure for everyone involved. Be upfront about what you want out of the relationship. The desire to help the other company grow should be first and foremost.

A relevant quote from Bloomberg Business: “You need advisers to bounce ideas off, to provide a reality check, to tell you when you’re about to mess up, to confide in when you’re alone at the top.”

Let’s make this year the year for women to extend beyond our business borders. Board engagement is a path laden with growth opportunities – and one you never have to travel entirely alone.


Joanne Tica is an organizational development strategist who works with growth oriented companies seeking tools, tactics and strategies to support continued growth. If you are interested in learning more about how a robust supplier diversity strategy can strengthen your company’s growth curve, please contact Certified Impact.

Your 2021 Fundraising Plan: Using Strategy to Target Results

by Joanne Tica

As a successful fundraising consultant, I can tell you that there is not a “right way” or a “wrong way” to create a fundraising strategy, especially in the current virtual professional environment. Every organization is unique and has different opportunities to generate income for its programs and operations. If an organization has been successful with a given strategy, then it should build on that success. At the same time, it should begin learning and investing in new strategies that can create more opportunity for the organization.

Fundraising is a necessity for most nonprofit organizations. When you fundraise without a strategic plan in place, your efforts might help you meet your basic expenses but probably won’t help you reach your organizational goals. If your organization fundraises in a haphazard way, it risks burning out its regular donors, its committed volunteers and its employees on the road to meeting the organization’s financial needs. Organizational fundraising should be a shared experience that energizes the team, including the donors, rather than burns out the individuals involved in the process. How do you make sure that the process is productive for everyone involved?

It all starts with a plan. The plan can be as simple as an annual event forecast that fits into the organization’s overall business plan. If your organization has larger budget needs, than you can create fundraising strategies that are more distinct and targeted than simply asking for support from individual donors.

Why Does Your Organization Need a Fundraising Plan?

The purpose of a creating a fundraising plan is:

  • To continue the organization’s current work
  • To expand its services into new areas, if it has the capacity to do so
  • To reduce risk associated with single or limited sources of income
  • To build up cash reserves so that program delivery isn’t interrupted due to ebbs and flows in the economy

Without understanding your organization’s overall needs, it’s difficult to create a fundraising plan to align programs and activities with the monies available so that you can deliver on your commitments to your stakeholders for a consistent period of time. Your fundraising plan should provide clear instructions for how you will raise the money that the organization needs to operate over a twelve-month period. The plan should be detailed enough that it can be easily replicated by anyone coming into the organization, not just by the people who created it.

Developing your Fundraising Plan

Developing a fundraising plan takes time. It requires commitment from everyone in the organization. All the effort involved is worthwhile, though, because once a plan is in place, your team saves lots of wasted time and effort and your chances of achieving fundraising success will increase.

Here are some tips to get started thinking about your organization’s fundraising plan.

  • Start building your plan on what has worked for your organization. The best fundraising strategies will build on the existing strengths, skills and resources that you have within the organization. You should also consider what has not worked well for you in the past. Try to understand why your successful strategies have worked well for you and why your failed strategies didn’t bring the results you wanted.
  • Build, rather than grow. Growth for growth’s sake can be detrimental to an organization, especially in current times. Having more money does not mean that you have the capacity to deliver more to your stakeholders. Consider building a fundraising strategy that holistically looks at what you can deliver with your existing team first, before you look at expanding your programs. Building is intentional and it allows you to target your programs, knowing that you can deliver what you promise.
  • Understand that there are no quick wins. New programs and strategies take time to build, even with experienced leadership in place. Fundraising can be a long-term investment. That’s why it’s important to have multiple strategies in place to keep an organization financially stable.
  • Fundraising is a team effort. The activities of fundraising are not limited to the people with fundraising in their job title. Everyone in the organization, from leadership to volunteers, should understand the goals of each program and how the program is connected to the organization’s overall success. Your volunteers are sometimes the only contact that others have with your organization. If volunteers can’t effectively communicate your objectives to the people they meet, then your chances for monetary success are minimized.

Developing a comprehensive fundraising plan is essential to the health of a nonprofit organization, even within the limitations imposed by a fully virtual environment. The existence of a solid plan allows you to take a long-term view of the work of the organization and increase your chances for fundraising success.


Joanne Tica is the managing director of Certified Impact LLC. She specializes in helping business and nonprofit leaders build capacity in organizations through the implementation of knowledge management systems. Joanne trains facilitators to operate mastermind programming for women business leaders through the Minerva League brand and specializes in the incorporation of micro-learning systems as an aid to training. To reach out to Joanne directly, please email joanne@certifiedimpact.com