Social Excellence: It's More Than Just a Conversation

* Blog post 3 in a series of 6 on Social Excellence * 

by Jessica Gendron Williams

We've established that "social excellence" isn't the number of frat dudes you know or the number of seconds you can hang upside-down sucking from a dirty beer keg tapper, but social excellence also isn't just about your ability to converse with people with ease. Good conversation skill is an important component in the social excellence equation, but it's only part. Here's a list of some other things to consider:

1. Be Willing.

Socially excellent individuals have to be willing to have conversations with others. Not only that, they seek them out. How many times have you sat next to someone on a plane, train, or bus and didn't even bother to look at them? How many times have you ridden in an elevator with one stranger and watched the numbers tick by waiting for the awkward silence to end? Socially excellent people aren't satisfied with their current social network, they are always looking to expand it. They welcome opportunities to interact with new people.

2. Be Genuinely Curious.

You can be a conversation pro, have a great handshake, remember their name, use open body language, active listening, and talk to a person about themselves all day long, but that doesn't make you "socially excellent". Most people can see straight through a disingenuous "un hunh" or head nod, no matter how well placed it is. The only way all those conversation skills work (body language, active listening, etc) is if you are genuinely curious. Meaning ‐ you actually care about the conversation, are interested in what the other person is saying, and legitimately want to know more. I don't know how to teach someone to care about other people, but I do know that when you do, you open yourself up to social excellence. Be curious.

3. Be a Lady. Be a Gentleman.

Classy ladies and true gentlemen have certain characteristics. They stand to greet each person with a handshake and they leave each conversation with a handshake. They offer their chair to someone or open the door. We all know that is what they do, but for socially excellent individuals, it goes much deeper than that. Classy ladies and true gentlemen are gracious. They look at every conversation, every relationship, as an opportunity to learn and be impacted in some way (good or bad). They treat every person they meet with respect. They are warm and welcoming to everyone and they engage in meaningful dialogue each time they have the opportunity. Classy ladies and true gentleman don't just sit a certain way and open doors, they value relationships, knowledge and respect. They don't meet strangers just so they can recruit them. They believe that each person they meet will change their life in some small or big way and they seek those opportunities out regularly.

4. Be Open.

Social excellence means being open: Open to different ideas, different people, and different viewpoints. The socially excellent don't judge based on looks, stereotypes, perceptions, or what they think the person will be like. They are open to everyone. They also don't have to agree with a person about a topic to have a good conversation with them. They are open to a healthy debate and hearing different viewpoints and ideas. They respect other people, their values, beliefs, and ideals regardless of if they align with their own. 

Ultimately, "social excellence" means being the best version of yourself. Our founders wanted us to be better than the average student. They wanted us to be the type of fraternity men or sorority women that strangers naturally gravitate to because we make them feel welcome. Social excellence isn't just about a conversation. Social excellence is wanting to interact with all types of people all they time because you are genuinely curious about them and the world.

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