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Is Technology Hurting Your Social Skills?

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It’s no secret that people are even more connected through technology than ever before. Big news is delivered via text message, and childhood friends can reconnect in an instant via social networking sites.

But is all this digital communication actually hurting our social skills?

A Badoo study found that 39 percent of Americans spend more time socializing online than they do in person. It can take it’s toll on the already nearly lost art of conversation, according to Jodi R.R. Smith, author of The Etiquette Book: A Complete Guide to Modern MannersSo much time spent communicating remotely can hinder everyday conversations, she says.

“Those small talk topics which would have resulted in a perfectly lovely, yet quick, conversation in the grocery aisle or in the board room before the meeting, have already been mined,” she said.

It’s not all a lost cause, though. She gives the following tips as a conversation refresher course for the technology-entrenched:

Conversations at work

In most cases, at least a few of your friends at work overlap with your social media circles. This makes drawing the boundaries between your personal and professional lives all the more difficult. But try anyway.

“We are still each individually responsibly for creating boundaries between our personal selves and our professional selves. There is a delicate balance,” said Smith. “While you should share some information, you should never share ALL of the information.”

For example, if you went to a family wedding over the weekend and a colleague or boss asks you how it went, it is appropriate to talk about the venue, or music, or the awesome food at the reception. It is inappropriate, however, to talk about family feuds or who got wasted and arrested.

“Boundaries,” Smith reminds.

Conversations on the first date

As relationships progress, so does the intensity of the conversations. When you are first meeting a person, however, you should keep the table talk light.

“A first date is not a job interview.  You should not be asking about their past dating history, romantic interests or medical clearance.  The idea on the first date is to be interested in what they are saying and be interesting in what you have to share,” said Smith.

She suggests that new love interests talk about hobbies, vacations, favorite books, favorite movies, and positive childhood memories. There will be time down the road to bring in the inquisition — but enjoy the fun of the beginning first.

Conversations with acquaintances

Whether you are meeting for the first time at a neighborhood block party or you see each other at the bus stop every morning, small talk should be just that. Avoid asking too many questions or digging into areas that are really none of your business.

“Avoid asking questions which are too personal — like are you married? Do you have kids? — and avoid money or salary discussions,” Smith said. “Ask general questions based upon the situational interaction.”

So ask a new neighbor how he or she likes the area so far, or if he or she needs any suggestions on where to shop or who to hire.  Ask a person

If you ever feel that another person has crossed the line into impolite conversation, remember that you do not have to answer. Smith suggests acknowledging the question and then changing the subject as politely as possible.

“Unless you are being questioned by the police with an attorney present, you are not obligated to answer any over-reaching or uncomfortable question,” she said.

 

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