16 Clear Signs You Need to Brush Up On Your People Skills

16 Clear Signs You Need to Brush Up On Your People Skills

Good people skills aren’t just about charm – they’re non-negotiable for building strong relationships and navigating work, friendships, and life in general. Sadly, if any of the following situations sound familiar, it might be time to level up those interpersonal abilities.

1. You dread social events.

A little introvert anxiety is normal, per Psychology Today, but if the mere thought of parties or networking events makes you break into a cold sweat, it’s a sign your social skills might be a little rusty. Avoiding social situations only reinforces the fear and can stunt your enjoyment and opportunities. Remember, even the most confident people sometimes feel nervous – it’s about learning to manage the nervousness, not letting it control you.

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2. You struggle with small talk.

Small talk gets a bad rap, but it’s the glue that starts conversations and helps you connect with other people. If you fumble for words, clam up, or launch into an awkward monologue the moment someone says hello, it’s time to brush up on those conversational basics. Think of small talk like a warm-up for the deeper conversation you might eventually want to have.

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3. You interrupt people constantly.

Do you find yourself finishing other people’s sentences or bursting to share your opinion before they’ve even had their say? Interrupting is a sign you may not be truly listening and respecting the flow of the conversation. Remember, everyone wants to feel heard, and constantly interrupting makes the other person feel less valued.

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4. You have a hard time reading people’s emotions.

Part of strong people skills is understanding the unspoken cues people send through their tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions. If you’re often caught off-guard by people’s reactions or feel clueless about the vibe in the room, it’s worth honing your emotional awareness. Improving this skill helps you not only understand other people better, but also to navigate social situations with more ease.

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5. You can’t remember people’s names.

A forgotten name can be embarrassing, but if it happens all the time, it means you may not be fully present in the moment or genuinely interested in the other person. While some people are just terrible with names, making an effort to remember them shows you care. Even repeating the name back right when you’re first introduced (“Great to meet you, Sarah!”) can help solidify it in your memory.

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6. You dominate conversations.

Does every get-together turn into your personal storytelling hour? Being able to hold an audience is great, but monopolizing conversations is a sign that you might need to work on balancing your contribution with genuinely listening to people. Give them a chance to share their stories and perspectives too!

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7. Your jokes frequently fall flat.

A good sense of humor can smooth over tons of awkwardness, but if your jokes often lead to crickets or confused frowns, it’s a good idea to reevaluate your delivery and comedic timing. Understanding your audience and knowing when to dial it back is a key communication skill. It’s also important to remember that humor isn’t everything – you can be perfectly likable without being the class clown.

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8. People tell you that you lack empathy.

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand their feelings. If you frequently get called out for being insensitive or uncaring, it’s a major red flag that your people skills need urgent attention. Developing empathy makes you a better friend, partner, and all-around human being.

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9. You get into arguments easily.

Frequent arguments suggest an inability to resolve conflict peacefully and respectfully, per Business Insider. If every minor disagreement turns into a full-blown fight, it could be a sign to work on your communication skills and finding common ground rather than just focusing on winning the battle. Remember, healthy debate is okay, but constantly turning every conversation into an argument alienates everyone around you.

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10. You dislike or fear criticism.

We can all feel sensitive about our flaws, but if any form of feedback makes you defensive or shuts you down, it’s a major obstacle to growth and building strong relationships. Being able to take constructive criticism and see it as an opportunity to improve is vital for success both personally and professionally. Think of it this way: the people giving you feedback genuinely want to help you get better!

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11. You’re uncomfortable making eye contact.

Multi-ethnic group of young people on a rooftop party

Avoiding eye contact can signal insecurity, disinterest, or even dishonesty. While it’s perfectly fine to break eye contact occasionally, an inability to hold someone’s gaze can make you seem untrustworthy or unapproachable. Practicing comfortable eye contact builds trust and makes connections stronger.

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12. Your body language is negative.

Young student guy feels upset and isolated while his friends celebrating party at home

Crossed arms, slumped shoulders, and constantly looking down can communicate a closed-off and negative attitude, even if you don’t intend to. Being aware of your body language and practicing open, relaxed postures can instantly make you appear more approachable and engaged. Your body language can say just as much – or even more – than your words.

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13. You don’t ask questions.

friends at a massive dinner party

Conversations are a two-way street. If you don’t ask questions or show genuine interest in learning more about the other person, you could be perceived as self-centered or even dull. Asking thoughtful questions shows that you’re invested in the conversation and the person you’re talking to.

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14. Your phone is always in your hands.

guy on his phone at a party

Constantly scrolling through your phone during social interactions is incredibly rude and signals that you’re disengaged or uninterested in the people around you. Practice putting the phone away during face-to-face time and give people your full attention. Not only is it respectful, but you’ll also make stronger connections when you’re fully present.

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15. You’re a chronic complainer.

Everyone has bad days and needs to vent sometimes. But if negativity is your default mode, people will likely start avoiding you. A relentlessly negative attitude can be draining to be around, and it’s hard to feel positive and connected with someone who constantly focuses on the downside.

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16. You struggle with giving sincere compliments.

Being able to offer genuine compliments shows you pay attention, appreciate people, and aren’t afraid to share positivity. If giving compliments feels awkward or unnatural, it could be a sign that you need to work on expressing your appreciation and looking for the good in those around you. A simple, sincere compliment can brighten someone’s day and strengthen your bond.

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Harper Stanley graduated from Eugene Lang College at The New School in NYC in 2006 with a degree in Media Studies and Literature and Critical Analysis. After graduating, she worked as an editorial assistant at The Atlantic before moving to the UK to work for the London Review of Books.

When she's not waxing poetic about literature, she's writing articles about dating, relationships, and other women's lifestyle topics to help make their lives better. While shocking, she really has somehow managed to avoid joining any social media apps — a fact she's slightly smug about.