18 Things People With Good Social Skills Never Do


If you want to know the golden rule of good social skills, here it is summed up in one clear expression that I've held onto since I first heard it many years ago:

It doesn't matter what you do or say, what matters is how people feel about you when you leave the room.

That's it. If you want to be thought of as a good listener, then listen and don't interrupt. If you want to be seen as charitable, then offer at least one charitable contribution every time you interact with someone — even if it's a compliment. Remember, having good social skills doesn't mean that you impress people with your intelligence or your great sense of humor or your good looks. It means they like you. (See also: 10 Rules of Etiquette Everyone Should Know)

So here are some things folks with great social skills never do — or, to be honest, almost never ever do.

1. Never Let a Good Deed Go Unpaid

When someone does you a favor, return with a favor someday. It may even be better to wait a little while, so the person knows you've been waiting for the perfect way to repay them. (This includes always show up with a gift. That way you're repaying someone for their hospitality right away.)

2. Never Forget a Name

Well, never is pretty tough, but people with great social skills are enormously gifted at remembering names. It may be no fault of your own that you are forgetful, but if that's the case try developing a trick or two for helping remember names. What I do is on the ride home, I try to remember all the names from the event or gathering.

3. Never Interrupt

Never interrupt, unless it's a necessity. What you have to say is not unimportant, but it is rarely life or death for you to say it. Remember: It's not what you do or say, it's how they feel about you when you leave the room.

4. Never Forget to Check In and Out

A host or hostess is in charge of safety, at least on some level. If you go to Yankee Stadium, you don't have to drop in on the security office and check in and out, but in visits to a pool party on up to a school event you should make sure the head of the event (the principal's office, for example, or your host) knows you are there and when you are leaving.

Plus, how would you like it if your guests came and went without saying "Hi" and "Bye"?

5. Never Let Your Appearance Go

This doesn't mean go around in formal dress, but shave, comb hair, brush teeth, smell nice, clean clothes. Maintain good hygiene even in trips to the liquor store. (Especially in trips to the liquor store.)

6. Never Raise Your Voice

Again, never is a long time, but people with good social skills err on the side of talking quietly, rather than talking loudly.

7. Never Get Too Excited or Angry

Once you get out of college, the days of war paint at football games and other forms of public hysteria are over. Time to settle down, big guy.

8. Never Let Yourself Get Walked On

Having good social skills does not mean being a polite patsy. When it's time to stand up for yourself, do so.

9. Never Swear in Front of People Not Your Age

This comes from Ernest Hemingway (oddly enough). If you swear in front of children, that's not so good. If you swear in front of your parents and other older folks, it's disrespectful. Keep your swearing in your own age group and then be sparing.

10. Never Be a Party Pooper

Safety is one thing, but if everyone is having fun and that's just not you at the moment, then walk away and have your down time somewhere else. Don't stick around and ruin everyone's good time.

11. Never Leave Someone Out

People with good social skills know to include everyone in the room and introduce themselves to even the quiet ones pressed against the wall or looking left out.

12. Never Blurt Out Something Hurtful

Some information just isn't necessary. "I never liked you," is a good example. Keep those toady items to yourself or share them with discrete company later — or better, never share them at all.

13. Never Fight Immaturely

People fight sometimes, but people with good social skills keep disagreements on a mature level. They discuss behaviors that can change. It's fair to say, "I want you to get here on time," but it's not fair to say, "You're late because you're stupid and lazy."

14. Never Laugh at Others' Expense

The classic example is someone accidentally drops a tray in the cafeteria. How many people point and guffaw? How many snicker? How many just sit there?

And how many go over and help?

15. Never Get Caught Without a Clean Joke


Who's there.

Interrupting cow.

Interrupting c--


Always keep a clean joke handy, just in case there are kids around.

16. Never Upset the Apple Cart

If it's a serious occasion, joking around would be the way to upset the apple cart. If it's a casual, fun gathering, morosely discussing your stock portfolio would be considered inappropriate.

17. Never Ignore People

The rule of thumb is explained in "I'm OK, You're OK," the book by Thomas Anthony Harris that launched transactional analysis in 1967. One transaction, for example, would be a stranger nodding hello as you pass them on the on the sidewalk. If you don't nod or smile in return, they feel they have come up short in the social transaction. They feel slighted. Don't slight them by ignoring them.

18. Never Get Caught Without an Ice-Breaker

This doesn't mean you always have to break the ice. It means that other people sometimes need a friendly hello for whatever reason. Be ready with a question, comment, or quip — hopefully one that will give the other person a chance to respond.

Anything I've missed? What social skills do you think are important? Please share in comments!

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Guest's picture

Hey, we should add one--never use phrases that are rooted in legal allowances for spousal abuse, like "Rule of thumb" (look it up) I cringe every time i hear that phrase

Guest's picture

Except that is not actually true.

Guest's picture

A great help! I tend to be socially awkward sometimes and this was very useful, thank you!

Guest's picture

Yeah... It's pretty obvious that until you know who you're talking to, always keep religion, politics, spirituality, animal rights, and mumbo-jumbo like "Law of Attraction" to yourself. There's enough to chat about with a stranger that you should be able to avoid the personal beliefs arena until you get to know a person better.

Guest's picture

Don't point at people, like the woman in the photo is doing. Big no-no in my book!

Guest's picture

A huge one in my book is please never spit in public and never ever make a loud noise doing it...it is so disgusting. Professional ball players are exempt from this rule, I guess since who is going to tell them to stop?? lol I have heard this so much and it always grosses me out and it is always done by men or boyish men...arggghhh ewwww. I am not the only one is bugged by this just not too many of us women complain. Number two no no is shouting across to people in apt complexes or trying to get their attention at large venues...come on, people, you have a cell phone...call their freakin phone, for gawd's sake...ok enough ranting...lol

Guest's picture

Touching people a lot. I do this. I am very touchy feely and will hug and put my hand on people's arm while we are talking perhaps to "connect" but I get the feeling it is having the opposite effect.

Guest's picture

How should a person respond to someone who "just stopped by for a moment" and caught you in the middle of eating a snack and they asked for some?

This is not the first time this has happened and I just think the person is rude. I would never go to someone's house for a momentary stop and ask for their food.

Guest's picture

My favorite is "don't worry about what others think, you're not responsible for their perceptions." To explain a little, you can say the moon is out today and it'll offend someone, so you can't be in charge of other peoples feelings, so why try? With that said, just be yourself and treat others with the same respect you would like. Don't expect people to cater to you, and also understand that what's polite to you is rude to another culture.