What are the best ways to improve my social skills? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Milena Rangelov, Ph.D student in civil engineering, on Quora:

Here are some ideas for social skills in general, and these should help with sales, too:

  1. Listen to people. Skill #1 on this list and for a big reason. Most of the people are not listening, but rather trying to be the loudest person in the room. If you ask questions and listen, you are extremely likely to stand out from the crowd. 
  2. Be interested in people's stories. We are all a bit egocentric and we tend to LOVE people who are interested in our stories. Interested people are interesting. Ask people questions. Try to learn something you did not know before from your interlocutor. (By the way, Steve Dubner made an entire podcast around that idea, Tell Me Something I Don't Know.)
  3. Do you function better in 1-on-1 conversations or in a large crowd? This is an important distinction and knowing how you function best will help you create the best environment for your social skills to shine. I love connecting with people 1 on 1, and that's how I always have deeper conversations and make a better impression. Hint: go with your gut feeling. Which types of interactions feel better? How did you make more friends? Which conversations do you remember as more pleasant? 
  4. Don't be too negative or ironic and don't complain all the time. All of these behaviors are people repellent. We are consistently bombarded with fear, negativity, and generally the worst of humanity (just turn on the news). That's why we gravitate towards people who are kind, loving, cheerful, and funny, rather than to those who bitch all the time. Giving negativity to people is like selling the ice to Eskimos. No one wants to buy it.
  5. Remember people's names. I hear people claiming that they have short memories and cannot possibly remember people's names all the time. Jim Kwik came up with a terrific hack to prove these folks wrong. He asks: "If I tell you: 'You will get one thousand dollars for remembering this guy's name,' would you remember it?" Sure as hell you would! So it's not about your brainpower, it's about the motivation. If you want to remember, you can remember. Ask people to repeat their names. If it's hard, ask them to spell it for you. Repeat after them. If you forget, ask someone else from the group, "Hey, what was the name of the guy in red shirt? I forgot." Do whatever you have to do to remember. And then call people by their names. People love that.
  6. Remember people's stories. The whole point of listening is to remember what people tell you. And it can be a great foundation to follow up (see idea #8), spark new conversations, or start/strengthen the casual friendship. Remember names of people's family members, pets, hobbies, details about the job, a side gig, what are they obsessed with, remember as much as you can. People are absolutely psyched when they realize that you actually listened to them and remembered their story. This is a surefire way to stand out because the majority of people only waits for their own turn to speak. Which reminds me...
  7. Don't fill every gap with talking. Conversations are two-way streets. However, sometimes it's perfectly fine to say, "Wow, that's really cool." You don't always need to have a follow-up story, or the answer or the opinion. Ask your interlocutor another question. Nod your head. Be silent. (And you can also move to idea #9.) When I am in the company of people who cannot stop talking, I feel drained and I need to spend time alone to recharge.
  8. Follow up. Regarding networking, most people think that a high-powered approach is to be courageous, approach others first, and start the conversation. Wrong. That is the initiation of networking. The truest power of networking lies in following up. That is how relationships are built. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Remember what the person you met likes (idea #6) and send him or her a useful link to an article, webinar, workshop, or podcast. Even better, try to come up with the recommendation during the conversation and then promise to follow up with the link/recipe/code/useful person's contact, etc. And do it! Seriously. This will show that you are caring, diligent, consistent, and reliable. How many times did someone promise to send you something and never did? A gazillion. People who actually follow through are therefore rare and precious.
  9. Know when to leave. Don't get me wrong, but nobody wants to chat only with you for hours. Have a nice conversation and move on.
  10. It's all about love. Last but not least, love is the key ingredient. It's kind of funny how we all want social hacks and tricks. The biggest trick of them all is love. That is the ultimate social skill. Love people, respect people, admire people, be interested in what people are going through, compliment people, see the best in people, forgive people, don't judge people, help people, shower people with your love. And then all of these other ideas will be fine adjustments.

I hope you find this answer useful and applicable.

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