9 Social Skills Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make in Business

When you meet somebody at a networking event, do you know how to choose the right group to talk to?

When you connect with somebody on LinkedIn, do you know exactly what steps to take to get that person to know, like and trust you?

When you get dressed for work, do you know how to choose your clothing to influence the Halo Effect?

If you answered “No” to any or all of these questions, then you could be making some major social skills mistakes that are preventing you from truly excelling in your business life.

Learning social skills for business isn’t something that’s easily accessible. Universities and business schools generally don’t include this type of training in their curriculum. Therefore most business people don’t realise how important and powerful these skills are.

In this article, I’m going to share with you a quick list of ten social skills mistakes you don’t want to make in business to help you navigate the corporate world better.

Mistake #1 – Talking to people you already know at networking events.

Networking is about meeting new people and expanding your business network. However, too often at networking events, people automatically gravitate toward others they already know. Why? Because it’s daunting to talk to strangers. Next time you’re at a networking event, make it a goal to talk to at least two people you don’t know.

Mistake #2 – Launching into a sales pitch when you connect with somebody on LinkedIn.

When you connect with somebody on LinkedIn, the first action you should take is engaging that person in a casual, non-threatening conversation. However, a common mistake I see many people make is they immediately launch into a sales pitch. Yes, LinkedIn is a place where you can find clients, but in order to turn those connections into clients, you need to start building a relationship with them first.

Mistake #3 – Handing out as many business cards as you can at networking events.

Business cards are important, however they should only be given to people if they know who you are or if they’ve already expressed interest in your business. Simply handing business cards to people whom you’ve never had a conversation with is invasive and rude. At your next networking event, take a limited amount of business cards (10-15) to ensure you only hand them to people you’ve met.

Mistake #4 – Neglecting the importance of social skills and business etiquette.

It’s not surprising people make this mistake. Most universities and companies focus their training on technical skill, and not on the soft skills that all employees need so they can interact with confidence and excel in business. Of course, technical skills are important. However, it’s your level of social skill that will help you build your professional brand, master your conversations, and truly excel in business. Make social skills a priority in your professional development.

Mistake #5 – Not transitioning from small talk to intelligent conversation topics.

Many people are capable of small talk. However, it’s often the transition from small talk to more intelligent and deeper conversation topics where most people get stuck. Making this transition is not easy, but it’s vital in business. To make this transition, you need to keep abreast of what’s happening in your industry. Read newspapers or industry journals. Listen to podcasts or invest in industry training. The more you fill your mind with insightful information, the more conversation topics you’ll be able to think of on the spot.

Business Etiquette 101: Social Skills for Professional Success

Mistake #6 – Not helping others lower their natural defense mechanism.

When you meet somebody for the first time, you have to understand that person will naturally be cautious or even distrustful of you until they get to know you better. This is what I call a “natural defence mechanism”. When you meet somebody for the first time, you have to help the other person lower their natural defence mechanism so they are open to getting to know you. How do you do this? You need to be visible and be everywhere. Attend networking events so your face is familiar. Get to know others in your company or industry so people are familiar with your name.

Mistake #7 – Not storing business cards with respect.

Have you ever seen somebody bend or fold your business card? Have you ever seen somebody sit on your business card when it’s in their back pocket? How did it make you feel? Both of these examples are highly disrespectful however, they happen often in business. When you receive somebody’s business card, you need to consider it as an extension of that person. It’s their property and you need to treat it with a high level of respect. Use a business card case to store your business cards and those you receive.

Mistake #8 – Not building a standard executive wardrobe for your job.

How many times have you walked to your wardrobe in the morning and you wished it was easier to find something to wear to work? That’s because you haven’t chosen items of clothing that will become a standard in your executive wardrobe. For example, if you’re a businessman, you should have 2-3 business suits, 3-5 shirts, 6-10 ties, 2 pairs of shoes and 5 pairs of socks to get started. If you’re a businesswoman, you should have 2-3 business suits, 2-3 business shirts, 1 cardigan twinset, 2 pairs of shoes, 5 pairs of stockings or stocking socks to get started.

Mistake #9 – Not separating your personal and professional life online.

This can be one of the most damaging mistakes for your professional life. Too often we hear of people getting fired because they’ve posted inappropriate content about their boss or company on their Facebook page. As a business person, you need to understand that there is a high level of privacy, respect and professionalism you need to adhere to in the corporate world. Adhere to this unwritten rule and you will keep your job and keep your clients. Remember, only post content that you would be happy to see on the front page of your local newspaper.

Business Etiquette 101: Social Skills for Professional Success

About Kara

Kara Ronin is the founder of Executive Impressions. She is an executive coach who specialises in leadership presence, social skills and business etiquette. She is also the creator of Bestselling Udemy course, Business Etiquette 101. Kara’s advice and unique perspectives have been featured in Time Inc., Business Insider, Ignites Europe (a Financial Times Service), The Muse, The Local France, The West Australian, and more. Kara works regularly with lawyers, investment bankers, and finance professionals to help them build presence, authority and influence in business. Get Kara's insights delivered straight to your inbox