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Please offer your input - Obtaining interpersonal skills to be a better applicant

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by ProspectiveKidd, Sep 24, 2014.

  1. ProspectiveKidd

    ProspectiveKidd Banned Banned Account on Hold Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

    Jul 9, 2014
    This socio cultural aspect of my life is hurting me a lot in what I know I need to have to be a competitive applicant/interview/med student. I see myself getting ripped apart in med school and in clinicals If I entered them with my current social and communication skills. Im just starting undergrad so I have ample time to improve.

    I like to think that I am a fairly sharp guy compared to a lot of people that I know and come in contact with on a daily basis. In the same token I don't work in a corporate setting or anything like that. I work with a lot of nurses (ffs) and entry level workers for the most part.

    I'm not nearly as articulate as id like to be. Im not as confident as id like to be. I get nervous and embarrassed pretty easily. I have trouble being assertive as I tend to avoid conflict and tension.

    I don't like to be wrong so if I'm not sure I don't answer...If i do answer and I'm wrong sometimes I get embarrassed or feel stupid. How do I get over this? I know its OK to be wrong. I think I'm putting way too much emphasis on what other people are thinking of me, and how I appear to other students in the class, and in life.

    I'm not as outgoing and talkative as id like to be either. I don't feel like I have a lot to contribute most of the time unless its on a familiar topic. Even if it is a familiar topic mostly I just listen and soak up perspective to develop one, or add to my own opinions on the topic.

    The majority of people would consider me to have a flat personality I think but I do meet people that I can talk with for hours and have great mutual conversation. I seem to have trouble maintaining relationships, but I don't put in much effort either. I know relationships and connections are things I need to be successful.

    I have become more reclusive and more flat, personality wise as I got older..I had many more friends and was more social in my HS days. Im 25 now. A lot of times I don't like to talk unless I find someone or something interesting..and I don't find many people interesting. The ones I do find interesting, I feel like Idon't measure up socially so that makes me timid as well. I am really a normal guy, I just tend to over analyze everything.

    I consider myself good looking and I don't have problems with people wanting to talk to me or to get to know me, including girls.

    I am taking basic psych so I am learning about a lot of this and why I act the way I do. Should I see a psychiatrist? Take classes? What are some good ways to improve my social and relationship skills so I can be the person I want to be not only for myself but for my hopeful profession?
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2014
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  3. Goro

    Goro Faculty 7+ Year Member

    Jun 10, 2010
    Somewhere west of St. Louis
    If you're still in school, take some acting, speech, voice/singing or debating classes. Join the debate team.

    And go talk to a counselor about your self-esteem issues.

  4. Aerus

    Aerus Elemental Alchemist 5+ Year Member

    Apr 20, 2012
    hSDN Member
    hSDN Alumni
    I had that issue in the earlier part of my life. Starting freshman year in high school, I made it my goal to become more outgoing and interpersonal. I worked on confidence (exercising more, going to the gym, wearing better clothes, grooming skin and hair, etc.), on my people skills (learning how to read social cues from other people, interpret facial expressions, and understand different types of people, etc.), and also how to be more articulate about my own feelings (learning how to share my own feelings with friends).

    You have an uphill battle, but you also have an advantage. By starting from the bottom, you can effectively train yourself to read faces and social cues incredibly well that you essentially master the art of social diplomacy. It's all about PRACTICE. There is no class that can replace practice. Acting and performance classes are a great way to get started but you still must practice this.
    ponyo likes this.
  5. ponyo

    ponyo 人魚姫 7+ Year Member

    Aug 11, 2009
    North of Key West
    I think a lot of us introverts feel this way. Like @Aerus said, it comes down to practice. I know that might be exhausting, but you can let yourself take baby steps and then re-evaluate to see the areas in which you can improve. Don't dwell on that too much though--don't let yourself get into a hole where you are just being self-critical, but rather try to be constructive about it. If you haven't read Quiet: The Power of Introverts I would highly recommend it. She plays it up a lot but if you bear with that there is some good advice.

    Are you actually interested in having more relationships or do you just want them for professional reasons? Because I think you can easily maintain good professional relationships without being a social butterfly. Networking is a very different skill from acquiring actual friends (much more learnable and, IMHO, manageable as an introvert).

    It does sound to me though like you want more friends, or at least a more active social life. It is definitely easier to do that when you were in a structured environment like HS. If it helps, med school is super structured again and you'll be in close contact with the same people, so it might get easier once you get there. But as far as college and post-college life goes, it seems like you really just have to get involved in activities that you like, whether it's some kind of pick-up sports or volunteering or whatever. Proximity breeds friendship, and if you want more friendships it can't hurt to put yourself closer to people. It's just a question of whether the effort is worth it to you.

    I also think that interesting people attract each other. If you develop your passions so that you have real things to say (and it sounds like you do, during those occasions when you click with someone), people will be drawn to you. It wouldn't be as quick as being instantly charismatic, but I think you still get the benefit of getting quality people around you. If you are doing things to make yourself grow as a person in terms of pursuing happiness and finding interesting experiences, people who have similar goals will want to be friends with you. And don't be afraid to broadcast your interests! A lot of people love introducing others, so even if they aren't personally interested they might know someone who is.
    Zelda840 likes this.
  6. LabMonster

    LabMonster Clinically relevant. 10+ Year Member

    Mar 11, 2005
    OP - you sound like an introvert, like me. I once avoided conflict and tension and interpersonal relationships scared me. Then I got older, grew up and learned to deal with the world at large. As you get older, you may acquire better social skills as many of us "introverts" do. Here's the skinny: the recent push in medical education is to select and train physicians who are not only malleable psychologically (or emotionally) but also people who have a decent amount of empathy and care. This is in stark contrast to years ago when the "best and brightest" won the day. Look, you need to be smart, willing to learn and fast to adjust. You also need to care about patients. Medical schools are not stupid and their "products" are doctors going out into the world who need to be competent about patient satisfaction - something that is entirely unrelated to patient outcome and good medical care. You need good interpersonal skills. Find a job that develops those skills like customer service: work as a server or gas station attendant. DO something besides "ask" for help or assume social skills will fall into your lap. If you are socially awkward, you need to address that head on by training: repeatedly entering social situations that make you feel awkward. How would you address a patient with a drinking problem? How could you possibly discuss patient care with a strong-armed colleague? Medicine is many things, but management of people and resources is paramount. Sure, you can make it to medical school with crappy interpersonal skills, but it won't help you in your 3rd or 4th years (which help you with residency) and it sure won't broaden your horizons. Challenge yourself to become more comfortable with your weaknesses.
    Ace Khalifa and Zelda840 like this.
  7. ndafife

    ndafife 2+ Year Member

    Jun 16, 2014
    This might be a bit unorthodox...
    Go to a bar on a Friday or Saturday night... or on a game-day for College football/NFL/baseball whatever. Have a drink or two to loosen yourself up (don't get drunk but build up a bit of confidence), but then just go strike up conversation with some people. Entirely casual. No reason to go nuts with it, but getting some comfort and confidence speaking to people you don't know should be able to help you out a lot in interviews and as a doctor
    onceawolverine likes this.
  8. Promethean

    Promethean Syncretist 2+ Year Member

    Jul 2, 2014
    Western PA
    If you are just starting undergrad, then you are in a great position. You are not supposed to be super suave at this stage of the game, and that you recognize this as a weakness is an incredible advantage over someone who lacks that insight.

    As Goro said, try acting, speech, or singing classes to build your experience with anxiety inducing social experiences. Get involved with clubs on campus, and volunteer as much as your schedule allows. Not only will those things look good as extracurricular activities, but they will give you more opportunities to build your social skills. Look for people who need help in your classes and offer to study with them/tutor them. That way, you will learn the material better yourself, and you will build your self esteem and social skills at the same time.

    Self-esteem grows from accomplishments and competence. It is natural, at this point in your life, to have only modest accomplishments and under-developed competence. As you apply yourself to things that you care about, things that you can respect yourself for doing, you will grow your store of accomplishments. You will be able to say I helped that person, I contributed to that cause, I made something happen that made a difference. You will be able to look back over your experiences and see progressive improvement. As you build a history of experiences like that, confidence will be the natural result. You will realize suddenly that you are competent. That you can communicate well. That you are an interesting person that a school would be delighted to admit.

    Don't worry too much about doing things just for the sake of having them on your application. Do things because you want to have the experience, because you want to be helpful, because you care about what you are doing. That way, the application will fill itself in, and you will be an awesome person.

    Good luck, dude. This is a great time in your life, and you can really make the most of it.
    Ace Khalifa likes this.
  9. ProspectiveKidd

    ProspectiveKidd Banned Banned Account on Hold Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

    Jul 9, 2014
    Thanks for the replies everyone. I cant quote everyone and reply indivually atm but I am taking everything into consideration. I am definitely too hard on myself and i tend to ruminate over these things for extended periods of time to try to learn from experiences. However that typically leads to more negativity because of my critical perspective on things, amplifying my shortcomings. I will talk to a counselor and pre health advisor at school and seek psychiatric help for CBT or whatever if it is recommended.

    I have already made strides over the past year or so, ive been putting in effort to be more social with people in general and have been seeing results. I used to get red in the face when someome approached me in public and i wasnt sure what to say. I couldnt talk to a girl i liked without being a nervous wreck. Repeated exposure to the stimulus is key, i agree.

    I want this to be a successful applicant, but i also want to be succesful in life regardless of my professional status. This is largely something i want for myself, not med school. I just know it will be a factor as far as getting in and being successful in that regard.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2014
    Promethean likes this.

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