When Life Gives You Shitty Cards – Do This

This guy made a life-changing realization, right here:

“I spent years in therapy “because” I was too ugly to get a girlfriend. My therapist insisted I was using that as an excuse. I balked. Why would I make up a painful excuse? Did she think I enjoyed being ugly? But it was an excuse. My looks were relatively out of my control. I let myself off the hook by deciding the Universe dealt me shitty cards, which meant I was free to complain without doing any hard work.“

(From Quora, here’s the full post)

When we did the research for our program “Awkward to Awesome”, we sent out surveys to almost 20 000 Socialpro readers. We had deep email conversations. We even had hour long phone calls with many of you.

One reader intrigued me in particular. She wrote:

– “But how will a course help me, if people around me don’t take the course?”

Others said similar things.

-“People aren’t interested in hanging out nowadays, they sit home instead”

-“People in my country/city are like X.”

-“You need to be a faker to make friends nowadays

10 years ago – I would have agreed:

  • People seemed busy and didn’t have time
  • They were shallow and uninteresting
  • They were bad at keeping in touch
  • They would rather sit at home doing nothing
  • They lost interest in hanging out after a while

Looks like life dealt me shitty cards, right?

If one person’s off and doesn’t want to hang out, it’s reasonable to assume it has nothing to do with you.

If it feels like a pattern in your life, you are the only one who can do something about it.

Here’s what we see over and over: When our readers use the principles we’ve been talking about in previous emails, this problem of how “everyone is” eventually goes away.

  • When they turn the conversation into personal mode, people open up and become less shallow and more personal.
  • When they start looking for commonalities instead of talking about their accomplishments, people wants to hang out more
  • When they use conversational threading, their conversations run smoother.  People feel more at ease around them

And so on…

Your approach is what decides how people react to you

As an example, one of our readers had the belief that people are always busy nowadays and rather sit at home with their iPad. But when she thought about it, she knew several examples of people similar to her who had great social lives. People said they were busy as an excuse because she tended to be too self-focused in conversations.

It was one of the most painful realizations she’d ever made. But that realization was also the best thing that ever happened to her: She knew it was in her control to improve (And when she started focusing more on others, people had more time).

It’s fair to put our assumptions to the test before we let them form our opinion of how people are. A good way to do that is to look at people around us who shouldn’t succeed if our assumption was entirely true.

Luckily, it’s often subtle adjustments in how we approach people that make a huge change in our lives.

The biggest hurdle is to first realize that if we want something to change in our lives, we need to look at ourselves.

– “But I don’t want to play the shallow social game anyway”

Article continues below.

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– “I don’t want to make hours of small talk with people I don’t care about

– “I don’t want to fake and compromise myself to get others approval”

– “I don’t want to be some kind of super extrovert and have people around me all the time”

Great! Neither do I.

To me, a good social life is having a small group of close friends who you actually WANT to hang out with. People, you’re comfortable around, who are there when you need them.

A good social life is a life on your own terms, without having to hunt for approval from others.

I found and made friends with thoughtful, smart, genuine people who were very much like me. All those ideas I had about “how people are”, were actually a way to let myself off the hook.

The solution was to make small adjustments in how I approached people.

“But David, people should see me for who I am, I shouldn’t have to learn this”

Everyone has to learn social skills. It’s just that some do it when they’re really young. For example, I was at home building pinball machines when others were at school discos improving their social skills.

Obi-Wan David (With a lightsaber built out of water-pipe)


Mom, I’m still sorry I made a scorekeeper out of your fancy cooking-timer.

Jokes aside, I would never want to change that period of my life.

While others were socializing, we, who spent a lot of time on our own, developed other skills and qualities.

You probably developed parts of your personality that you wouldn’t want to be without today.

Now that we’re older and more aware we can learn to become really socially skilled on top of all that.

“But what if I lack some kind of ability you have to be born with to be good socially?”

I felt the same way 10 years ago, and I’ve seen a lot of participants in my courses starting off with similar feelings.

Most people doubt themselves or assume there’s something wrong with them. That they were just born without that “inner charisma”. But I’ve seen time and time again how that’s just not true. Social skills are something you learn. Everyone can get better at it if they, with the right support, take the steps they need. You will probably be surprised at how quickly you’ll improve once you know what to do.

Don’t let yourself off the hook.

Have you had any thoughts that kept you from improving, and how did you deal with them? I can’t wait to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments right below!

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David Morin is the founder of SocialPro. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

Go to Comments (46)

46 thoughts on “When Life Gives You Shitty Cards – Do This”

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  1. My problem is that when i meet people for the first time my conversation with them would be good and i feel very happy about it but when i meet that person again i start to loose confidence or i dont get any topics to talk about.. even though i want to talk to them, i just dont know what to say and so i just try to avoid meeting that person again coz i believe that i wouldn’t be able to talk to them as i did when i met them for the first time

  2. Thanks a lot David,through your emails I m getting back my confidence and find it easy now to behave properly in social situations.my problem in childhood as well as now is my impulsivity.sometimes I get extremely excited while sit mum at others.I’m trying to overcome this very flaw by analyzing the situation,thinking well before speaking and reasoning the circumstances.

  3. I think I always believed that I couldn’t do it, That I simply wasn’t for me. So I longed for friendship but I was to scared to do it and try. I thought I couldn’t anything about it how to go about it nor where to begin either.

    I am and were really insecure about that, that I wasn’t like everyone else. that they would se me as weird in a bad way. That kept me from doing it, today I am motivated to learn things over about myself to improve my skills. I hope I can achieve this goal of mine.

  4. Hi I’m Kay
    I have just got over a toxic relationship. Where my ex is very demanding and keep looking at my bad side and criticized me about it. So lately I’m kinda shy and don’t have confident in myself while i’m talking to others.

  5. My problem is not really the social skills; I might lack some, but my real problem is that I don’t have the sufficient physical strength. I got Duchene’s Muscular Dystrophy which slowly degenerates and weakens all muscles. So, people can’t hear me or well enough to understand me. When I speak 2-3 times and people don’t I get disappointed in myself and that’s why I don’t socialize or speak much

  6. I’ve been bullied and that made close myself from others, I started to isolate myself. I thought there was something wrong with me and I hated myself in every possible way. I stopped being with my friends and was alone all the time. Years passed and I didn’t know how to talk with others anymore. There’re many more bad things in my life that made super depressed so it’s really hard for me to talk with others. I never know what to say and I don’t know what to do with people outside school so I avoid it. I want to try your tips, but I just can’t, it’s like I don’t want to. I’m scared that I will be alone for the rest of my life and never be free from my depression. I want to be and talk with people, but I really don’t know how. If you can help me, plz help. Idk what to do ;-;and all this have made me think everyone hates me, I’m too different from everyone else.

    My name’s Jennifer, I’m 14 years old and a swede.

    • I’m facing the similar problem dear, from being bullied to isolating myself and avoiding everyone at school because ik if I’ll ever come close to someone I’ll ruin everything eventually as nobody wants a partner/friend who can’t speak! my family thinks I’m useless and selfish. They never allowed me to make friends and that is one more reason I’m afraid to involve someone with me. Living in an extremely dysfunctional family and not being able to talk to someone (there’s this friend of mine who is genuinely nice and i want to take things to the next level) i think i have feelings for is just killing me. And ik how it feels so i just wanted you to know you’re not alone!

  7. Hi David. I’ve been having so much helpful advices in your emails. But i think there’s a very specific issue i might have that i don’t understand fully.
    I think i might externalize things too much when Im in groups. I have a main large group in class, but everytime i try to say a thought of mine that might be longer than usually, i try to be as fast as i can because they aleays turn their heads off me and just ignores my idea or thought.
    This happens so often, and everytime i feel more and more anxious about it, like im not really part of that group individually.
    I just really really want help.
    If you read this, thank you!

  8. The thing I’ve been struggling a lot with lately is how to start a conversation. When I actually do it, I usually just say hi and feel awkward cause I don’t know what to say next. Any suggestions?

  9. I Agree that there is a need of social skills…but to be honest i don’t enjoy being social,being around groups of people,friends , colleagues.it just bores me having to talk to people. What should i do?

  10. Mastering social skills, are part of psychoanalyses.

    The patient and the therapeut, instore a therapeutic relationship, to solve psychologic issues.

    This outcome is easiest obtaint, if the therapeut his guiding processes, recieve the patient’s respect, by theire professional impression they make on him.

    The well directed script, the limited participants and the ending in time, makes it just a mini version of dailly live we all share with our social contacts in search of fullfilement of life goals.

    The analytic research on the processes, to obtain higher rates in outcome, were very enlighted for the sector at the end of the 20the century.

    A very insightfull set of data, is richer I suspect than your’s, but share same goal.

    At first to complex in his hoal, devised easily simplified.

    Better mastering, brings your position as amateur to specialist and the needed change in all life processes is at your reach, to become what you had in your person as potential.

    Sorry, I do not have the time to correct spelling, as I must flee to bed 😉

    Bonne merde!

  11. Hi David, is it possible for you to skip sending me the emails that try to convince me that I should improve social skills intentionally? I have realized this and I just want to focus the specific skills. Thank you very much. I found several of your emails pretty interesting and inspiring.

  12. Hmm. Your comments, David, about your childhood and how you used to be socially struck a chord.

    I was hopeless at primary school – 999 kids and I was the preferred target for bullies.

    It left me with a terror of social situations akin to school playgrounds,
    and a belief that I’m a misfit that no one wants.

    Perhaps, despite my surface rationalisations, this is the belief that is holding me back.

    If that’s this case, the question becomes, how do I change the ingrained conditioning?

    PS – sorry if my responses seem self-obsessed. I do very much enjoy listening to others, much more so if or when they go deep – and best of all if there’s a two-way mutual flow.

    • Hi Manna,

      That sounds like a tough situation, but I think a good way of doing it is to first become more aware of when that ingrained belief affects your behavior. And then challenge yourself to change your negative behaviors that are a result of that belief. That way you will gradually be able to prove your brain wrong and weaken that belief. Check up CBT, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, if you want to learn more about those kinds of techniques.

      • Agreed.
        The problem with fear is that it creates its own reinforcement.
        The only cure is to face it, by small increments if necessary.

  13. Hi David,
    I am having trouble with talking to people who I want to be close friends with. When I talk, I have a mind freeze and forget what to say and I say random stuff that makes the conversation awkward. Do you have any tips on how I can make to initiate or slide into a conversation while making it interesting?

  14. Hey David,
    I’m currently in high school and I’d say struggle pretty badly with social anxiety at times. I’d say its bcoz I have a sub-conscious cycle of negative thoughts in my head when socialising and bcoz I get so so nervous around people. I don’t know why but I’ve become so scared of people and talking to people that a lot of the time I feel I give up or my mind is just not trying hard enough to simply just socialise. It’s really difficult bcoz I’ve almost finished high school and by now people in school have had enough of a scope of me through conversations to learn that I’m pretty shy or awkward or very socially anxious. This means they’re not really interested in talking to me again and when I sense this, it really discourages and disappoints me. It’s a struggle bcoz some days I can socialise pretty well and get along with people normally but most times I don’t and people get confused bcoz I build a good basis one day, and then the next I’m nervous again and I sorta destroy that basis and I go back to square one, if that makes sense? I don’t know how to keep my nerves down and how to drill into myself that they are just people like me. My brain just doesn’t seem to get it. But ever since receiving your emails, I’m really willing to try out these methods and see how I go. A little thing that’s concerning me though is, do these methods apply to people of all ages? As a teen, it feels like no one really sits down with one another to have conversations like this over tea or whatever, ‘socialising’ with teens around me feels more like a competition bcoz to me, I always worry about the ‘right’ thing to say in order to fit in better. Of course when I’m under this constant pressure I can never socialise properly. Sorry for rambling but I just don’t know how to start fresh and how to forget all these worries to put it simply.

    • Hi Caz, thank you for sharing with us all. We write all our material for people that are 18 or older, but most of it is pretty universal regardless of age. But what you’re describing sounds like high energy group conversations, and they’re often very different from a 1-on-1. I wrote a bit more about group conversations over here:

    • That sounds so horrible – the pain of the anxiety and loneliness.
      It sounds like you have some really good social skills.
      I wonder whether, on one of those good days, you could pick one of the people you like best, and tell him or her what you just shared with us above.
      I imagine that a person with empathy would respond very warmly, and might be keen to share a bit of time with you on less good days.
      David Morin’s programme looks great to me.
      And if you can’t afford it, he has many articles answering a wide range of social skills questions.
      Your youth, with its fabulous flexibility, energy, and future, means there’s a very good chance you will succeed.

  15. Hi David!
    Your videos and advises have been helping me a lot to deal with my social awkwardness.

    For me, I had a lot problem while trying to be comfortable around people. Even though I would meet some same people often, I had blank mind and couldn’t really converse with them.
    Maybe it was what they talked about that got me uncomfortable and confused. Cause I will admit, I am not a person who knows a lot.
    I tried to avoid such situation an tried to change topics and enter into those conversations, but I failed many times not knowing how to go about it.
    But then I slowly started listening to what others had to say an tried to connect my questions and built my curiosity and jumped into those conversations.
    I think somewhere that helped me to not be the weird girl around the corner.
    I am still trying to improve.

  16. Hi David,

    First off, I can’t thank you enough for this program. It is so much more than I expected and I love it!

    This article reminded me of one of my biggest struggles with socializing, and I can’t tell if I’m just making up excuses or if I’m actually right about it. You see, I’m in high school right now. I chose to not go to my home/default high school–and I don’t regret that–but it made socializing very hard. This is because for everyone else, this WAS their home school, meaning they just carried their middle school cliques and nothing changed. Anyone I met that seemed like a potential friend eventually got separated from me due to schedule changes, some age gap that made it hard to share classes, or just finding other people. When I joined clubs and other things of the like, they too split off into cliques. I feel like I was never even given the chance to make friends, because no one was open to adding a new member to their (probably) long-lasting friend group. Am I justified in thinking this way?

    Another thing I want to add is that I feel like I ruined my reputation when I first started. I made a lot of mistakes in socializing in my freshman year, and I feel like that really hurt me. Now my reputation is pretty much “resident weirdo” at the moment. People talk to me, but only if they have to. If I never initiated, they would never interact with me. I just want to be accepted by others. But can that ever change if everyone already has a subpar (at best) perception of me?

    What I’m basically asking is, can I do anything to fix my situation, or am I stuck? Should I even bother trying to find friends in high school when the social climate will probably be much better when I’m an adult and none of this will really matter? I’m halfway through school and I just feel awful all the time. And while I don’t want to give up, the future does not look bright. I don’t know if this all makes sense, but I figure it doesn’t hurt to ask to for help.

    Thank you for reading,
    – A very distressed teenager

  17. Thank you for being so open an sharing this.
    I can definitely identify with this on a more deeper & personal level a myself. I know exactly how it feels and it’s helpt a lot just having you simply speak of it.

  18. my biggest problem is that I have trouble getting people to open up to me. even when I get into personal stuff, they always give short answers such as:
    me: “what do you love most about ___?”
    them: “idk” or “the story”

    what can I do to get better at that? thank you!

  19. Hi David,

    I agree with most of the things you write about – I like your social thinking skills! The last one got me thinking. I stopt trying look nice and doing what I love with hair, makeup and clothes (something I always got with my mother and sister that is creative and fun) because that it often makes feel like everyone has the right to the hole me everyway i go (talk to me, cut between, toutch me in public). And I don’t have the skills to say no without beeing respectless – because thats how I feel i beeing treated. It takes a lot of my happy energi around people i don’t know, but I like people.

    So, i rather dress upp in a big skirt or a sweather how is big with no makeup so that people treath me like a person. I don’t think I like the people I hang around now because they hang with me “cause im pretty” not because of who I am. And I don’t even like beeing pretty anymore. I see the life as a footballfeeld where everyone helps out, byt this people seems to see life as a pyramid. Are there a good way of saying “thanks, but no thanks” without hurting people?

    I don’t like to talk open about this because “who am I to say that I am pretty, and thinking thats a problem?” But I noticed in people because comments like “you seem to have it so easy” and “boys are always looking at you” or if i go on a dating-app i get so many mails I just give up, cause I don’t want to be mean by saing no (or saying nothing). And that is with a picture of me from my neck and Up just smiling. NOT with a short skirt, a deep neckline or even bare arms. I feel like every person have something god in them, but maybe I need to get that smaler cirkle of people who you describe who sees the life like I do. I figured I maybe cut My hair so that I falling down on the pretty-scale, but I do like my ponnytail beacuse I grow up with horses. And I do like my makeup couse it reminds me of my family.. ideas? Thanks for reading.

    • Thank you for sharing Camilla!

      I thought a lot about your issue, it’s a tough one. I don’t really know the perfect solution, but what stuck with me is: Don’t let the cards you’ve been dealt stop you from doing what you truly want. Also, practice saying “no” to what you don’t want. Everybody doesn’t need to like you that much. (I have the same problem, it’s so hard to make someone sad, but sometimes it’s necessary.)

      • Hi Viktor!

        Maybe thats true, maybe not all people need to like me. So maybe it’s okay to say no sometimes.

        I really think that this SocialPro things is an amazing thing you’ll doing. I think you help so many people. Keep it up!


  20. Hello David
    There is this friend i want to talk to badly. We share only a few things in common and have never had verbal conversation except on text which is alot atimes not fulfilling to me. Is there anything you can advice me on?

    • I would focus on the things you do have in common. After all, that’s what feel interesting for both you and your friend to talk about. Perhaps you have more things in common you don’t even know about yet? You find commonalities by genuinely wanting to get to know someone. If you show a genuine interest in the person + talk about your commonalities, your friend will probably enjoy the conversation. Why not text your friend and say that that texting is tedious so you’d like to call him/her.

  21. Hi Quentin,

    Now that you’re aware of the issue you’re already halfway there, and that’s great. You need to force yourself outside of your inner thought process and over to what they’re actually saying. If there’s some ego involved, like “I alreay know what this person is talking about so I don’t need to listen” or “I come off as un-knowing if I don’t show that I know what the person is talking about”, you need to let that ego go and instead just focus on doing this shift from being attentive about your inner thoughts and instead be attentive towards who the one who’s speaking at the moment.

  22. Hi David, I am a semi social person and have a few close friends which I am super cool with, but sometimes when I’m talking with someone instead of listening to what they’re saying my brain just automatically assumes what they are saying an shale the time it is wrong. Do you have any tips on how I can listen more?
    I understand if you’re to busy to respond, but thanks in advance if you do.


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